Earlier this month, Edlong’s Chief Innovation Officer Mervyn de Souza joined a panel of experts on the Chicago Food & Beverage Network’s CFBN Innovations Series: Technology Behind the Scenes virtual event. The panel of experts came together in cooperation to discuss innovation trends in the Food and Beverage industry, and how these trends can be leveraged by food manufacturers to meet consumer demands. Don’t miss this summary of the event, with key takeaways from all participating speakers, and make sure to watch the recording below.
Pandemic Pressures Persist but Taste & Authenticity Still Reign
Of course, a session on innovation taking place in 2021 couldn’t go without mention of the impacts COVID has had on innovation in our industry. From supply chain constraints to shifting consumer preferences as the pandemic continues evolve, the panel agreed that the pressures resulting from changing market conditions are actually serving as a catalyst to renewed creativity and innovation for our industry.
“When we think about COVID-19’s impact on consumer trends, you can’t ignore the paradox between health and immunity versus the need for finding comfort in the products we choose,” noted Mervyn during the session. These are two very different ends of the spectrum that food manufacturers are being challenged more than ever before to make meet. The holy grail right now, where innovation is seeing the most action, is for a product to be plant-based and/or functionally beneficial while also being indulgent, sustainable, and affordable.
With COVID bringing health and immunity to the forefront for more consumers than ever, taste modulation is key. The focus now is often less on making nothing taste like something but making something taste like nothing. Masking and mouthfeel solutions can play a crucial role in creating authentic taste and texture experiences. “If it doesn’t taste good, if it doesn’t look good, and if the texture is not good, consumers are not going to come back for more,” explained Mervyn. They are especially beneficial in better-for-you and plant-based products where the limits are being pushed more than ever before when it comes to new proteins and functional ingredients.
Mervyn also noted that recreating “authentic taste” doesn’t always mean authentic to the original version of a product. For example, instead of wanting an oat milk to taste like real dairy milk, oat milk manufacturers are often seeking to bring forward the inherent, natural oat-taste while removing any metallic-tasting off-notes created from certain processing conditions. He went on to mention that “authentic could also mean different things to different people in different parts of the world.” For example, a Cheddar in the US may have a completely different taste than one in the UK or Mexico, so its important to understand these differences to meet consumer expectations. This makes it essential to hit the right authentic regional profile for the local market a product will be sold in or will be representing.
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