In this post-pandemic marketplace, improving consumer health through nutrition is hands down one of the biggest drivers of food and beverage innovation. With 70% of consumers desiring to be healthier and 50% across all age groups seeing healthy eating as a top priority, developers are clamoring to bring the future of nutrition into the present.
This is leading some researchers and companies to focus on advancing the concept of personalized nutrition. It would operate like the emerging field of personalized medicine, where practitioners develop treatments around an individual’s biomarkers, blood type, genetics, and more.
“Whether it be by your age, gender, or specific conditions and predispositions, everyone is unique and, by definition, has their own optimal nutrition targets. The idea would be that, at some point, you would use a simple scan that could help you tailor food for your specific nutritional needs. It sounds like science fiction, but maybe not.” explains Dr. Bernd Koehler, Edlong’s Global VP of R&D.
While we may be a long way off from this level of technology-driven personalization, nutrition simply can’t be viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution. As such, consumers are looking for foods that can play a role in improving their health and wellness. Many are asking for specific health benefits from their food and beverages. Others still are starting to view In fact, according to Deloitte Insights, around three out of four consumers believe the “right foods” can provide preventative and therapeutic benefits. This may take many forms, including medically tailored meals and groceries, or produce prescription programs. It can also have a profound impact on how consumers view their day-to-day purchases as well.
This revolutionary view of nutrition is leading to a renaissance in the better-for-you segment and an impressive rise in the adoption of functional foods.
But what are functional foods, and what does this shifting approach in the better-for-you market actually look like?
The Supermarket Menu – A la Carte Nutrition
“It’s not just about the health food aisles anymore, but rather the whole store.” says, Emily Sheehan, Edlong’s Applications Manager EMEA.
She explains that developers aren’t only looking to create “health foods” but rather find ways to make nearly all foods healthier. In addition to reducing undesirable ingredients (sugar, salt, fat, etc.), they are looking for opportunities to add “functional” ingredients. Such ingredients can provide additional nutrients and health benefits to both new and existing products.
Sheehan believes that more everyday functional food options allow consumers to take an à la carte approach to nutrition with the supermarket as their menu.
“Each ingredient a chef uses serves a purpose. It is either for taste or function. Likewise, people can now pick foods to create their own recipes for a healthy body & mind. Each of the functional foods they consume or buy has a specific role to play in their nutrition. This puts consumers in control of their choices, putting health back in their own hands.”
“You need to ask, what are your nutritional needs right now?” adds Dr. Koehler. “You were exercising, and now, to recover, you need to replace minerals, so you consume a mineral drink. It’s this idea of what I need for a specific occasion. Consumers want to experiment to find out what works for them. They want foods they can incorporate into their diets according to their lifestyles.”
Getting What You Need – Finding the Function for You
When it comes to examples of functional foods, few fortifying ingredients have gotten as much attention as protein and fiber.
Protein has graduated beyond just the shakes and bars of the past and can now be easily found in everything from yogurts and milk to more indulgent treats like mousses, cookies, and other desserts.
Similarly, in an effort to close the “fiber gap,” developers have sought new ingredients and applications to help consumers hit their recommended 30g a day. In addition to naturally high-fiber plant-based foods, like fresh produce and whole grains, new products like desserts, beverages, and even added-fiber milk are hitting the shelves of local supermarkets. Each creates a convenient option for consumers to hit their goals.
On top of products that benefit their overall health and well-being, consumers are also demanding functional products that can provide specific and targeted health benefits.
This has led to an explosion of product offerings that promote a healthy gut microbiome (probiotics and pre/post-biotics) and stress-reducing adaptogens like ashwagandha and reishi mushrooms. Everyday kitchen staples, such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric, are frequently added for their unique health benefits as well.
With everything from improved energy levels, boosting immunity, and even foods that could improve brain function on the proverbial table, it’s easy to see why 55% of consumers would be willing to pay more for these products.
However, regardless of how well a product can deliver functional benefits for their bodies, sustained success also requires you to satisfy their taste buds.
That’s why at Edlong, our finger is always on the pulse of innovation. From understanding the newest better-for-you ingredients to the latest in processing technology, our team is constantly working to help you maximize the flavor impact of your innovations.
About the Authors:
Dr. Bernd Koehler, Global VP of R&D
Bernd has more than 20 years of international leadership experience in the food and analytical services industries, including Mars-Wrigley and McCain Foods. He is known for his ability to align technical capabilities with business needs using scientific methods, data, and creativity. He also has a passion for blending people and technical expertise to fuel growth and profitability. Bernd received his Dr. rer. nat. degree in Food Chemistry from the Bavarian Julius-Maximilians-University in Wuerzburg, Germany.
Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA
Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!