We can celebrate and prognosticate. The Mayan calendar appears to be wrong, so it seems we can safely forecast the trendy flavors, fashionable functional foods and hot ingredients that will dominate 2013. And, barring galactic recalculation, we can even act on some of them.
Any serious prediction of 2013's food and ingredient trends has to acknowledge the 900-lb. gorilla in the room (even he's put on weight). We still suffer from an epidemic of obesity that continues to grow and place an increasing health care burden on the economy.
Even the most conservative forecast has the nation's obesity (a body mass index greater than 30) rate hitting 42 percent of all adults by 2030, with a "severe obesity" rate of 11 percent, according to a study published last summer in The Journal of Preventative Medicine. Paralleling the surge in obesity is the rise in type 2 diabetes, projected to afflict one in three Americans by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are by no means the only health problems in the modern world, but they have extensive tentacles and are the best evidence of a modern diet gone awry.
Another factor shaping the upcoming trends is the fact that the population is aging. By 2040, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older, up from about one in eight in 2000. Baby boomers are now Medicare and Social Security age, but are not ready to be put out to pasture. They are looking to stay active and engaged and are willing to try products that they feel will help them do so.
If you add to the above concerns over global matters, specifically sustainability, it becomes apparent that food trends increasingly are not merely a matter of whim or fashion. The uplifting news is that food and beverage processors, in tandem with ingredient developers and suppliers, have been achieving remarkable success in applying the technology for creating foods and beverages to help address the obesity and diabetes issues in conformity with that perennial trend of, "If it has no flavor, consumers will not accept it no matter how 'good for you' it is."
Converting many more ingredients to natural forms will be a trend in the new year, according to Rodger Jonas, director of national sales for PL Thomas & Co., Morristown, N.J. "Now that [more] natural forms exist for color, with greater stability, the trend toward change is becoming dramatic. We're finding non-GMO and allergen-free ingredients all are on the rise.
"This trend can be seen as creating a 'cleaner' label and providing a perceived consumer benefit," he continues. "For example, greater than 85 percent of American consumers know what lycopene is and it has a 'feel good' representation on product labels. It is now a good, naturally derived color ingredient as well. Multifunctional ingredients will continue to thrive."
"The growth in demand for naturally derived food coloring in the U.S. continues to outpace certified synthetic/FD&C color additives," agrees Campbell Barnum, vice president of branding and market development for D.D. Williamson Inc., Louisville, Ky. "The warning label required for the 'Southampton Six' food colors in the EU has resulted in a de-facto ban on equivalents to Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6."
The "Southampton Six" are the six colors that a 2007 British study connected to hyperactivity in children. They include Alurra Red (also called Red 40), Ponceau 4R (E124), Tartrazine (Yellow 5) (E102), Sunset Yellow FCF/Orange Yellow S (Yellow6) (E110), Quinoline Yellow (E104), and Carmoisine (E102).
"Media stories on food color additives have boosted consumer awareness and influenced the increase in new products developed in the U.S. without FD&Cs," says Barnum. "Food product developers will be increasing the number of formulations made with [natural] coloring alternatives — carotenoids, anthocyanins, turmeric and other sources."
Barnum also notes that in recent months, red has replaced yellow as the top beverage hue in soft drink launches. He forecasts this trend will continue in the first half of 2013. In beverages as well as packaging, he predicts peach will be a popular hue for product launches in the second half of 2013.
Improvements to body, mind and heart
"One of the areas we see continuing to grow is cognitive function and brain health," says Barbara Davis, PL Thomas' director of medical and scientific affairs. "This not only includes the ability to retain mental sharpness by the aging population, but also 'mental energy' from younger consumers. Complementary to this is an interest in mood enhancement and the ability to manage stress."
The Zembrin plant
In response, P.L. Thomas launched its cognitive support ingredient, Zembrin, last fall. "This 'experiential' ingredient — you can feel that it works — has GRAS status and is backed by clinical data supporting its safety and efficacy for stress-relief and enhanced cognition," Davis adds.