2017 Year in Review: A Year of Change

Perhaps finding new paths to growth was why so many CEOs were replaced this year.

By Food Processing Staff

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First Campbell Soup, then Nestle USA announced they would leave Grocery Manufacturers Assn. over philosophical differences (both exiting at the end of this year).

In addition to enacting the final chapters of the Food Safety Modernization Act (see section far below), the FDA indicated it may finally create a regulatory definition of "healthy"; at least the agency started taking comments on the subject. The food safety agency also indicated it may revoke the health claim connecting soy with heart health.

In other regulatory news: The Trump Administration and its food agency appointees are delaying the revised Nutrition Facts panel from a mid-2018 effective date to January 2020. USDA rescinded stepped-up School Lunch Program rules that would have required the use of whole grains and fat-free/white-only milk plus a second round of sodium reductions. The Agriculture Dept. also is falling behind in creating the details of a GMO labeling law that was supposed to take effect in 2018. While no official date has been announced, all food companies are aware that implementation will not take effect next summer. FDA announced at least a one-year delay in requiring restaurant menus to display calories.

Product Development: Cleaner, clearer

The product development side of the business also has seen great change, as food companies worked toward using fewer and simpler ingredients and alternatives to conventional sweeteners, animal proteins, sodium, cow's milk and the like.

Carry-overs from previous years include eliminating artificial colors, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars and partially hydrogenated oils, to name a few, reflecting the impact of updated regulations and the laser focus on healthier, clean, free-from ingredients and macronutrients.

America is recalibrating its collective eating habits and overall diet. Thus, product development efforts in 2017 reflected consumers' healthier lifestyle trends and demands for transparency and full disclosure. Transparency is now a given if food and beverage companies want to earn trust from consumers. We heard the following phrase so many times, it's memorized: Consumers want to know where their food comes from.

The definition of transparency is evolving, and can be different for manufacturers and consumers. Yet reformulating or developing new products with healthier ingredients and cleaner labels can be a complex process. It often involves removing or replacing highly functional ingredients for specific purposes, to simplify labels and meet more rigorous demands for nutrition, function and taste.

Cleaner, clearer functional ingredients, plant-based proteins, vegan and allergen-free/free-from foods and healthier fats and oils are replacing suspect ingredients. Wellness foods, such as those for bones, the brain, heart and digestive system, and those specifically targeting men, women and children, are also in great demand. However, taste is still king, Texture and mouthfeel also remain important.

The non-GMO labeling issue remained a critical one for food in 2017. According to Mintel's Global New Products Database, non-GMO label claims have grown the most of all label claims, with 15.7 percent of new products launched in 2015 making non-GMO claims versus 10.2 percent in 2014 and 2.8 percent in 2012.

Other factors have entered into the picture:

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