- The pandemic accelerated the movement of consumers toward more natural products and ingredients, ingredients manufacturer Symrise told Food Ingredients First. Attributes of the natural category typically include food choices that are minimally processed, sport clean labels and have a supply chain that is ethical and environmentally friendly, the company said.
- While there are core components to this movement, Symrise cautioned the meaning of the term "natural" varies across food and beverage categories as well as geographical regions. However, the company noted this shift is predominantly driven by younger consumers.
- Consumer desire for more natural products has been a boon for ingredients manufacturers in recent years. As consumers look for cleaner labels, manufacturers are turning to ingredients companies for solutions to integrate into their products. Symrise has developed ingredients for meat alternatives, dairy alternatives and nutritional beverages as well as established an innovation center to partner with large manufacturers to create ingredient solutions.
Concern for one's health has grown during the pandemic and it is driving consumers to be more conscious of the food they eat. The Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council found that 85% of individuals have changed their diet in some way.
Consumers evaluating their choices through a lens that focuses on nutrition and health — both for themselves and for the environment — has brought about some of these dietary changes. Since the onset of the pandemic, nearly half of consumers said they have become more concerned about the environment, and 11% said they have shifted their purchases based on environmental claims within the past year, according to a survey from Kearney.
In additional to environmental concern, three in four shoppers said they plan to eat and drink healthier as a result of the pandemic, according to functional ingredient supplier Beneo.
However, as the terms "natural" and "healthy" still have nebulous definitions, there are a myriad of ways in which manufacturers can interpret this demand.
Symrise found that developing clean-label products with recognizable ingredients is a good place to start. Other research backs up this claim. A L.E.K. survey found more than 60% of consumers look for products with labels reading "no artificial ingredients," "no preservatives" and "all natural." Innova Market Insights reported an even greater number of consumers demanding clean label, with 91% of U.S. consumers saying food and beverage options with recognizable ingredients are healthier.
While there are many opportunities for CPG and ingredient manufacturers to clean up labels, Symrise has focused on colors. The company introduced a line of organic, sustainably sourced colors for foods and beverages last year; launched its Code of Nature platform that focuses on natural, less processed taste solutions; and dedicated money, time and resources to creating alternative protein options. If these endeavors are able to help manufacturers cleanly reformulate products without altering the taste or texture to which consumers are accustomed, the ingredients company stands to profit.
Natural functional ingredients are particularly well positioned to become a lucrative category for ingredient suppliers. Zion Market Research estimated the global functional ingredients market was worth $64.9 million in 2018, and is expected to reach nearly $100 million by 2025. The pandemic has allowed functional, immunity-boosting ingredients — like honey, ginger and turmeric — to come the forefront as healthy additives that consumers are seeking in products.
Simple ingredients as well as functional ones have been making their way into the mainstream. Already, Symrise is working with Unilever on taste and sustainability applications. Plant-based brands, including Impossible Foods, have chipped market share away from traditional meat producers. Brands including Starbucks and Monster Energy have tapped into functional coffee.
It is likely that this push for cleaner ingredient profiles will continue past the pandemic. Stefanie Hartwig, global marketing engagement manager at Symrise's Flavor Division, told Food Ingredients First the trend is driven by the youngest consumers and integrated into their lifestyle. For the foreseeable future, she told the publication, responsible sourcing and sustainable agriculture will be considered requirements for long-term success.