Posts Tagged ‘Natural sweeteners’

It All Comes Down To Taste

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Gluten Free

How can a nation be great if it’s bread tastes like Kleenex? – Julia Child

We had a bit of a discussion going with JP over at Healthy Fellow regarding the challenges of incorporating natural, healthy alternative ingredients into mainstream food products. One challenge is economic as some of these more innovative ingredients come at a price. For example, outside of colour, coconut sugar could be used in most places that refined sugar is used today, however it costs more.

JP suggested that consumer demand and taste were the main factors in adoption of healthier ingredients, rather than cost, and we tend to agree. Clearly there is a growing awareness of food quality and functionality with modern consumers and this is leading to a growing demand for healthier ingredients in the foods we eat. Basic economics would tell us that growing demand will also drive supply and lead to lower costs. So it really comes down to taste. As JP pointed out:

For instance, I can buy a large bag of “bakers stevia” such as Stevia in Raw for about the same amount as a comparably-sized Splenda package. On the other hand, I couldn’t get my wife to accept the taste of stevia – regardless of the price. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one that feels this way…The regulatory status of stevia is what it is today because there was sufficient demand for it. But even so, the market is somewhat limited because of tepid consumer acceptance of the current products on the market.

The overall sentiment is that if manufacturers can somehow produce products based on natural, healthy ingredients that taste as good as the current mainstream products, they’ll be adopted by consumers. For food manufacturers, achieving this ideal combination of health and taste may require changes to processes and formulation. According the the recent article Building Better Desserts at FoodProcessing.com:

The dessert items receiving the brunt of healthy treatments certainly would be baked goods, such as cakes and cookies…the incorporation of ingredients such as whole grains can readily make them healthier…But these ingredients do change the baking aspects of products — such as the mixing — so processes and formulas need to be adjusted.

Besides processes and formulation, the taste challenge can also be addressed by innovation with the basic constituents themselves, for example, various suppliers of food ingredients are developing healthier fats and oils as well as unique whole grains, fibers and beta glucans. In fact, we saw a new version of stevia at the IFT Food Expo in Chicago just last week that does not need any masking agents (i.e. flavours) for its lingering sweetness.

Lastly, the push for healthier retail food products is not just driven by consumer demand but by regulation, which provides yet another challenge for food manufacturers when pursuing consumer acceptance. Afterall, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. It all comes down to taste.

Let’s Focus on the Food

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

presentation23In 2009, we have seen a number of product launches as well as press releases on ingredient introductions and innovations.  These initatives on product rework and or product development  influenced by the economy, food recalls and changing health patterns resulted in these market trend reports on what consumers were looking for or want in their food product.    While there were many variations and versions of these terms (depending on which research firm has published the report), they all have recurring themes.

In retrospect, Ingredient Hotline has summarized these food trend findings into the 5 F’s:

  • Flavour
  • Frugality
  • Fitness & Function
  • Fun
  • Fair

These 5 F’s were the top 5 attributes that consumers searched for or were willing to pay for in the food products that they purchase and consume for 2009.

When it comes to food, flavour has always be a top priority of most consumers.   It may well be the healthiest ingredient on the planet, but it will be a challenge to market it if the product is not palatable.  People will not eat it, let alone pay for it.   This leads us to the next F word, frugality. Last year, we have seen many great food products launched in the market from the branded to their private label counterparts.  It was not surprising however, that private label sales performed very well since customers were looking for bargains and more value for money.  Imagine a product that tasted great, fit your budget and offered benefits to one’s health and well being  – what a bonus!  Fitness meant reduced sugars, sodium, trans-fats etc. & function referred to specific benefits to the body in terms of improving digestive health, immunity and others.    Improvements or creativity in packaging that sparked some interest or even convenience would fall under fun.  Novel flavours, colours and formats were also classified as a way to forget the harsh realties and savour some simple pleasures.    Finally, more consumers have expressed concerns and genuine interest in how their foods were grown or processed.   Is it locavore, raw food, fair trade, sustainable, is it fair?

Stay tuned for what’s in store in 2010!

In the meantime, we at Ingredient Hotline, Inc. would like to  thank you – our readers, suppliers and customers for giving us your time, attention and lots of encouraging words and well wishes.    The responses to the products have been very positive and we certainly look forward to a promising new year.    As a company who strives to provide unique, natural ingredients – we do not have any gimmicks.  Our focus has always been and will always be on food!

We wish you a new year of good health, good food, peace and prosperity!