Food Forecast 2009

January 5, 2009



What’s in store for the food industry in 2009?

Crystall Ball ManKelly Frederick, Digital Media Editor, Food Technology

These are volatile times, making it practically impossible to guess where the industry is headed. However, there are a few key trends that we can use as markers to help guide our way through 2009. Here, Food Technology magazine presents you with our annual Food Forecast newsletter, where industry experts and Food Technology editors use their knowledge to provide you with a glimpse into the food future, at least for 2009.

One of the main trends impacting the food industry, and every industry, is the state of the economy. The recession has already had an effect on food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants, with many cutting back (both in manpower and production output). This often results in layoffs and plant closures. However, in a review of the top company news of 2008 Karen Nachay reveals that growth was still occurring through mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and collaborations.

Faced with the economic slump, many food companies are concentrating their efforts on finding ways to cut costs and offer consumers more “bang for their buck.” This is likely to continue throughout 2009 and into 2010. A. Elizabeth Sloan expands on the economy’s impact on consumer behavior, explaining that there will be an increase in home entertaining, brown-bagging, and a fast-emerging desire to make restaurant-style food easy to cook at home. Donald E. Pszczola looks at how the current slowing economy will take precedence as ingredient companies re-evaluate trends and explain the value of their ingredients against today’s economic landscape.

Unlike the economy, one thing that is certain is that with the new Obama administration in the White House, change is on the horizon. And this includes change for food regulations. Roger R. Szemraj examines the regulatory agenda for 2009, which will most likely demand more from the food industry. Another regulatory hot topic is food safety. The outbreak of Salmonella, which led to perhaps the largest food product recall to date, has garnered a lot of media attention. With all this media attention, many are beginning to question the ability of the FDA to ensure food safety. Jeannie Houchins describes how food and the impact on consumer health will always be of interest to the media, and will continue gaining attention in 2009.

Despite regulatory upheaval and the economic downturn, innovation—in both technology and ingredients—still plays a major role in food industry for 2009. Linda Milo Ohr explores how ingredient innovation is leading the way in introducing healthiness into everyday foods. Neil H. Mermelstein explains that research will continue to be conducted on new products and analytical methods for use in the laboratory, processing plant, and field. And as J. Peter Clark elucidates, challenges in financing and reduced consumer demand may restrict major capital investments for awhile, but the pressure for new products and manufacturing cost reductions never really eases. In addition, improvements in packaging technology will be necessary as manufacturers fight for consumers’ attention. Aaron L. Brody highlights how this year will see an influx of consumer-driven developments in food packaging.

Contractions and expansions for 2009 and beyond

Brown Bag LunchA. Elizabeth Sloan, Contributing Editor, Food Technology

Money talks
In 2009, the downturn in the economy will continue to impact food choices and behaviors, and consumers will continue to eat and cook more meals at home. With about half of consumers reporting cooking from scratch more frequently than six months ago and 82% eating a home cooked meal three or more days per week, expect sales of basic food ingredients to grow as prepared meals, treats, carbonated beverages, indulgent snacks, and desserts decline. Single serve packs and organic foods, which have slowed to 4% growth, will be most affected. Expect an increase in home entertaining, brown-bagging, and a fast emerging desire to make restaurant-style food easy to cook at home.

Bullet proof health
Healthy foods—especially among the higher income brackets—appear to be one of the least affected segments by the downturn in the economy. Sales of foods that are lower in fat, calories, cholesterol, and sodium will continue to soar as Americans continue to try to improve their diet and manage their weight. Expect restaurants to embrace healthier meals especially for children. Young Gen Y’s foray into healthy eating, recognition of serious risk factors in kids, and a new focus on the health concerns of high spending 60 and 70-somethings will offer new healthy food opportunities.

“Dinner plate” travelers
HamThe craving of new flavors, cuisines, and taste experiences will continue to escalate, especially among young Gen Y adults. The emergence of America’s first generation of “little foodies” will drive a culinary revolution in the children’s food market. At the same time, consumers age 50+ will drive resurgence in classic and old world cuisines, foods, and flavors such as French and German foods. This includes duck, veal, ham, and traditional flavors such as French onion and buttermilk.



New administration—New priorities

Roger R. Szemraj, Counsel, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC

It is expected that President Obama’s administration will have a robust regulatory agenda. Many also believe that proposed and final rules will likely be in line with consumer concerns, demanding more from the food industry.

Regulatory review: The Obama administration is reviewing all recent and pending rulemakings. An Obama appointee must approve new proposed or final regulations before they are sent for publication. All final or proposed regulations pending publication in the Federal Register have been withdrawn. Agencies have been asked to “consider extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect” unless they impact health, safety, environmental, financial, or national security matters. The recently published Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling rule will likely be reconsidered by the new administration as a result.

Regulatory agenda: Upcoming rulemakings on schedule include:

  • NOP SealNational Organic Program—Several rules to implement provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill will be required.
  • Genetically modified organisms—Revise regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain GMOs.
  • Food importation—Phytosanitary certificates for imported fruits and vegetables, swine and swine products from Europe; Importation of Poultry and Poultry Products from Regions Affected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza; guidance for industry entitled Good Importer Practices.
  • Food safety and labeling—Performance Standards for the Production of Processed Meat and Poultry Products; Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products; Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees During Meat or Poultry Product Recalls; Serving Sizes and Nutrition Labeling.

Other matters:

  • School LunchNutrition—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the former Human Health and Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Daschle had begun discussions regarding emphasizing good nutrition as preventive health care. Look for enhanced nutrition standards in school food programs as part of Child Nutrition Reauthorization, and as a consequence of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Action on federal menu labeling may also occur.
  • Food safety interagency action—Expect efforts to further synchronize the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration food safety responsibilities pending any further legislative action.



Pszczola’s ingredients forecast

Donald E. Pszczola, Senior Associate Editor, Food Technology

The current slowing economy will take precedence as ingredient companies re-evaluate trends and explain the value of their ingredients against today’s economic landscape.

Today’s economy might mean a number of things for the consumer—smaller portion sizes, cheaper cuts of meat, less visits to the restaurant, and more dining at home. If so, then formulators will be looking for ingredient developments that can recreate the restaurant or “white tablecloth” experience while taking into consideration those factors. This might mean the use of bolder or more exotic sauces or marinades, the use of ingredients and flavors from international cuisines, ethnic preparation styles, and proteins from different sources.

The term “mood food” will be surfacing more frequently as formulators develop foods that can capture or affect one’s moods. Expect ingredient suppliers to create a line of mood flavors or ingredients that can be used in foods to reflect certain emotions ranging from calm to angry.

With FDA’s approval of stevia, expect to see a variety of products made with the sweetener appearing in the marketplace. These products may stimulate the development of other sweeteners or sweetener blends.

PomegranateMore food and beverage products will combine traditional fruits with exotic fruits, particularly those being promoted as “superfruits.” The use of superfruit flavors in foods and beverages is being fueled by their exotic tastes, antioxidant profiles, and an interest in different flavors from around the world.

Beverage flavors are no longer just for beverages. In 2009, more food products will be made with such flavors as coffee, tea, alcohol, and fruits. Consumers have a familiarity with such flavors that might impact their purchasing. Furthermore, many of these flavors are fun—a characteristic that is especially important during the present economy so don’t be surprised if you see alcohol-flavored potato chips or coffee-flavored rubs.

Sea SaltThe use of salt alternatives will continue to play an important role in the development of new food products. In particular, flavor innovations will combine with sea salt or sodium blends. With the present economy, there are growing opportunities for private label products that can offer consumers high quality and diversity. Formulators will be turing to ingredients for a number of answers.



Functional food outlook

Linda Milo Ohr, Contributing Editor, Food Technology

In 2009, weight management, heart health, immunity, and digestive health will still be top concerns for consumers. However, innovation will be seen in emerging ingredient offerings, growing consumer knowledge, and the mainstreaming of niche foods.

Beauty foods: Foods and beverages will utilize antioxidants, such as lutein, vitamin E, and green tea extracts to promote skin health.

Cognitive health: Boosting mental health is a growing area in the mood foods arena. Omega-3 fatty acids, citicoline, and phosphatidylserine are ingredients that will find increased use.

Weight ScaleWeight management: Ingredients that have been shown to promote satiety will be increasingly sought after. This will include various forms of dietary fiber, as well as emerging ingredients like peptides and lipid-based appetite suppressants.

Digestive health: Every year, consumers are becoming more familiar with probiotics and their benefits for both digestive health and immunity. Probiotic suppliers are making it easier to add these beneficial bugs to an increasing variety of products, such as ice cream, baked goods, functional confectionery, and beverages.

Resistant starch: In 2008, resistant starch received consumer media coverage on its effects on weight management, glycemic management, and digestive health. This versatile ingredient will be increasingly used as consumers learn more.Agave

Natural sweeteners: For calorie counters, natural sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar will be used to lower calorie contents in foods and beverages.


Food companies continue growth

Karen Nachay, Associate Editor, Food Technology

In 2008, a number of food companies and organizations from around the world explored new opportunities, expanded facilities, formed alliances, or invested more in ingredient and product development. What follows is a small sampling of some of the news regarding mergers and acquisitions, collaborations, green efforts, new facilities, and GRAS status from the past year.

Mergers and acquisitions
Much of the business transactions included mergers and acquisitions. Mars Inc. and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. merged to create the world’s largest confectionery company. Under the terms of the agreement, Wrigley became a separate, stand-alone subsidiary of Mars. InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch. The combined company is called Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Anheauser-Busch is now a wholly owned subsidiary of InBev. Givaudan Flavors Corp. sold its St. Louis, Mo.-based food ingredient business and manufacturing facility to PCI Co., the owner of Diehl Food Ingredients. Symrise AG acquired the dairy flavors, savory flavors, sweet flavors, and seasonings sectors of Chr. Hansen. There were plenty more of these transactions that involved large and small companies. Perhaps, however, the credit crunch will cause a decrease in the number of these transactions in the coming months.

Companies also collaborated to develop new products or to market existing ones. Desert King granted National Starch Food Innovation global exclusive rights to sell quillaja-based products and innovations for stabilization and delivery of a range of actives and ingredients to the food and beverage industry. Attune Foods now uses two Danisco probiotic strains—Howaru Dophilus and Howaru Bifido—in its Probiotic Wellness Bars. Cognis has exclusively licensed an ingredient for weight management from InterMed Discovery GmbH. Silliker formed a licensing agreement with Kraft Foods Inc. for a patent-pending in vitro method for predicting the glycemic index of foods. Naturex and Scalime Nutrition formed a partnership to accelerate the technical development, marketing, and commercialization of Scalime’s polyphenolic extracts.

The movement toward becoming more “green” is affecting many industries, and the food industry is not immune. In fact, companies are evaluating environmental initiatives as a way to remain competitive. ConAgra Foods decided to incorporate post-consumer recycled plastic in most of its frozen meal trays. McCormick & Co. Inc. signed an agreement with Constellation Energy’s Project & Services Group under which Constellation constructed an approximately one megawatt solar power system at McCormick’s Spice Mill and Distribution Center in Hunt Valley, Md. PepsiCo announced that it continues making progress toward environmental sustainability goals of reducing water consumption by 20%, electricity consumption by 20%, and fuel consumption by 25% per unit of production by 2015.

Cargill opened its Specialty Canola Research and Production Centre at the company’s research farm in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, Canada, and its Product Innovation Center in Minneapolis, Minn. Barry Callebaut opened several new facilities, including Chocolate Academies in Russia and India, as well as its first innovation center in the U.S. The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science opened at the Univ. of California, Davis. This 130,000-sq-ft complex houses wine and food sensory labs and a teaching theater, food innovation kitchen, and offices. Balchem Corp. opened its Bakery Innovation Center at its headquarters in New Hampton, N.Y. Corn Products International opened a new central business office in Newark, Del.

The Food and Drug Administration gave GRAS status to many different ingredients. FDA issued a no objection letter with respect to rebaudioside (reb A), recognizing that reb A at a minimum specification of 95% is generally recognized as safe for use as a sweetener in foods and beverages. Cognis Nutrition and Health received GRAS status for its Tonalin conjugated linoleic acid. Burcon NutraScience Corp. received GRAS status for its Puratein and Supertein canola protein isolates.

Laboratory forecast for 2009

Neil H. Mermelstein, Editor Emeritus, Food Technology

Gas ChromatographResearch during 2009 will continue to be conducted on new products and analytical methods for use in the laboratory, processing plant, and field. Instrumentation companies and university and government laboratories will continue to develop improved methods and instruments for analysis of foods, ranging from compositional analysis to quality control applications. Among the developments will be advances in instrumental methods—whether gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, olfactometry, infrared spectrometry, or others—as well as increased sensitivity and reproducibility, portable/miniaturized versions for field use, and less-expensive instruments providing comparable results.

Companies will continue to develop test kits that can be used for quality control in the plant and in the field, such as test kits for bacteria and allergens. They will continue to improve equipment for determining viscosity and methods for determining the effects of ingredients on product viscosity and texture. There will also be improved sample preparation techniques and systems, improved reporting systems, better systems for traceability, continued development and validation of analytical methods, and more work on correlating sensory evaluation with analytical results. Some of these developments will be covered in the Laboratory column of Food Technology during the coming months. Topics will include carbohydrate testing, nutrition software and labeling, texture and viscosity measurement, trace element analysis, microbiological testing, moisture and water activity determination, and advances in instrumentation.

Processing developments in 2009

J. Peter Clark, Contributing Editor, Food Technology

Challenges in financing and reduced consumer demand may restrict major capital investments for awhile, but the pressure for new products and manufacturing cost reductions never really eases. Selected units of equipment may be upgraded and improved controls and automation used to reduce waste and increase productivity.

High pressure processing and irradiation may find wider application as consumers realize that fresher food comes with higher risks of microbial contamination. These technologies are among the few that can reduce vegetative cell count with minimal effect on the food.

The desire to eat locally may create opportunities for small processors and distributors.

Low acid, aseptically processed foods will probably increase, including many with small particles, such as soups with pureed vegetables.

Ultrasonic sensors, which can measure density and distance without direct contact, will see applications in sensing as well as processing, for mixing, cutting, and homogenization.

Membrane separations are mature technologies, but will find increased application to reduce waste discharge, recycle process water, and concentrate fluid foods with lower energy and less flavor loss than evaporation. Canned Food

Canned foods may see an increase in demand because of their perceived “good” value and reliable safety history. The ability to recycle steel and aluminum containers may make them more popular than laminated foil and paper, which are more difficult to recycle. New canning facilities will be highly automated for container handling, will have real-time lethality controls, and often will have some form of container agitation, such as shaking or rotation.




Innovation in food packaging

Aaron L. Brody, Contributing Editor, Food Technology

Without harping on the endless beat of the sustainability bandwagon whose road during an economic crisis seems to be more difficult to traverse, this new year (of change) will be witness to more change in food packaging derived from consumer and retailer patterns of the past few years. Remember that rarely does innovation in food arise from nothing; all were born in some previous incarnation that was obscure or overlooked by seers. Cost reductions will, of course, sound loudly as food packaging technologists and suppliers seek to identify structures that can be both functional and less expensive, and although difficult some will materialize.

At the opposite end of the food packaging spectrum will be the continuing influx of consumer-driven developments—mostly linked to convenience, safety, and quality of the contents. Safety translates into microbiological safety, some of which can be offered by packaging, but more frequently, by integration of packaging and environmental controls. Convenience is time! And quality is remembrance of fresh and freshly made. Incorporating these into packaged foods will be challenging.

MicrowaveListen to the drums suggesting more for re-thermalization in the microwave oven—for the three minute heat and eat—internal steamer packages that heat more rapidly than microwave alone by containing and then carefully releasing excess steam, or stand-up flexible retort pouches fabricated from glass-coated materials that can be reheated in microwave ovens. And has anyone noticed the gradual permeation of component kits that that can be microwave heated and toasted, and assembled into sandwiches? Or ultra high pressure processed foods designed for microwave ovens? Has the microwave oven become the American consumers’ favorite appliance yet?

Nutritionally enhanced, or perceived-to-be-enhanced foods and beverages are flooding our grocery shelves. They contain probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals and other more mysterious “ingredients.” By definition, the greater the claimed or real enhancements, the greater the barrier required to protect against the ravages of the natural environment. Barrier translates into less oxygen in the product and package, and less transmitted through the package material and structure. Plus, of course, better distribution control, because the packaging must be in harmony with other elements of food preservation.

What about aseptic processing and packaging of particulates in 2009? Finally, we may have crossed the virtual boundary with the reintroduction of SIG Combiboc—soon, we presume, to be followed by Tetra Pak—and the ability to fill particulates under sterile conditions. The competition between retort pouches, trays, and whatever structures aseptic packaging can offer is underway for products such as soups, sauces, etc. In addition, the venerable can is trying its resurrection with easy open and easy peel open packaging.

Will there be a 2009 revolution in food packaging? Probably no more than in 2008, or 1998, or 1988, or 1888, but look carefully and you will observe and be influenced by quiet innovation.

Media chatter about food

Jeannie Houchins, Director of Media Relations, IFT

Beginning 2009 with a major food-related outbreak of Salmonella certainly provides a shaky start to the New Year but it does highlight certain topics that are on the minds of media, consumers, government, and other food-related organizations.

Topics surely to be covered throughout the year include:

  • Revisiting the idea of one united food regulatory agency. This was initially discussed a couple years back but with more high profile and widespread (not to mention reported on) outbreaks from produce to finished products this idea will continue to be revisited.
  • Food protection (referring to food safety and food defense) on domestic and imported foods: How to improve? How to detect? How to protect?

In addition to food protection issues, media will continue reporting on the greening of eating. Topics that remain on the forefront include: consuming products that have less food miles (in terms of transport) and less packaging, and buying products that were produced in a sustainable environment.

Food and the impact on consumer health will always be of interest to the media. It’s not just reporting on the endemic obesity crisis but we’ll see more stories taking a closer look at actual food ingredients, flavorings, and nanotechnology. Second generation functional foods that help with enhancing moods, cognitive function, and beauty from the inside out will also receive increased coverage.

The topics are set and modes of delivering this information have changed. Blogs have hit mainstream and IFT joined the ranks for expedient news delivery with the ePerspective. In addition, news story headlines are finding their way through social media outlets like Twitter. IFT’s Twitter is just one of the many organizations competing for the media and consumers’ demand for timely news.

In short, media chatter will increase this year, along with the various ways of it being disseminated and shared.

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