One of my favorite parts of IFT’s annual event is wandering the floor of the Food Expo. I enjoy taking in the array of ingredients and products, old and new, at one of the largest Food Expos in the world, discovering new trends and keeping track of what’s to come in the food industry.
With IFT18 now on the horizon, here are four trends to watch out for on the IFT Annual Event and Food Expo floor:
1) Clean Label: We’re few years in now, and it’s grown increasingly clear that the clean label/clear label movement isn’t slowing down. Consumers are still very interested in clean label products and ingredients, which feature easy-to-recognize ingredients and no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals. With this clean and clear label movement comes an increased demand for ingredients that are domestically sourced, organic, or not genetically modified. In recent years, ingredient manufacturers have focused on moving beyond synthetic ingredients and exploring clean label options for everything from taste, to texture, to nutritional content and more, and it’s having a big impact on everything from texturizers to preservatives to flavors and colorings. While the synthetic colors and artificial flavors are still in use and functional, a lot of companies are now trying to meet the needs and wants of their consumers to have more naturally derived ingredients. Be on the lookout for more of these clean label innovations at this year’s Food Expo.
2) Plant-Based Protein: People are still eating meat and poultry, but many consumers are increasingly interested in plant-based proteins. Dairy-based proteins are very popular, both from a protein and texture-based perspective, but plant-based proteins are growing increasingly popular. Soy, pea, potato and rice are all getting more attention from a protein perspective, and they can add not just nutritional elements, but textural ones as well. Other plant-based sources that are in the works—such as microalgae, quinoa, and other vegetable-based proteins—that are not yet on the market are also sure to be of interest. Nuts, beans, and lentils are also being investigated and increasingly used in commercial products for their protein, as well as texture. Of course, some of these may have off-flavors or affect the texture in their applications, so these are areas that companies are looking for evolution from in the plant-based protein sector.
3) Texture: Companies that track new product releases are noticing more and more texture-based claims on packaging in recent years—whether it’s describing the product, or even as a part of the product’s name. Companies are increasingly investigating the textural elements of different ingredients and how they might play a role in new or existing products—particularly those from plant-based sources—so many of the ingredient manufacturers/suppliers on the Expo floor will be showcasing the texture of their product applications at IFT18.
4) Sweeteners: Everyone from governments, to nutrition agencies, to consumer groups are expressing concern about added sugar, so companies are on the hunt for natural additives to serve as alternatives to traditional sources of sweetness. The latest evolution in naturally derived sweeteners kicked off with stevia’s entry to the marketplace, and it’s an area that’s still seeing lots of innovation, so be on the lookout for some of these new sweeteners when you hit the Expo floor. One particular area of interest is the ever-increasing focus on flavor and mouthfeel in these new sweetener alternatives, so you should also keep an eye out for new applications of existing sweeteners being paired with other ingredients to create improved profiles to help balance any off-flavors or unusual textures—all while still having low calories and a low impact on the glycemic index.