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The Demand for Low Sugar Foods, Low Sodium Foods and More—A Snapshot of Healthy Indulgence

October 30, 2018

Consumer trends are always in flux, and the ability to continuously satisfy those trends necessitates flexibility and proactiveness. Nowhere is that more evident than with healthier foods and beverages such as in low sugar foods, where customer expectations are always rising. The ability to maintain flavor profiles and mouthfeel, despite the absence of sugar, salt and fat, is not always simple. Edlong dairy flavors, however, can play a significant role in bridging the gap between healthy and delicious.

Permissible Indulgence

A recent Gallup poll reported that 51% of all adults are actively trying to avoid sugar in their diet, 50% are avoiding fat and 42% are avoiding salt. Instead, consumers are looking for what we like to call, “permissible indulgence”—foods that taste indulgent but that consumers are “allowed” to eat as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

At Edlong, our dairy flavors are reinventing the taste of dairy by letting food manufacturers meet flavor profiles in healthier formulations, including dairy-free formulations, without reducing indulgence. Our flavors enhance creaminess and richness and increase the perception of sweetness in foods with reduced added sugar, as well as mask the off-notes common in vegan products. With a library of more than 250 dairy-free and vegan flavors, Edlong gives food developers the best of both worlds: foods and beverages that are both delicious and better for you.

According to the Heath + Wellness 2017 report by Hartman Group, consumers who avoid one “red flag” ingredient are also more likely to avoid others. So, if they are eliminating fat, they may also be eliminating sugar or salt. The ability to help consumers enjoy authentic yet guilt-free eating experiences not only can lead to greater sales, but increased loyalty as consumers learn which brands they can trust to match great taste with a superior nutritional profile.

Trends in Low Sugar Foods

Sugar, and especially refined sugar, is the new nutritional villain. Companies are responding, with launches of low sugar foods, or reduced/no-sugar foods, increasing by 19.20% from 2015 to 2017, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database. As Mintel reported in their Nutrition, Health & Wellness 2018 report, “Sugar is firmly in the spotlight as health departments crack down on sugar consumption, drawing consumers’ attention to the risks of a diet that is high in sugar, including obesity and diabetes. Consumers are looking for ways to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets, but are torn between health and taste.”

The use of dairy flavors can be helpful in improving taste in healthy, reduced added sugar products. Edlong® Sweet Spot flavors, for example, are inspired by naturally sweet dairy products and enhance the perception of sweetness and improve mouthfeel in products, while elevating richness and indulgence.

Trends in Low Fat Foods

Lower fat can hardly be considered a trend. But although many see fat as the ultimate “bad guy” in the food pyramid, reduced fat isn’t as important to consumers as it once was, provided the fat is “healthy fat” (like olive oil) and not “bad fat” (like trans fats). According to the Health + Wellness 2017 report by Hartman Group, “Many consumers are trying to increase healthy fats in their diet by eating more fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and nuts.” This trend tweak can be seen in new product launches, with low/no/reduced fat claims down 8.49% from 2015 to 2017 (although they still accounted for 7.30% of all product launches in that period according to the Mintel Global New Products Database).

Unfortunately many sources of “healthier fats” impart off-notes or otherwise change the flavor profile of foods negatively. Edlong dairy flavors can help mask these off-notes, provide dairy characteristics and add balance to the overall taste experience. This lets consumers enjoy these preferred sources of fat while maintaining the taste they expect.

Trends in Lower Sodium Foods

Salty snacks inherently encourage overindulgence and enjoyment; they’re delicious, usually portable and easy to pick up on the go. Salt is also often added to low-fat formulations to recapture some of the flavor lost when reducing fat.

But while low sugar foods are kings, and lower fat foods are still dominant, foods with lower or no salt are catching up in popularity. While the need to reduce sodium in a diet increases as consumers age, nearly half (47%) of Millennials avoid sodium; the number jumps to 57% for Gen X and 66% for Baby Boomers (numbers courtesy of the Health + Wellness 2017 report by Hartman Group).This focus has hit certain categories of food products particularly hard. Sales of canned soups, for example, has declined by 1.2% CAGR over the past 5 years (Euromonitor, Accessed October 2018, Hartman Analysis).

“One of the most successful ways to increase consumer demand for reduced sodium products is with the inclusion of natural dairy flavors or dairy-free flavors with dairy taste profiles,” says Edlong Chief Commerce Officer Beth Warren. “Sharp cheddars, Parmesans and even bleu cheese flavors can be used to add a savory and umami character that is often missing in reduced-sodium applications.”

Staying Trendy, Staying Authentic

Being on-trend helps food and beverage products stay on grocery lists. Fortunately, Edlong flavors reinvent the taste of dairy to create the indulgent culinary experiences customers want, keeping products loaded in shopping carts, even in dairy-free foods, low sugar foods, lower fat foods and lower sodium foods.