Wellness Ingredient Trends 2008

Editor David Feder explains that there are trends in wellness that are so overarching as to be rote; obesity, diabetes and heart disease are really “megatrends.” The ingredient trends within them, however, are where processors will need to focus their energies.

By David Feder, R.D., editor

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I. Trend Shift

The paradigm shift from foods to ingredients in the focus on wellness has reached its “tipping point.” Independent market analyst Datamonitor (www.datamonitor.com), London, notes “the 65 percent of consumers who are trying to eat more healthily are no longer focused solely on reducing food intake or on moderating their consumption of perceived ‘dietary evils’ such as fats, sugars and salts.”

According to research provided by Lu Ann Williams, senior analyst for Innova Market Insights (www.innovadatabase.com), Duiven, Netherlands, satiety and appetite suppressants could be the next “magic bullet.” She also cites as big trends “super ingredients,” the “exotic and extreme fruits and extracts,” yet, conversely, “super simple” will be more important to consumers than “super premium.” Other ingredient trends Williams cites involve those which address memory, cognition, skin and beauty.”

Datamonitor’s research further shows a trend toward “positive nutrition” is emerging — consumers are “actively seeking nutrient-rich fresh, organic and functional food and drinks.” So-called superfoods and beverages rich in specific nutrients and phytochemicals such as anti-oxidants are promoted as able to improve health and/or prevent disease.

II. Last Year’s Trends Still Strong

There’s little sign of slowdown for previous ingredient stars, especially soy and omega oils. According to a report by Soyatech LLC (www.soyatech.com), Bar Harbor, Maine, increasing demand for protein will drive up world soy-protein production more than 7 percent per year by 2010, to nearly 4 million metric tons, translating to almost $4 billion. Other reports show double-digit growth for soy foods and ingredients on a global scale.

One carryover trend from last year is that for gluten-free products. The designation was extended to beverages, but the number of launches throughout the category continues to climb, along with sales that are approaching $750 million per year.

Omega oils are finding their way into a broader spectrum of products, and via a number of different sources. Catching up to odorless and flavorless microencapsulated salmon oil are omegas from flax, micro algae, chia and krill.

As omega oils such as DHA and EPA enter the food chain in dairy products, orange juice, cereals, bread and soups, a rush of research is linking the oils to more and more health benefits. In addition to heart health, omegas are proving helpful to immune function, vision, mental health, cognition and even improved outcomes for high-risk pregnancies.

Go With Your Gut

Probiotics have been on the cusp, still primarily associated in consumers’ minds with yogurt and yogurt beverages. But last year saw them segue to other dairy items, such as cheese, then make the jump to bars, breakfast foods and even chocolate.

Three things are pushing the probiotics trend: the recognition of gut health’s importance to obesity management and cancer prevention; the decades-old tradition of gut health-oriented foods and beverages overseas, coupled with the rising immigrant population bringing those traditions with them; and the subsequent fact our current generation of consumers doesn’t seem to have a problem talking about healthy bowel function.

As an example of how strong the probiotic trend is, GMA/FPA, citing separate sources, reported in November that Paris-based Groupe Danone (www.danone.com) posted nearly $2 billion in worldwide sales last year of its Activia yogurt product featuring its patented probiotic bacteria. This figure is up 30 percent over last year’s sales.

According to GMA/FPA, analysts say Activia’s introduction in the U.S. (through its Dannon division) “was one of the most successful product launches in recent food-industry history, with sales expected to reach $300 million this year.” Danone expects Activia and its Danactive brands to account for 40 percent of its yogurt business in 2008.

Last year saw critical mass arrive for weight-management ingredients that target satiety as opposed to caloric balance. Sugar replacers are still big business, but those with added satiety effects, such as inulin, or exotic botanical extracts such as the South Asian fruit Garcinia cambogia, are proving attractive. Garcinia cambogia, shown to suppress appetite and inhibit fat production, is the main ingredient in InterHealth Nutraceuticals (www.interhealthusa.com), Benicia, Calif., CitriMax and Super CitriMax formulations.

Fiber Power

Next year could be the year for resistant starch, too. “The outlook for natural resistant starch in 2008 is bright,” states Rhonda Witwer, nutrition business development manager for Bridgewater, N.J.-based National Starch Food Innovation Inc. (www.foodinnovation.com), makers of HiMaize resistant starch from corn. “Its fermentation in the gut is critical for important metabolic benefits, including increased satiety, increased fat burning and increased insulin sensitivity in healthy people as well as individuals with type II diabetics, as well as reduced body fat in animal models. These metabolism benefits differentiate resistant starch from other types of non-fermentable fiber.”

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