Trendspotting at the IFT Show

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In a place as massive as the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, it can be easy to lose your way in the sea of “world’s first ___” claims and free samples. The TIC Gums booth featured a bearded mascot who wanted to take a picture with you. Pop Rocks had a booth of its own, claiming that its electric delicacies fit well in milkshakes.

Distractions aside, BevNET dug deep into this year’s Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) show and spotted trends — emerging and yet to surface alike — that have already shifted or could soon make a dent in the beverage industry. And if you’re thinking about launching an aspartame-sweetened cola with a side of GMOs, you may want to take some notes.

 

WAVES OF GRAIN

Ingredient suppliers are continuing to find new ways to meet the demands of an evolving market that calls for more protein and energy sources. While Monster and Red Bull continue to dominate the energy drink market, a growing number of consumers beyond natural channels are seeking alternative ingredients that can offer energy-boosting qualities.

Mamma Chia and Chia/Vie have long served as the torchbearers of the small, but growing, chia beverage industry. However, recent figures provided at IFT by market research group Mintel indicate that this small but intriguing category could soon grow into a more significant global player. In 2012-13, chia products in food and beverage increased by approximately 140 percent. And it wasn’t the only grain to see a significant boost during this time frame. A few other growing ingredients include high-protein wheat product Kamut (78 percent), sorghum (65 percent), millet (54 percent) and oats (48 percent).

The growing interest in alternative protein sources has also led to the introduction of a number of plant-based options sourced from rice, pea and microalgae. Roquette, a plant-based supplier in northern France, introduced algility HP, one of a number of algae proteins at the show that can be applied to juices and smoothies, among other beverages with a thick enough viscosity.

The microalgaes caught the eye of Mintel senior consultant Nirvana Chapman, who connected these somewhat funky ingredients to the nature of the beverage industry.

“I feel like beverage gets leeway to be a little bit more experimental,” Chapman said.

A few other noteworthy figures via Mintel:

• In the past five years, sucralose has been consistently featured in about 40 percent of product launches. However, over the same time frame, product launches with aspartame have decreased by 8 percent.

• In 2013, 40 percent of flavored coffee launches in the U.S. were sweet flavors.

• 22 percent of Americans believe gluten-free is bad for you.

• “No additives” is the top claim on new products launched globally. The phrase appears on more than 16 percent of new products in certain regions.

• 35 percent of consumers in the U.S. believe “made with whole grains” defines a healthy menu item.

• 54 percent of men and 65 percent of women read the labels on foods before they make a purchase.

• 34 percent of U.S. parents want to see brands commit to non-GMO ingredients.

• 74 percent of U.S. consumers are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about food safety.

 

MACRO TRENDS

As seen by the plethora of meal replacement beverage releases, it’s becoming harder to distinguish the differences between beverages, snacks and meals. This trend could also be felt in the halls of IFT, where Eva C. Johnson, the regional marketing manager with BASF, explained the latest tendencies of the beverage industry.

“Not everybody has time for a full meal,” Johnson said, “so that line keeps blurring.”

This trend blends with another few — convenient sports nutrition/recovery and condition-specific food and beverage. To fall in line with both meal replacement and convenient sports nutrition/recovery, BASF has launched a prototype for a chocolate “recovery” milk with Tonalin CLA, an ingredient sourced from safflower oil that helps to reduce body fat and build and maintain lean muscle mass, according to a study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And to comply with meal/snack replacement and condition-specific options, BASF has launched a prototype for a diabetic-friendly drinkable yogurt, which contains plant sterols that, with one to three grams, can lower cholesterol levels by up to 15 percent, according to a study by Food & Nutrition Research.

BASF was just one of a large number of companies to introduce condition-specific ingredients. BENEO launched ingredients that focus on blood sugar control, weight management and digestive health. Another supplier, MGP, showcased Optein, a wheat protein that can be applied to smoothies, sports drinks and energy drinks to aid muscle soreness, glutamine levels and blood glucose and lactate levels.

 

FLAVORS: THE FAMILIAR AND THE OBSCURE

Sensient Flavors notes that the U.S. Hispanic population is expected to reach 61.1 million by 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As a result, Sensient is doing more than developing flavors and pitching new ideas to massive CPG manufacturers. The company has also stood at the forefront of ingredient suppliers with an eye on industry directions and flavors of the future. To address the growth of the Hispanic population, Sensient has identified flavors that are already being deployed in the beverage industry and could continue to grow.

 

• Strawberry Guava • Ginger Lime
• Chili Mango • Hibiscus
• Horchata • Lemon Cherimoya
• Tangerine • Pineapple Tamarind

 

While most of these flavors don’t seem too outside-the-box to regular BevNET readers, Sensient marketing director Teresa Olah is working with ingredients that lean toward the more obscure side of flavoring.

As greening continues to threaten the future of citrus plants, Sensient is looking for alternatives. Burnt calamansi, originating in the Philippines, could serve as that alternative as citrus costs increase in time. She notes that beverage manufactures don’t need to market the calamansi name, only the complex flavor.

“Calamansi isn’t a scary flavor,” Olah said. “It’s something that consumers can relate to very easily. It’s a mandarin, it’s a lime.”

A few other obscure flavors of the future, according to Sensient, include balsamic fig, ginger plum, juniper berry and rhubarb, among others. Fernet and guasacaca, which is occasionally used in place of avocados, are already growing more and more in the food industry. Olah wonders how they could be applied to the non-alcoholic beverage industry.

And as ingredient suppliers so often say about the increasingly indulgent spirits industry, Olah believes that the savory trends of spirits will soon influence the non-alcoholic beverage industry.

“I think that next year is really going to be the year of savory flavors in beverage,” Olah said.