Top innovations in ingredients 2013-141 November 2012
With the economic climate in flux and consumer demands ever changing, it is critical that the food industry stays at the forefront of trends in ingredients. So, what is coming down the pipeline? Ingredients Insight asked a panel of industry insiders to identify the top innovations and the market trends that will drive business in 2013 and beyond.
1. What one main ingredient has the potential to transform product and process development in 2013-14?
Ria van der Maas: It's a difficult one, I don't think there is one particular ingredient, but nutrient entity would be one. You see a lot of health programmes with vulnerable groups such as children or the elderly that have food with nutrient entities that are often too low so they have excess of energy, but not enough of the higher quality ingredients such as the vitamins or minerals and certain proteins. In terms of the food industry we need to focus more on ingredients with higher nutrient quality and natural products. It is about adding nutrients with natural sources.
Wayne Morley: Cryo-crystallised oils and fats have proven their ability to allow reductions in total and saturated fat levels in bakery products. The process of cryo-crystallisation involves the use of liquid nitrogen to result in oil/fat blends with enhanced functionality. Standard oil/fat blends can be replaced with cryo-crystallised versions at lower levels to reduce the total fat, or replaced with softer blends to reduce the saturated fat.
Work at Leatherhead Food Research has demonstrated both of these effects in short-crust pastry. Specifically, a standard short-crust pastry containing 31% fat and 11% saturated fat was reformulated with cryo-crystallised fat to contain 24% fat and 5% saturated fat. A range of physical and organoleptic tests demonstrated equivalence in quality between the two types of pastry.
Sam Millar: It is clear that Stevia-based products will be significant in 2013 and it is anticipated that other potential sources of sweeteners - for example, monk fruit - will start to come through too. At Campden BRI, we are seeing interest in evaluating such ingredients in the broader context of product structure and ingredient functionality in addition to their known sweetening properties. There is also significant interest in alginate-based systems for satiety control and to generate novel structures/textures in foods.
Barbara Gallani: It is difficult to identify one single ingredient with the potential to transform product development in the near future. Environmental changes, consumer demand and regulatory pressures will continue to drive changes in food manufacturing.
Karin Nielsen: The biggest innovation would be a natural stabiliser preserving the pigments of natural colorants which typically are the pigments derived from annatto fruits (orange), carrots (yellow orange), black carrots (brown), marigolds (yellow), tomatoes (red), red pepper fruits (red), beetroot (pink), red grapes (purple), blackcurrant (purple), alfalfa (green) and spinach (green).
Natural colours are not very stable and fade over time as they are easily oxidised, which is also why many of these have health benefits as antioxidants protecting the body from free radicals. There is more than one reason to find solutions for this problem as consumers do love vibrant and fresh-looking products, as well as expecting them to be shelf-stable and appreciating if any related health benefits can be preserved by keeping the active pigments chemically intact and bioavailable.
The market for natural colours is beyond $500 million and the annual growth rate would be much higher if the stability issues could be solved, especially for beverages and others wet products. The incentive and opportunity is there and I believe that the industry is working hard on this issue. I'd expect that specific solutions of acidifier and natural polymers combinations could see a breakthrough and move this market to new dimensions.
Raymond Winger: I believe the single one ingredient that is going to shape product and process development is going to be protein.
Kate Cook: Food industry bashing seems to be the favourite national sport at the moment, with TV programmes like "The Men who Made Us Fat" dominating headlines. The trends ahead lie in the authenticity of delivery - delivering exactly what it says on the tin with no embellishment.
Consumers are becoming quite rightly ever more demanding to know the truth about their food and this will increase in the coming years. Healthy must mean healthy without covering up the truth and obscuring the tracks, only emphasising what is known to sell.
Although the recession has made some sections of the market wary about where to put their pound, others still search out the healthy options with consumers demanding healthier versions of their existing favourites. This will continue well into 2013, coupled with demand for food that is well balanced, such as wholegrains, and meals and products that contain nuts and seeds and beneficial oils.
2. Which one ingredient will make a breakthrough in 2013-14 and why?
WM: Salt reduction is currently very high on the agenda and we recently completed a project on behalf of the FDF and BRC in the UK to identify suitable techniques to reduce salt whilst addressing issues related to shelf-life, taste and texture.
The research considered salt replacement ingredients such as potassium chloride, and technologies to manipulate the structure of salt crystals to make them more functionally active.
Soda-Lo, developed by Eminate and now licensed by Tate & Lyle, has been processed in such a way to comprise crystals that are much smaller than standard salt and are in the form of hollow balls.
Salt reductions of up to 50% have been claimed.
It is likely that this ingredient will make a breakthrough in 2013 as the availability and costs become more attractive to food manufacturers.
SM: Subject to approvals, sweetener derived from monk fruit is a potential breakthrough in 2013-2014.
RvdM: Cereals with fibre content are one. For example, we know we are low in fibre in all our diets but we also know that it's a difficult ingredient when it comes to making it appealing.
It's an issue that the food industry needs to address, to make it more available for people and better tasting.
KN: I think it's quite difficult to identify an off-market ingredient that will make a breakthrough in the market.
That's because this is an evolutionary process and regulatory approvals differ from market to market, depending on how the ingredient is processed.
I think that Lou Han Gou or monk fruit extract as a natural non-caloric sweetener will get a chance in the market alongside Stevia.
This is due to the fact that the drive for natural sweeteners is so big and that Stevia has some limitations within sweetening certain flavour combinations - for instance the popular berry, peach, and mango flavours.
As this ingredient is already GRAS (generally recommended as safe) in the US and in Australia, as well as having a long history of safe consumption in Asia, I believe that market will take off alongside the growth in sugar-reduced products with Stevia.
The learning curve for using Stevia has been long for most food formulators and now they have a lot of tools and ideas about how to work with these flavour off-notes.
RW: There are rapidly growing incidences of allergic reactions. The elderly market is going to explode soon, and this is a sector where the primary malnutrition problem is energy-protein malnutrition.
In addition, there is a rapidly expanding Asian market with a growing middle class, which will result in higher nutrition expectations - primarily protein.
Protein is the most expensive agricultural product to produce (energy and water wise) and it is also becoming a major vector for infectious (communicable) diseases such as BSE and swine flu.
KC: Some grains which formerly might have been a bit obscure have entered the mainstream and will continue to do so.
Quinoa (a seed) which might have been on the edges of the hippy fringe in past years has well and truly entered the food chain, and other more obscure grains could make the grade in the future.
Millet, amaranth, buckwheat and sprouted grains may make more of an appearance.
3. What will be the industry's big challenge for 2013?
RvdM: We need to work more on where we source our food from. At Unilever we always say we want suppliers that have sustainable practices.
RW: Understanding the true scientific reasons for, and tackling solutions to non-communicable disease (NCD). Fundamentally this means a proper scientific and food industry focus on the elderly (60+ years old) because this is where NCDs primarily occur and this sector has not been researched. It's growing and is the biggest single demographic factor influencing food marketing in the western countries. The only expansion in market size, outside the aging market, is in Asia and Africa. In the short term, there needs to be a much better understanding of the nutritional needs of the elderly.
WM: Food waste remains an important issue for the industry and efforts to reduce this through innovations in products, packaging and processing will continue. Central to all of these will be innovations to increase the shelf-life of foods and the use of accelerated testing protocols. The shelf-life may be increased through product development to incorporate more stable ingredients, for example natural colours, that can better withstand the rigours of processing. Packaging developments, for example using nano-coatings, will lead to improved barriers, and milder thermal processing methodologies will start the product off at a higher quality level. Finally the use of accelerated testing and the development of shelf-life predictive models will mean that earlier decisions can be made.
SM: In global terms, commodity and food pricing generally will be a significant challenge in 2013. The drought in the US and variable harvest quality in other parts of the world have already seen maize and wheat prices rise rapidly and it is likely that higher prices and more market volatility will persist for some time.
Within a European context, the end of 2012 sees companies being required to comply with the 222 authorised health claims published by the European Commission in May of this year. The list provides long-awaited legislation, which will assist consumers in their selection of healthy products backed by rigorous scientific evidence. At Campden BRI we anticipate that there will be some challenges across the industry as companies seek to demonstrate compliance with the legislation.
KN: The biggest challenge for the ingredient industry will be dealing with the constraints of innovation versus the regulatory process, which simply is too rigorous for a profitable time-to-market for many ingredients. I believe that the industry will try to put even further pressure on the regulatory bodies to process and assess food ingredient safety (novel approval, and new additives approval) as well as health claims faster. I also believe that the industry being really global will force politicians to instigate a greater harmonisation of food regulations.
KC: A recent report by the British Nutrition Foundation had dismissed the possibility of wheat being a problem of allergy for most adults. Whatever the truth, one in five British adults believe they have an intolerance or allergy to foods, the majority blaming mostly bread and bread products. Increasingly, consumers will search for alternatives. The British Nutrition Foundation is worried that avoiding bread will eliminate essential nutrients from the diet but finding alternatives that serve the consumer in terms of nutrient value should put any of these fears into the shade. Trends to watch for include bread made from spelt (a more ancient Roman form of wheat), Kamut (a more ancient Egyptian form of wheat), rye and other grains.
BG: Sustainability, health and diet, and efficiency are the main three challenges for the industry. In 2013 food manufacturers will continue to deliver on their long term strategies on reformulation and explore ways to further reduce salt, saturated fat and calories.
4. What market trends do you see dominating the global ingredients industry in 2013 and beyond?
Jean-Baptiste Rubens: There is a general trend to look at the environmental impact of agricultural materials and identify alternatives or reduce their carbon footprint. Another trend is to look at natural preservatives and ingredients with new functionality.
KC: On the food allergy theme, alternatives to dairy will continue to make headway as people blame dairy products for their digestive problems. Soya, which has dominated the market, may well make way to other dairy alternatives. Coconut milks and products will continue to gain momentum. Other nut and grain milks could well emerge into other products as manufacturers get creative with what they can supply to this ever-growing band of consumers.
There will always be food and there will always be sliming diets and celebrity-led diets will always lead the field. Scientists are sceptical of the so-called detox diets but, whether there is merit in these kinds of routines or not, consumers will be motivated by the ever-growing pressure to beat the bulge.
Whatever happens next in healthy food, we can be assured that the interest in health grows more important and the baby boomers continue to move along the conveyor belt of life and into old age.
WM: It is likely that salt reduction will dominate the global market, with the use of natural ingredients, especially colours and flavours, still important.
SM: The public interest in sport following the Olympics and Paralympics Games, as well as a recent review of sports nutrition products by Oxford University, will create opportunities as well as challenges for this sector. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that this will be an important area for product development in 2013.
The pressure to reduce levels of ingredients such as salt, sugar and saturated fat will continue, which will pose different challenges to a range of industry sectors. For salt in particular, issues around product quality (bakery) and product safety (meat) will continue to be points of focus for technical development. This is particularly so for cured meat products, where reductions in both salt and nitrate levels need to be undertaken carefully to ensure that the microbial safety of products is maintained.
Fibre provision within foods will continue to be an important area with ongoing improvement to product acceptability being a key enabler. Soluble fibres such as beta-glucan from oats and barley will continue to develop as ingredients or as targets for plant breeders in cereal variety development.
Finally, clean label and free-from will also continue to be important trends driving new product development in the industry.
RvdM: Sustainability is one, and our health and well-being is another one. It's not only about food, it's also about getting people active, and behaviour changes. Some people blame the food industries or governments, but the only solution is that we work on this better.
KN: I think that one of the main trends will be the sustainability and ecological footprint in general. This will create a trend towards more foods derived from plants and even algae and fungi as more sustainable vehicles for delivering nutrition. We see a lot of vegetable proteins entering the market for sports and special nutrition, algae-derived extracts and colours and also a focus on plant and vegetable based unhardened oils. As consumers are continuously educated to stay off the saturated fats and to eat more vegetables this is both a healthy and ethical sound market proposition from ingredient industry to food formulators.
RW: Huge expansion in population in Asia and Africa, and a massive growing middle class, especially in Asia, with the concomitant demand for high quality and advanced food products, such as meat and processed foods. That is economic power as well. We are going to see western countries starting to struggle to find sufficient food to feed their own populations.
BG: Gradual improvements in processes will continue to be developed to make production more efficient and to further reduce waste along the chain. I expect interesting developments and exploratory work on sweeteners, flavour combinations and salt replacers, together with purpose-developed fat blends and further optimisation of processes to reduce waste.