1) Plant-Based Ingredients
This hot category encompasses ingredients derived from plant-based sources such as legumes, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables, seeds, and elsewhere. These ingredients can provide food and beverage products important qualities like vitamins, proteins, fiber, minerals, and the like, and can lend products both functional and health benefits. Additionally, they play into the growing popularity of plant-based food diets. Plant-based protein is a particularly big area, as in years past—particularly plant-based proteins that come from nuts and legumes, which can serve as replacements from some of the animal-derived ingredients—and we are also starting to see a lot more interest in some plant-based minerals and vitamins as well.
2) Added Nutritional Benefits
At this year’s Expo, expect to see more emphasis on ingredients that can enhance nutritional profiles of food and beverage products. Of course, this includes the big one—protein—both from plant and animal sources, as these proteins contain different types of nutrient components, and product developers might want one versus the other. Other ingredients we expect to see emphasized in products include different types of fiber; fruit and vegetable powders that bring both color and added vitamins and minerals to everything from nutritional bars, to beverages, to bakery products; nut and legume-based flour and powders, which can contribute to the nutritional composition of food products; and nutrient pre-mixes, which are a big trend with some of the ingredient suppliers, who can customize these mixes to satisfy the needs of various product developers to meet the needs of their products.
Ingredient developers must also take into consideration how these additions can affect the physical or textural makeup of food or beverage products, so they are far from “one size fits all” solutions. The industry has come a long way in having a closer relationship between the ingredient developers and the product developers to find the best ingredients for their respective products, because the last thing the product developers want to do is to have a product meet the consumer demand for nutrition but fail their demands for taste, texture or flavor.
3) Sugar Reduction
This is still a topic of concern for product developers, particularly with many consumers still closely watching labels for sugar content. Developers are continuing to make refinements to their sugar alternative ingredients, and/or are making new ones that allow manufacturers to reduce their added sugars while keeping the flavors and textures that consumers want and expect from a product.
4) Clean and Clear Label
This one is another repeat trend, but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. There is still a large subset of consumers who want foods with ingredients that they can understand, for more transparency from the manufacturers, and for minimally-processed foods. As such, ingredient manufacturers are continuing to develop a larger naturally-derived ingredient portfolio to meet the demands of these consumers.
5) New Flavors
This is always one of my favorite topics to talk about. Market research shows that, over the years, consumers have become more accepting of and open to trying new flavors in their food products. You’ll still see a lot of emphasis in the U.S. food market on “classic” flavors—such as caramel and coffee and chocolate—but there’s also a lot of excitement around flavors that derive from global cuisine. Everything from snacks, to frozen meals, to beverages, to confectionary products have embraced flavors that go beyond the more “traditional” flavors. For instance, if you’re walking through your local grocery store, you may have noticed products featuring fruit flavors such as yuzu, dragon fruit or lychee alongside old standbys like strawberry and cherry. Expect to see more of this in the future. We're also seeing a rise in influence of North African, Mediterranean, Southeast Asian and South American flavors, and the more consumers grow accustomed to these types of ingredients and flavors, the more we’re going to see them popping up in products.