Health and wellness are twin pillars driving developments across the U.S. food industry in 2013, according to "Food Formulation and Ingredient Trends: Health & Wellness," a study from market research firm Packaged Facts.
Beyond efforts to help curb record high obesity rates and chronic illnesses, Packaged Facts predicts that both processed food manufacturers and foodservice operators will continue to try to win over consumers with other offerings that deliver nutritional benefits consistent with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Perhaps most of all, growing consumer interest in more healthful food will propel additional development of food and beverage products that deliver health-related benefits derived from individual ingredients or combinations of ingredients in desirable product designs and formats in terms of taste, meal or day-part occasion, affordability, convenience, portability, portion control, and related attributes, particularly those associated with broader and more all-encompassing health and wellness goals such as hunger and weight management.
"Offering products that deliver in accord with the goals set forth in the Dietary Guidelines provides processed food manufacturers with clout to stand their ground on the nutritional value of many of the processed foods and beverages they sell, and to do so in the context of concepts, verbiage and graphics that consumers have been exposed to and about which they already possess a level of awareness," said Packaged Facts' research director David Sprinkle in a prepared statement.
In the report, Packaged Facts examines formulation and ingredient trends through five health and wellness topics that are broken down as follows:
- Better Breakfasts - Packaged Facts anticipates more introductions of products that combine two better-for-you breakfast elements: whole grains and low-fat dairy, encompassing a wide range of product designs. In particular, it is expected that whole grain blends will be used in more value-added products to deliver benefits associated with hunger satisfaction, sustained energy, weight management and digestive health. Likewise, Packaged Facts expects the trend toward the development of higher fiber breakfast executions of popular indulgent snacks and desserts (e.g. cookies, pie) and flavors (e.g. chocolate) will continue along with new product designs and formats inherently delivering more fiber, such as oat smoothies.
- Sweeteners - Packaged Facts expects natural sweeteners and those with healthier halos, both caloric and zero-calorie, to be selected for partial or full replacement of traditional counterparts. Depending on functional application requirements and cost, Packaged Facts anticipates more switching overall, including from high fructose corn syrup to sugar, from sugar to honey, from agave to coconut sugar and from aspartame or sucralose to stevia or monk fruit. Anti-fructose sentiment may grow stronger in 2013 as association with and concern over agave's potential role in insulin resistance as a precursor to diabetes and inflammation. Further, it is anticipated that high fructose corn syrup will continue to struggle in 2013 for a variety of reasons.
- Salt & Sodium - Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sodium reduction, some of the most promising approaches to watch for in 2013 include restructuring salt crystals to maximize surface area and salty taste perception for both sodium chloride (common table salt) and potassium chloride (the well-established salt replacer). In the case of potassium chloride, maximizing surface area enables greater saltiness to be perceived while also minimizing the accompanying metallic and bitter tastes. Other likely approaches include identifying and utilizing umami ingredients to enhance overall flavor and longer term identification of molecules and ingredients to mimic salt taste.
- Healthier Snacking - Given that 20 percent of all meal occasions are snacks, accounting for 25 percent of all calories consumed, it's no surprise that more healthful snacking will be a major focus area for many, if not most, food companies and food service operators in 2013. Packaged Facts expects portion controlled, single serve snacks of all types will be hugely popular in the coming year. In addition, products associated with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, nuts (especially almonds), and ready-to-eat air popped popcorn will show broadened appeal. The appeal of popcorn is particularly intriguing due to the recent discovery that popcorn is a better source of antioxidants than either fruits or vegetables and because the popularity of air popped, whole grain popcorn will likely spur interest in other popped whole grains such as sorghum.
- Alternative Proteins - High protein ancient grains, including amaranth and quinoa, will be incorporated in more foods promoted and consumed for their protein content, including entrée soups and salads, as veggie burgers and as seasoned dry blend mixes for use as center-of-the-plate items or nutritious side dishes. Their use in baby food can also be expected to grow since they are not associated with food allergies and are easily digested. The use of high protein ancient grains in bread-making will result in boosting the nutrient density of this staple food. Meanwhile, the use of more seeds and nuts, especially ground into interesting high protein spreads is also expected to show broadened appeal. Beans and lentils, which are already experiencing increased use in ethnic foods and vegetable chips, will be more readily adopted as important alternatives to meat protein across a wide range of applications.