This past March 2011, Food Technology Magazine hosted a two day conference in Chicago. A range of topics and trends related to food and beverage product development and manufacturing was discussed during the event. The Institute of Food Technologists recognizes that consumers seem to want foods and beverages that address health needs and concerns, and they want products that meet on-the-go lifestyles and aging issues. So the conference aimed to address these unique topics as well as others. Clearly consumer life choices affect eating habits and food choices. Health issues and weight management also concern consumers and the conference aimed to discuss how future product development could help to address these issues.
One trend that was discussed was the discussion in Europe to impose a "fat tax" on certain foods. If you want to "eat fat," then the reality, according to European lawmakers, is that you should pay for that decision with an extra fee (tax) since these types of foods are being linked to worrisome health issues and weight issues. Another discussion focused on the possibility that the EFSA or European Food Safety Authority might tighten regulations of food health claims. Both of these considerations could greatly impact consumer shopping practices.
Another panel that included mother shoppers looked at how consumers evaluate foods and specifically how they define what they consider to be a highly processed food or beverage. For example, many shoppers assume all orange juice products are healthy and they tend to view them favorably, and yet many experts know that orange juice products occupy a wide range of classifications from healthy to equivalent to sugar water. Clearly everyone can benefit from less processed foods. But there does need to be a clear understanding of what a processed food is. Frankly, many experts feel that if a product has more than 5 ingredients or if you don't recognize half the ingredients, it's highly processed. Certainly if it has added sodium, sugars and fats, you know it will taste good and .......it's highly processed.
Another trend that is booming is the gluten-free food section. Consumers now expect these foods to taste and have a similar texture to traditional wheat-based products. And recent studies confirming that consumers may need more vitamin D in their diet, or fiber, or omega-3 fatty acids has spurred manufacturers to add these nutrients to their current food formularies and to advertise it, front and center, on the packaging label. Heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering are two other trends that manufacturers would like to include in their food fortification programs. Of course, reducing sodium and following the recently released new Dietary Guidelines will be at the forefront of the food and beverage manufacturing practices in 2011 and beyond. We all need to reduce sodium consumption and the new sodium guidelines are demanding that we radically reduce our daily intake of salt. With heart disease currently the #1 cause of death in the populace (men and women), we also need to reduce the amount of saturated fat and processed carbohydrates in our diets.
Certainly food manufacturers are looking at all these trends but lest we be consumer "fools," we do need to understand that food manufacturers need to sell products that taste good and feel good on our tongues and in our mouths so that they make a profit; and frankly, when one "bad" ingredient has been removed in the past, another bad one has taken its place. We lowered the fat content in foods over a decade ago and replaced it with white carbohydrates - which we now know increase risk of diabetes and heart disease. So consumers need to be savvy. They also need to realize that foods that can be eaten in their mostly natural, unadulterated state, namely, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and healthy fats like nuts and avocadoes are the healthiest among all food choices.
Published On: June 02, 2011