Interruptions to the daily rhythms of life have led to major shifts in how people approach and prioritize everything from their work to their health.
Work-from-home and other pandemic-era solutions granted many consumers the flexibility to spend more time with their families and simultaneously address their health and nutrition through home-cooked meals utilizing fresh ingredients.
However, with 90% of companies returning to office by the end of 2024, time and convenience may once again become an issue for a majority of consumers.
Whether it’s at home or on the go, shoppers are looking for products that can give their bodies what they need from a nutritional standpoint to function at their best.
With 52% of global consumers agreeing that nutritionally fortified foods and supplements are important aspects of a healthy diet, it’s no surprise that they are flocking to convenient snacks and beverages with functional ingredient claims.
Items like these are empowering consumers to tailor nutritional supplementation for their specific situational needs and their schedules.
Functional Nutrition: Macro, Micro, and Beyond
Products that act as meal replacements can offer solutions to the demands of a busy lifestyle.
Providing lasting satiety is critical, placing the focus squarely on macro-nutrients, primarily proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fibers.
Proteins, both animal-derived and plant-based alternatives, continue to be options of interest for consumers and developers.
Still, for all the attention on protein, an increasing number of products look to keep consumers full between meals by addressing the “fiber gap”.
On top of helping consumers stay satisfied longer, fibers, particularly prebiotic fibers, are desired for their role in promoting digestion and gut health.
This is a prime example of how consumers are also looking beyond “daily values” and toward tailored and tangible health benefits. In functional beverages alone, energy and alertness, immunity, gut health, and emotional/cognitive health account for 61% of all launches.
As a result, developers are tapping into an ever-expanding list of ingredients to aid these physiological functions.
A few of these include:
- Vitamins & Minerals
- Nootropic Mushrooms
Functional & Flavorful
Yet, as unwilling as consumers are to sacrifice nutritional and functional benefits, they are even less likely to compromise on taste.
The not-so-hidden truth of many of these functional ingredients is that they often can introduce an array of taste challenges to a product.
“Protein is a perfect example,” says Eric Diaz, Edlong Flavorist and one of less than 500 Society of Flavor Chemists certified flavorists worldwide. “Adding or increasing protein in a product typically introduces astringency or a chalky mouthfeel to the experience.”
He adds, “Then you have to consider the protein source because both animal and the various plant proteins being used in these types of products add unique undesired characteristics for you to contend with. But this isn’t limited to protein. Ingredients like vitamins or caffeine often present a level of bitterness that you’ll need to address as well.”
For this reason, delivering desirable sensory profiles by reducing off-notes at the molecular level continues to be the subject of significant research efforts worldwide.
While uncovering specific cause-and-effect relationships is ongoing, Edlong’s internal R&D work, in addition to collaboration with our partners, has revealed that dairy and dairy-type flavors can be uniquely suited to address off-note challenges presented by functional ingredients.
For example, we found that one particular dairy flavor had surprisingly broad masking capability, while others could work as more specific maskers[lo1] for distinct plant proteins. This led us on a path of systematically evaluating a range of dairy and dairy-type flavors to determine their masking performance concerning proteins from various botanical sources.
In addition to masking, these flavors can help correct certain texture issues and improve overall mouthfeel [lo2] . One way is by bringing a perceived dairy creaminess that can smooth and balance out the overall taste experience.
Dairy and dairy-type flavors also create opportunities to achieve balance through the use of authentic characterizing flavors, profiles that resonate with consumers’ tastebuds and differentiate products in a crowded marketplace.
“Our flavor tools allow us to not only mask but use specific profiles to work with even the most difficult functional ingredients,” says Diaz. He continues, “Our coffee, cocoa, chocolate, and sweet brown flavors are great for balancing bitterness, while others can add a higher level of indulgence by enhancing perceived sweetness without increasing sugar[lo3] .”
With the market for products like functional beverages only expected to grow, dairy and dairy-type flavors will continue to play a pivotal role in helping these products check all the boxes for consumers, especially great taste.
- Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2023
- Innova Database
Article top image credit: MurzikNata via Getty Images