Clean label made a big appearance on the expo floor of SupplySide West 2017, which was held in Las Vegas on September 27 and 28. Also making a splash were alternative protein and sugar reduction. Innovations in marine-based and collagen boosted products were a new trend showcased by suppliers.
Sprouting Alternative Proteins
Americans are shying away from consuming red meat—intake has dropping by as much as 19% since 20051. With a rise in veganism and vegetarianism, consumers are adopting an alternative protein lifestyle to meet their nutritional needs. There has been a proliferation of products that tout added protein. Launches of high protein products have grown by approximately 150% since 20142. New Hope Natural Media suggests 36% of U.S. consumers prefer milk alternatives and use meat alternatives, including many who do not consider themselves vegan. The industry has also seen a rise in alternative protein sources in the last few years; over 502 products with plant proteins were launched in the US in 2017 alone3. Protein, in general, continues to be a hot topic in the food and beverage industry with a growing list of options for consumers to choose from. The content and source of protein grow to be equally dominant topics in the industry.
Plant-based proteins remained markedly popular at SupplySide West this year. While soy protein was marketed as “the original plant protein,” a majority of exhibitors featured plant-based protein options from pea and rice to pulses and potatoes. A growing number of more unique plant-based options were observed on the expo floor including pumpkin protein, yeast protein, and hemp. The growing list of plant-based proteins is well positioned to meet consumers’ insatiable hunger for alternative proteins.
Whey protein has long been considered the “gold standard” for a nutritionally complete protein with a PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) of 1.0. Many protein suppliers strive to develop the best alternative to whey with clinically-backed claims and a PDCAAS score of 1.0. Kerry highlighted both beverage and bar concepts that featured their proprietary blend of plant-based proteins called ProDiem™. The blend of pea, rice and oat proteins is optimized for nutrition, texture and taste and has a PDCAAS score of 1.0.
Sugar Reduction and Alternative Sugars
Sugar reduction and added sugars is of growing concern to consumers. Sugar has been the villainous ingredient no matter the story—nutrition, taste or indulgence. As consumers become more educated and invested in natural and clean label products, the demand to reduce sugars in products is certainly here to stay. As the industry recognizes consumers’ desire for healthier (low/no sugar) options, the number of new products carrying the “no added sugars” claim has risen by 16 percent since 20144.
With recent concerns over the use of artificial sweeteners, consumers are looking to shift to natural sweetener alternatives, but aren’t willing to compromise on the taste. The majority of the innovations on the show floor included technologies to help reduce sugar through use of natural sweeteners and flavor maskers, or complete sugar alternatives. Suppliers featured new sweetener technologies that could provide up to 100% sugar reduction in carbonated soft drinks. Others introduced natural options made from vegetable juices like butternut squash and pumpkin, allowing for a lower “added sugar” content on the label.
At the Kerry booth, a Cherry Hibiscus ImmuniTea was served, featuring the natural immune boosting ingredient Wellmune® as well as Kerry’s solution for sugar reduction, TasteSense™. TasteSense is a portfolio of flavor modulators that can be labeled as natural flavors and is used to mask the undesirable flavors in beverages when stevia or other natural sweeteners are used to replace sugar.
The Clean Label Conversation Continues
Clean label has risen from a concern to a claim and into an undeniable change in the consumers’ food philosophy. SupplySide West offered a “Clean Label Exhibitor Listing” which highlighted 118 exhibitors that offered some form of clean label products. An entire track of educational sessions was also dedicated to clean label topics ranging from defining what clean label means and how to deliver clean label messaging. Across the board, there continues to be varying definitions of clean label, but one thing is crystal clear—the Clean Label movement stems from consumer confusion and a lack of trust in the food industry today. According to FoodMix’s education session, “clean labels are part of a larger consumer trend of finding ways to simplify their life.”
Kerry has a proprietary definition of Clean Label that stems from an in-depth consumer research they conducted this year. They define clean label as consumers’ desire to know what is in food, where it is grown and how it is processed. Clean Label has many faces, and many claims that drive association. There are three unique dimensions that articulate these consumer clean label expectations: ingredients, nutrition and sustainability.
Kerry released data at SupplySide West about the top five most avoided ingredients among consumers. While there is not one finite list of no-no ingredients, it is important to realize that consumers’ age impacts what they find unacceptable. While millennial consumers tend to seek added positives in their food, such as proteins, fiber and vitamins, boomer consumers prefer the removal of negatives including sugar, salt and fat.