This year, we’re moving beyond the “what’s in/what’s out” predictions typical of the past. There are too many overriding themes driving consumer demands in food product development.
For one, fully 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. For another, the National Diabetes Statistics Report released last June showed the number of people with diabetes in the U.S. rose from 28.8 million in 2010 to 29.1 million in 2012.
According to at least one report, the global spread of both conditions has coincided with increased consumption of meats, “empty calories” (refined fats, oils and sugars) and total calories, according to a December 2013 article, “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health” in the journal Nature. The research, led by David Tilman and Michael Clark, compared modern dietary patterns of developed countries to several popular alternatives with regard to health, sustainability and carbon footprint.
The article portends that these three converging forces will ultimately shape food demands. Agriculture contributes at least 25 percent of greenhouse gases and is an unavoidable complicating factor when looking to upcoming food demands. We can see much of this future will playing out in predictions of food trends for 2015.
Innova Market Insights, based in the Netherlands, analyzed global developments affecting food and beverage markets and has an excellent accuracy record for predicting markets. The organization’s recent release of the top 10 trends reflects the basic themes of health and environment. Topping Innova’s list of developments is that of clear labeling, along with marketing to millennials — the 15 to 35 year old set.
Millennials are increasingly uncertain about vague terms such as “natural,” and are seeking clarity and transparency. “Millennials are exerting their influence; they want more information about their food — where it comes from and what’s in it,” says Jennifer Lindsey, regional marketing director for DuPont Nutrition & Health Inc., New Century, Kan. “As a result, we believe we’ll see more health-conscious product development, with thoughtful ingredient choices. While weight management will be addressed, it won’t be in terms of ‘diet’ products. Instead, we’ll see products focused on delivering satiety, energy and positive nutrition, without empty calories.”
Millennials tend to be tech-savvy, well-informed, mobile and anxious to try new things. Innova’s research predicts expanding choices for healthy snacks and convenience foods will be another trend, one that many ingredient providers already are gearing up for.
“Consumers have come a long way in their understanding of the role that proper nutrition plays in long-term overall health and wellness,” says Patrick Morris, communications manager for the Fortitech Premixes division of DSM Nutritional Products Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
“Because our fast-paced lifestyles in many cases leave little time to regularly sit down for a well-rounded meal, fortified, functional products are an ideal vehicle to help fill the nutrient gaps most of us have,” Morris continues. “Increasing health and wellness concerns have moved functional foods and drinks from a niche segment to a mainstream product now readily available in one’s local supermarket.”
According to Morris, since baby boomers are the largest consumer segment, the products that will be of interest to them include those addressing the areas of bone and joint health (including osteoporosis) and cardiovascular health.
“The ingredients I believe will continue to be most in demand are glucosamine and chondroitin for bone/joint health, along with calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium for osteoporosis,” he continues. “For heart health, nutrients like CoQ10, resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols and stanols … address these health concerns.”
Heading the list of ingredients for the healthy snack and convenience food categories is protein. “Consumers’ changing snacking habits will continue to fuel demand for protein and fiber in nutrition bars, beverages and dairy,” says DuPont’s Lindsey. “In dairy, the protein trend will mature beyond Greek yogurt into other areas, such as cottage cheese, ice cream and frozen yogurt. And carrying the protein trend a step further, we’ll likely continue to see a focus on meat alternatives in a meat-like format.”
Protein presently is the centerpiece of most modern dietary regimens. While soy protein is now considered mainstream and whey continues to grow in popularity, the hunt is on for new sources that can reduce cost and environmental impact.
According to Tilman and Clark, production methods have a powerful effect on greenhouse gases. For example, catching fish by dragging nets across the ocean floor produces greenhouse gases at three times the rate of traditional fishing.
“We continue to see a demand from consumers for clean and sustainably caught — and 100-percent traceable — seafood, such as albacore tuna that are troll-line caught, one at a time, by Pacific Northwest fishermen,” says Mike Babcock, owner of Oregon Seafoods Inc. (www.oregonseafoods.com), Coos Bay, Ore. (also doing business as Sea Fare Pacific -- www.seafarepacific.com). “Food trends for 2015 will continue to be food that is produced by local or U.S. manufacturers, packed in BPA-free packaging, free of preservatives and additives, non-GMO and gluten free.”