Whether people are avoiding gluten, allergens, added sugars, meat, or dairy, ingredient companies have the task of finding replacements that consumers will accept and buy.
"Many new ingredients are developed around people trying to avoid other ingredients," says Brenda Knapp-Polzin, a technical manager for Cargill Food Ingredients.
An emerging trend to replace allergens like soy and wheat is the use of pulse flours and proteins. Ingredion told Food Processing that the company is seeing more interest in its pulse products and also in egg replacement solutions, in addition to its already best-selling gluten-free ingredients.
Overlapping the free-from trend is the demand for clean labels, which Mark Hughes, President, Anderson Partners Food Ingredient Marketing, sees as the largest mega-trend affecting the food industry. While small companies innovate clean products, large companies such as General Mills, Nestle and Kellogg have committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from products.
Hughes points to specialty flours from companies such as Ardent Mills and WEDO Gluten Free as examples of clean, natural functional flours for manufacturers. Another example of clean label ingredient innovation is the non-GMO sweet potato ingredients, including a natural sweetener, recently introduced by Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients Inc.
Cargill commits to stevia
In the area of natural sweeteners, Cargill has made a big commitment to stevia, according to Knapp-Polzin. Because stevia grows easily almost anywhere in the world and is sustainable, Cargill saw much innovation potential with the plant. Based on the company's success with Truvia, Cargill has focused most of its research and product innovation for non-nutritive sweeteners around stevia. The company's latest product is EverSweet, made by using baker's yeast to produce glycosides from the stevia plant.
From clean to clear
Innova Market Insights states clean label has become the standard in the food industry, and identifies "From Clean to Clear Label" the top trend this year.
"This demand for clean labeling has now brought the need for clear labeling equally to the fore," says Lu Ann Williams, Innova's director of innovation. Williams went on to say this move to simpler, more transparent claims on packaging requires that the industry both reformulate products and develop new communication strategies.
Ingredient developers also must respond to other trends, according to Knapp-Polzin. She says people often want to feel like they're eating in grandmother's kitchen. "Consumers are trying to find ingredients they feel they understand. Also, consumer halos develop around certain foods, such as honey or whole grains."
These factors lend themselves to proteins from vegetables or ancient grains, or ingredients that have a story around them. Knapp-Polzin notes that the value a large ingredient company such as Cargill can bring to customers is in supply chain management. Food manufacturers can leverage the scale and scope of a large ingredient portfolio to procure items like sustainably raised wheat or humanely raised chickens.