ENGREDEA and Natural Products Expo West 2014: Key Trends

Retail sales of food and beverages positioned in the health and wellness segment were worth US$750 billion globally in 2013, with further projected growth of a 4% constant value CAGR over 2013-2018. Innovation remains one of the key forces driving growth as consumers look for nutritionally healthier products.

Welcoming over 60,000 attendees, the Engredea and Natural Products Expo, held in March 2014 in Anaheim, California, featured a myriad of new products in health and wellness nutrition. While a Euromonitor presentation at the Engredea focused on trends in nutricosmetics, the expo provided further opportunities to review the latest trends and developments in foods and beverages presented by US and international manufacturers.

The expo focused strongly on sugar and salt reduction. Also featuring prominently were organic products, as well as ingredient innovations in soluble fibre, vegetable-based proteins, algae, and probiotics. Additionally, quinoa, chia, coconut-based foods and beverages, gluten- and lactose-free products, and a wide variety of other products were showcased by exhibitors ranging from ingredient suppliers to retail brand manufacturers.

Organics: new flavours, new ingredients, new product categories, and portion control

Among the show-openers was Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace – a dedicated space demonstrating the latest developments in organic products across a wide range of consumer goods, including food and beverages.

Eden muesli and pasta_small1.jpgNew flavours and formulations remain in the spotlight. Thus, for example, Eden Foods presented a new line of cereals as well as pasta products. The latter includes ingredients such as kamut – one of the ancient grains, which is also suitable for people with sensitivity to modern wheat. New cereals feature muesli based on oats, rye, and spelt wheat roasted and rolled into flakes as well as organic cinnamon. Incorporating cinnamon is said to add antioxidant value to the cereal, aid digestion of high-carbohydrate foods, while slowing glycaemic response, as well as improving energy and circulation.

Featuring a variety of innovative applications and ingredients was the Raw Rev 100 line by Raw Revolution, including snack bars with spirulina. A variety of blue-green algae, spirulina is said to have immune-boosting qualities. It is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and antioxidants. In fact, algae has been identified among the top 10 functional ingredients by Todd Runestad, editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients during his Ingredient Market Forecast address at the expo.

Tapping into new food categories is Raintree Gum LLC. The company develops customised organic chewing gum and organic gumbase. The products are made from sustainably harvested rainforest tree sap and other organic-compliant ingredients. The products are also said to be biodegradable.

Finally, portion control has been quite notable in organic indulgence products. For instance, NibMor Inc showcased a line of NibMor Daily Dose chocolate positioned as “the perfect amount of chocolate” that features 50 calories a piece.

Sugar and salt reduction in the spotlight

As debates over excessive sugar and sodium intake by consumers continue, salt and sugar reduction strategies held a prominent place at the show. An example could be found from Tate & Lyle with its Soda-Lo salt microspheres and Tasteva Stevia sweetener. Soda-Lo technology is said to turn standard salt crystals into free-flowing crystalline microspheres. The microspheres are smaller, lower-density crystals, which can deliver a salty taste by maximising the surface area relative to volume. The technology is said to allow salt reduction in foods and beverages by 25-50% without sacrificing taste.  Soda-Lo is currently used in rice and bean chips sold under the Boulder Canyon brand. Tasteva is a Stevia sweetener that is said to allow up to a 50% sugar reduction in food and beverages, without a bitter aftertaste.

Incorporating fibre into food and beverages

Fibre intake remains one of the key recommendations by nutritionists and remains on the agenda in the food industry. Unsurprisingly, a number of ingredient manufacturers presented the latest in soluble fibre development. From Tate & Lyle come Promitor Soluble corn fibre and PromOat Beta Glucan, both allowing for a range of benefits, and most of all increased fibre content in food and beverages.  PromOat’s ability to be easily incorporated into beverages was showcased though a line of sparkling juice beverages, with the ingredient also positioned as contributing to a feeling of satiety and product smoothness.

Probiotics: product development continues despite regulatory challenges

Although probiotics have recently faced regulatory and health claim challenges in some markets, product development continues. New in 2014 are Post cereals under Great Grains Digestive Blend, Garden of Flavour organic juices featuring living probiotics, and the Powerful Yogurt bar by Powerful Men.

Probiotics_small12.JPGInterestingly, new product launches also include a fair number of hot beverages with probiotics. An example includes Copper Moon French Vanilla Cappuccino coffee pods by US-based Copper Moon World Coffees. The products are compatible with the Keurig single-pod system, and feature probiotics as well as vitamins and minerals. The new products are seeking to tap into both the fast-growing single-serve coffee trend, as well as the health and wellness segment. It remains to be seen whether probiotics’ appeal in hot beverages will attract consumer interest. Consumer education and support would definitely be needed to explain heat-resistant cultures and the ability of the products to deliver the benefits, compared with more established dairy-based products featuring live bacteria.