In 2017, more food and beverage products will reflect healthy lifestyle trends and the demand for transparency. America is recalibrating its collective eating habits and overall diet, prompting food companies to hunt further and faster for the next healthy, fresh but also bold new thing. Cleaner versions of functional ingredients must be found, and fruit and vegetables will be moving to the center of the plate.
Formulators should make transparency imperative, emphasizes IRI Worldwide (www.iriworldwide.com), Chicago. "Consumers want to know where food comes from. Soon, adopting food transparency strategies will no longer be optional. Those who can use in-depth data, hot consumer trends and new insights to foster more innovation in this area will be able to better leverage this emerging opportunity and develop their own fresh strategies."
"In 2017, consumers who demanded clean labels, no chemicals and a shorter ingredients list will ask for clear traceability of where food ingredients come from," adds Jean Shieh, marketing manager at Sensient Natural Ingredients (sensientnaturalingredients.com), Turlock, Calif. "Our customers are calling out 'California Garlic' and 'California Onion' on their ingredients lists."
Speaking of vegetables, and fruits too, ingredient suppliers are going back to the natural sources of many ingredients. "Fruit and vegetable extracts can deliver a concentrated dose of the antioxidant compound beta-carotene and anthocyanins in variety of food, beverage and supplement applications," says Mark Rainey, vice president of global food marketing at Archer Daniels Midland (www.adm.com), Chicago. "Our beta-carotene-rich vegetable extracts originate from carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, paprika from chili peppers and Reishi mushrooms. Our anthocyanin extracts originate from purple sweet potatoes and carrots, purple maize, beets, rhubarb, tomatoes and red cabbage."
GMO-free ingredients will be a critical component for the clean label of 2017, predicts Innova Market Insights (www.innovadatabase.com), which lists clean and clear labels, natural, less processed foods, plant protein and sugar reduction as its top five trends. "There's been an explosion of GMO-free claims in the U.S., so the consumer focus is going back to the source of the product," notes Robin Wyers, Innova chief editor. Food makers are evaluating simpler ingredients to mask off flavors and enhance good flavors and textures. In addition, they're creating products with less added sugar, fat and sodium and no artificial ingredients. They're also experimenting with specific types of fiber in conjunction with vegetables, and veggie-based meat alternatives and ancient and whole grains are showing up on menus and supermarket cases.
More fiber, plant protein
Whole grains and fiber will play larger roles in new foods and beverages because of demand for ingredients consumers consider healthy. Healthy is where the food and beverage culture in the U.S. is heading, according to the Hartman Group (www.hartman-group.com), Bellevue, Wash.
"America’s real nutrient intake, not just its retail grocery dollars, is shifting toward macronutrients that fight against the margin model of the industry, at least for now," Hartman states. "The temptation - with the explosion of everything protein - will be to simply develop highly processed forms of on-trend macronutrients that fit the old margin model. Those who can ride these unacknowledged nutritional trends through minimally processed forms (fresh and packaged) will be the real growth leaders in the next 10 years."
Protein certainly looks to continue its multi-year run. While animal proteins had a few good years, thanks to the initial wave of protein interest and the paleo diet, animal-based proteins suffered a hit in 2015 with the World Health Organization statements on their health risks. Interest in plant proteins shows no sign of abating.
Better-tasting plant-enhanced foods will be in big demand from vegans, flexitarians and even full-fledged red meat eaters, Chicago's Mintel Group (www.mintel.com) predicts in its 2017 trend report. "Products incorporating fruit, seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables and other plants will be immensely popular, aligned with modern consumers' preoccupation with health and wellness."
One flaxseed-based dairy-free line of yogurts was introduced in November by Good Karma Foods (www.goodkarmafoods.com), a Boulder, Colo. producer of flaxseed milk alternatives. Available in flavors such as blueberry, strawberry, vanilla, raspberry and plain, the product has 5-6g of plant-based protein, 800g of omega-3 fats, vitamin D, calcium and seven live and active cultures per 6-oz. serving, and it's free of all major allergens.
"We see continued growth as consumers incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet," says Doug Radi, Good Karma's CEO. While he thinks the dairy-free yogurt segment is ready for explosive growth, he warns that the bulk of that segment "will require improvements in taste, texture and overall nutrition profiles that match dairy counterparts."
The company also reformulated its probiotic drinkable yogurts with less sugar per 4-7g serving, upgraded its Flaxmilk + Protein items from 5g to 8g of pea protein per serving, and improved flavors and texture to be smoother and creamier.
Fiber remains a favorite healthful ingredient, although qualifying your ingredient as a functional fiber is undergoing great change, as the FDA has created a strict definition of what qualifies as a fiber.
Fiber is one of the key elements in oats, and Grainful (www.grainful.com) is trying to move the healthy grain from the breakfast table to the dinner table. More than a year ago, the Ithaca, N.Y., company introduced pouched oat side dishes in Tomato Risotta, Homestyle Cheddar, Madras Curry and Jambalaya. More recently, it's launched frozen oat-based entrees: Porcini Mushroom Chicken, Thai Curry, Tuscan Bean & Kale, Unstuffed Pepper and Vegetarian Chili.
Looking to 2017, co-founder and president Jan Pajerski believes people will see how versatile oats are. "Consumer palates are expanding, especially with millennials, who are used to flavors and spices from throughout the world," he says. "Most products being developed are healthier than those in the past. Consumers see the benefits and value of plant protein, which is being used in products across every category. Consumers want products that not just satisfy taste needs, but give them the nutrients they need, and that's exactly what plant protein offers."
Solvaira Specialties Inc. (solvaira.com), which specializing in the fiber fortification, is developing a new oat hull fiber that will provide nutritional benefits and plus functionality in terms of water and oil binding.
More 'good' fats, less sugar
"Healthy" fats are where it's at for adding flavor. Americans are bidding farewell to low-fat products and welcoming real butter, cream and healthy oils. Between the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the current changes to the Nutrition Facts panel (which won’t be required till July 2018), consumers are being educated that some fats are good, even essential.
The Hartman Group recently analyzed the results of USDA’s "What We Eat in America" report and uncovered that in the past 15 years, the largest macronutrient increase in the adult diet has been polyunsaturated fats, including the omega class. Many polyunsaturated fats come from fresher, less processed food forms, such as nuts, seeds, fish, algae and leafy greens, virtually all of which themselves are growing categories in the supermarket.
Dairy foods — a source of both nutrients and functionality — are being forgiven for contributing some fat to the American diet. Dairy is full of protein, and dairy ingredient prices are down because of the increased supply. If you're in the dairy category, the Hartman Group says, "then innovate to rebalance the ratio in line with where the American diet is headed, and you'll probably do just fine."
The fats in dairy ingredients help people feel full. Along with protein, dairy ingredients are natural sources of calcium and vitamin D. But they also provide function, helping optimize flavors and textures and facilitate the mixing of dough.
"Consumers are gravitating toward ‘natural’ fats in general, those that don't come with lots of carbohydrates (especially sugars)," states the Hartman Group. A lot of this originates from an overall decline in carb intake, especially sugar.
Speaking of sugar, many formulators are looking to reduce added sugars before this component is called out in the 2018 Nutrition Facts panel. "This year, the focus is clean label sugar reduction," says Thom King, president/CEO of Steviva Ingredients (www.stevivaingredients.com), Portland, Ore. "All of the reformulations we've been working on have been entirely focused on sugar reductions, in light of the new FDA guidelines for added sugar disclosure approaching."
The simple solution is replacement, although product developers must be wary of consumer sentiments on synthetic sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium) versus natural ones such as stevia and monk fruit. Some processors are looking for more than simple replacement of sweetness. "They're not just looking for a replacement, but how to change the taste profile, of products so they don't need as much sweetener in the first place," Hartman group adds.
"Sugar replacement is very challenging," says Jit Ang, executive vice president at Solvaira Specialties. "It's not difficult to replace the sweet taste of sugar with so many options available. But sugar provides functions in food, including texture, viscosity, mouthfeel, bulking and soluble solids. To successfully replace sugar in formulations, a systems approach often includes a combination of ingredients."
Natural sweetness from fruits, agave nectar, dehydrated root vegetables such as air-dried carrot and sweet potato and grains can help curb added sugar for some formulators. "This helps cut added sugars in a product formula. Some also provide coloring without the use of natural or artificial food colors," notes Shieh at Sensient Natural Ingredients.
Authentic global flavors are more prevalent and sophisticated than ever, focusing on more specific origins. Campbell Soup Co. (www.campbells.com), Camden, N.J., cites regional Japanese, modern Middle Eastern, coconut and curry flavors in its Trendscape 2017 forecast. Other trends include pickled, fermented and sour to fiery citrus and exotic Egyptian dukkah (spice blend), robust German beer and pungent North African chermoula (herb sauce).
In its 2017 Flavor Forecast, McCormick & Co. (www.mccormick.com) concurs that faraway flavors will come closer to home. The spice company envisions Eastern Mediterranean baharat as a flavor to watch. "It's a fragrant blend of cumin, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg and more," says Kevan Vetter, McCormick's executive chef, who recommends sprinkling the mixture over seasonal soups and in tomato-based sauces or chicken dishes.
McCormick correctly predicted the rise of Asian fusion, chipotle and peri peri sauce. This year, it singles out skhug [pronounced shug], a complex Middle Eastern condiment made with Thai chilies, cumin, cardamom and coriander. Suitable for breakfast dishes, skhug is sought after by adventurists for topping a sweet porridge or Middle Eastern-inspired hash. Espelette pepper from France's Basque region is smoky and works well as a rub for grilled steak. Sweet heat now has an up-front bite and lingering sensation, as in peppercorns with cedar and citrus notes, Vetter says.