From fermented foods to vegan protein, and the demand for ‘naturally functional’ foods – our panel of industry experts round up some of the top nutrition trends for the future.
Speaking to NutraIngredients, Sophia Nadur, innovation consultant and co-founder of Tg Green Teas noted that consumers are now looking to Eastern wellness systems such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda as they hunt for food and nutritional products for wellness.
“What people are looking for more and more is for food and drink to provide those extra functionalities, that natural functionality, to help people keep well and stay well,” she said.
She noted that the influence of TCM and Ayurveda has already been seen in new product development within the industry – while more and more companies are also using messages relating to food being a key source of wellbeing.
“Not just nourishment, but actually keeping people well in a much more fundamental and functional way than ever before,” said Nadur. “I think, is really good news for the nutrition ingredients industry because it can only mean one thing. It means that more people will be more interested in finding new and interesting functional ingredients that they will be able to add to products.”
Steve Osborn, a food technology scout and commercial development director at The Aurora Ceres Partnership agreed that consumer desire for more natural and wholesome foods and drinks is driving a change – adding that a return to traditional processing, and natural production methods for more ‘traditional’ foods are being used more and more often in the industry.
“Over the last year or so, there’s been a really interesting development in returning to some traditional processes and age old techniques that we might have forgotten … that allow us to produce products that have natural and inherent health benefits,” he said – citing examples of naturally fermented drinks such as kombucha and kefir.
He added that such a focus on traditional processes represents a ‘pivot’ away from some of the more established products and modern production methods, which for example would use a live culture of probiotic bacteria to produce a yoghurt drink.
David Jago, director of innovation and insight at Mintel noted that as natural processes like fermented foods gain more traction, it will also bring further discussion of topics like digestive health – which “seems to becoming a more recurring topic of conversation.”
“We’re seeing fermented foods grow in food service and in blogging, and that has raised a lot of interest around the immune system and the digestive system and the inter-relation between the two,” he added.
Meanwhile, Leslie Lannebere global category manager for nutrition at Naturex also noted that the concept of 'natural nutrition' is also becoming more important as consumers ask for natural sources of vitamins and minerals that come from fruit, vegetables, plants, ‘but also coming from fermentation.’
Furthermore, Osborn noted that the shift towards natural processing is also a reaction to wider industry trends, such as sugar reduction, since a return to more traditional processes can allow the industry to develop a wider and differentiated range of product that are 'naturally healthy'.
Protein is still buzzing
Protein continues to hit the mass market – with new products and an ever-wider consumer appeal, say our experts.
“Protein is going mainstream,” commented Troels Laursen, director of health and performance nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients. “What we used to know as our sports nutrition field, was primarily gym goes and so on, [now] there's a lot of new consumers consuming whey and protein products.”
According to Jago, protein – as a general trend – continues to ‘buzz’. However, the Mintel expert noted that the way in which general consumers think about, and discuss, protein will change in the future.
“What's going to change there, I think, is much more discussion among consumers about the quality and quantity of protein,” commented Jago. “The industry has been talking about that for quite a long time, but that hasn't really reached the consumer yet.”
Laursen told NutraIngredients that a key difference in the way the protein market is changing is in terms of sales channels.
“Part of going mainstream is that there is a lot more retail, but it's mass-consumer retail, it's gas stations, its supermarkets ... but very much also online,” he noted.
Everyone is going vegan
According to Itay Shafat, product manager for cognitive line and sports nutrition at Frutarom Health: "Everyone is going vegan."
He added that particularly in sports nutrition, people are looking for vegan sources of protein – among other ingredients.
“It's always difficult to predict, but definitely what's on trend, we're seeing hugely, is non-dairy protein,” added Paul O’Mahoney, business development manager at Glanbia Nutritionals.
“So vegan protein is very much on trend. Vegan, vegetarian and non-dairy,” the Glanbia specialist reaffirmed.
No such thing as ‘the next big thing’…
Despite the continued ‘buzz’ for protein, and enthusiasm for all things fermented, our experts also noted that when it comes to finding success, it is often about following a multitude of smaller trends.
“In our experience there is no ‘next big thing’,” said Steve Rice, managing director at RTS Foodgtrending. “What there is, is lots of trends. All moving through food - whether that's in snacking, or eating out of home, or online trends and supermarket trends.”
Rice added that another trend worth watching may be the direct-to-consumer movement, which has seen certain major manufacturers starting to look at direct distribution models where they cut out the retailer altogether and sell direct to the consumer themselves.
Osborn concluded that the ‘ongoing demand’ for products with enhanced nutrition, and enhanced health benefits will not stop.
“For the previous years there has been a tendency to try and retrofit functional ingredients into existing products,” he noted. “But I think the real opportunity to deliver great products into that functional and nutritional space is to pivot, if you like, and take a step back, and look at new opportunities and new products that redefine certain product categories in such a way that they have that inherent nutritional and functional benefit behind them.”