Sweeteners, purity and functional foods among trends highlighted at food technology conference

Posted by Editorial on 30th June 2009

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently gathered in Anaheim to learn about innovative new food and beverage products launched around the globe, picking up on new product trends in the sweeteners, natural and functional food categories.

The sweeteners category has received a boost following regulatory approval for new products from the stevia plant, which are much sweeter than sugar. Meanwhile, functional foods offer potential if manufacturers can get the perfect mix of good taste and health and a return to purity is being pushed by the consumer concerned about artificial ingredients.

Market research firm Mintel led the IFT through a taste test of some of the new products in these categories to determine what makes a successful product. “It’s always exciting to see the outcome of the taste tests, but with so many unique products this year, we didn’t know how they would fare,” Mintel new product expert, Lynn Dornblaser, advised. “The winners are all great examples for manufacturers to look to as they develop innovative new products.”

High-intensity sweeteners took a clean sweep as the taste test winners all came from non-sugar products. IFT attendees chose Lotte Zero non-sugar chocolate from Japan as their favourite. Coming in second and third were products from the US: Sprite Green, sweetened with Truvia (from the stevia plant), followed by Breyers Double Churn No Sugar Added butter pecan ice cream, sweetened with Splenda.

While high-intensity sweeteners fared well, Ms Dornblaser expects a battle of the sweeteners in the future. Consumer concerns regarding weight and diet will ensure continued growth of high-intensity sweeteners; however, there is a new trend emerging towards the desire to be “all-natural,” which is forecast to lead people to products featuring good old-fashioned sugar.

It was a tight race in the purity group. Pepsi Natural Premium, made with all-natural ingredients, took first place. In second place was Nestle Milkybar White Moments, white chocolate in a crispy sugar shell, and there was a tie for third between True North Peanut Clusters and Bissinger’s Naturals Pomegranate White Tea Gummy Pandas.

According to Mintel, people have growing concerns about additives, preservatives and artificial colours in their food and therefore have a renewed interest in all-natural and organic options. For success in the future, manufacturers need to put a strong emphasis on the association that simplicity has with goodness and health, as well as provide as much information on package descriptions as possible to show consumers the many health benefits.

Kellogg’s FiberPlus Antioxidants chewy bars took first place in the functional category. Cubio Gummies containing collagen and Leclerc Praeventia Almond and Apple bars with prebiotic fibre and antioxidants came in second and third place, respectively.

“Consumers are skeptical about the benefits and efficacy of many functional foods,” Ms Dornblaser explained. “Messages are often confusing and complicated, making it hard for consumers to know what products to choose. Ultimately, if something tastes good and has added benefits, it will do well in the marketplace.”