SPINS Trend Report Highlights Functionality, Plant-Based Proteins

In a webinar last week, market research group SPINS shared its 2018 food and beverage trend predictions, which included a rise in new speciality ingredients, an evolution of consumers’ diet preferences and a greater emphasis placed on packaging.

The presentation, led by Director of Natural Insights Brent Coons and Lead Content Strategist Jessica Hochman, showcased several food and beverage products that are among the early adopters of these growing trends.

Much of SPINS’ trend forecast revolved around the growth of products with specific health or functional benefits, such as an increased use of adaptogenic herbs, which aim to aid fatigue, stress and cognitive function.

“Adaptogens are about bringing balance and are a big part of the larger macro trend around herbal functional ingredients,” said Coons

The presentation highlighted ashwagandha, an adaptogen which can be found in products across multiple categories, including Amazing Grass’ Brain Elixir supplements and Blue Buddha’s Organic Tea.

Adaptogens are not the only growing ingredient that addresses cognitive function; nootropics, which are synthetic, are also designed to improve physical and mental performance.

“A lot of this attention that’s being paid to nootropics can be traced to the popularity of the ‘Bulletproof diet’ and to biohacking for increased performance,” said Hochman.

Along with ingredients that support increased energy, Coons and Hochman said they expect the demand for products that can help consumers relax, such as cannabidiol (CBD), to grow. Some studies indicate that CBD can help reduce anxiety and stress. CBD can be utilized in a number of different categories, including food, powders, supplements, chewing gum, and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, like KickBack Cold Brew Coffee.

“Like Kombucha 20 years ago, cannabinoids are an ancient thing that is brand new to this industry but definitely here to stay,” said Coons.

Along the same lines, SPINS also identified hemp as an emerging force in the protein powder and sports nutrition space.

Moringa, a plant protein that contains high levels of antioxidants calcium, potassium and vitamin C, was also pinpointed as a rising trend. Moringa boasts a range of applications, including food, energy shots, teas and body care products. Tea brand Yogi recently released a Blackberry Moringa Green Tea, while Kuli Kuli has built its brand exclusively around the use of moringa, incorporating the ingredient into powders, teas, energy shots, and bars.

Coons and Hochman also predicted peanuts will be integrated into a variety of new applications, such as plant-based dairy brand Elmhurst’s line of peanut milk, which contains 6 g of protein and 11 g of total fat. That product also exemplifies another trend: consumers’ growing acceptance of full-fat products.

“We’re getting away from fear of fats,” said Hochman. “Fat is friend, not foe. And even saturated fats, whether animal- or plant-based, are actually becoming a preferred macronutrient.”

Hochman noted that fuller fats can come from cooking oils, avocados, coconuts, nuts, and seeds, but focused on continuing innovation in the yogurt category. She noted that Siggi’s offers a triple cream yogurt with 9 percent milk fat, while Peak triple cream plain yogurt nearly doubles the mark with 17 percent milk fat.

While fat may be making a comeback, consumers are actively seeking ways to reduce sugar from their diets. In its place, alternative sweeteners, such as Heylo and DouxMatouk, are filling the space. Hoochman and Coons said that sugar is not obsolete, but many deserts are now healthier than before. Reduced calorie ice cream brand Halo Top, for example, uses a combination of sugars and natural sweeteners for their products, while Unreal offers candy made with organic, non-GMO ingredients.

Encompassing all of these trends is the shifting packaging industry, which SPINS predicts will pivot towards more sustainable practices. Coons and Hochman predicted that reusable and biodegradable packaging will cut out the need for plastic and note that the European Union recently passed a measure to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2030.