The strategic addition and subtraction of ingredients to products in Asia follows consumer-driven trends
KerryDigest Fast Facts:
- Consumers worldwide—including throughout Asia—are in the market for healthier products.
- Reformulation is quickly becoming the new battleground for the food and beverage industry, with manufacturers revamping products to meet consumer demand.
- Brands that can reduce sugar, salt and fat without compromising taste or texture will be best positioned to succeed.
- Fortified products will also play a big role in the future marketplace, with consumers looking for even better for you foods and beverages.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:
In the food and beverage industry, reformulation—or the process of adapting a product to meet certain goals—isn’t new. Starting with the war on fat in the 1970s, manufacturers worldwide have adapted their products to provide healthier alternatives in line with diet fads and health trends. But, while reformulation was once embraced by just a handful of brands, the current trend of reducing sugar, fat and salt is happening across applications, from beverages to instant noodles. At the same time, more foods are adding in extra health-beneficial ingredients through fortification.
Shifting consumer expectations, health recommendations and even governmental policies are applying pressure to make these changes. Success may come quickly for companies able to debut new and healthier formulations of already popular or recognizable products.
Taste is Still King
In a recent Kerry survey of more than 1,000 Asia Pacific consumers in India, Indonesia, China, Australia and the Philippines, more than three-quarters of respondents said they were unwilling to sacrifice food and beverage taste. Yet, nearly a third (31%) of respondents said they currently consumed fewer soft drinks than they did three years ago, due to health concerns, and more may follow suit as a number of sugar taxes are phased in or proposed throughout the region.
Products high in fat and salt are also facing scrutiny from consumers and public health groups including the World Health Organization. Yet, knowing the negative effects of certain ingredients isn’t often enough to automatically change the flavours people crave. Consumers want to eat and drink healthier foods and beverages, yet it’s clear they don’t necessarily want these items to taste healthier—or less sugary, salty or rich.
This is why retaining taste must be a primary consideration during reformulation. Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of altering the amount of sugar, salt and fat in a product while ensuring changes in flavour are undetectable. A taste modulation solution can enhance the sensory perception of these ingredients, giving consumers a healthier label and a product that still delivers on taste.
More than Flavour Needs Replacing
Sugar, salt and fat have a much bigger role to play in foods and beverages than just enhancing flavour; they are instrumental in texture, colouration and more. Sugar acts as a preservative for jams and adds colour to breads, volume and tenderness to baked goods and texture to ice cream. In addition to seasoning and preserving foods and beverages, salt enhancew the colour of meat products, binds them together and improves tenderisation; salt also acts as a hardening agent in cheeses. Fat contributes to mouthfeel and is touted for its healthful effects, especially monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and some fish.
As products are reformulated to reduce sugar, salt and fat, the positive attributes these ingredients offer are important to keep in mind. When low-fat ice cream is watery or low-sugar cookies are too hard, the reformulation process needs adjusting. Manufacturers must continue to test ways to add back the beneficial qualities of these ingredients while preserving taste and enhancing health. As with maintaining flavour, taste modulation products can help solve these additional challenges. Brands that approach reformation with the intention of making better-for-you products that taste and feel as good as their original offerings will be well-positioned in the market.
Consumers Crave Added Health Benefits
While taste and texture preservation is necessary for maintaining appeal, food fortification—or the addition of new or more readily absorbable nutrients—is an area ripe with growth opportunities. This trend seems to have renewed staying power due at least in parts to its ability to cater to emerging consumer segments. In Asia, there’s a growing demand for fortified products, including a new interest in replacing nutrients lost during manufacturing and improving food to address undernutrition in developing countries.
The deliberate process of fortification can make it a desirable marketing option for manufacturers looking to differentiate. For example, the recent focus on digestive health has led to the next generation of easily digested foods and products touted to improve digestion like kombucha. It’s also ushered in products fortified with functional ingredients like probiotics.
Environmental changes may also make fortification more attractive, and necessary. Studies have found that rising carbon dioxide levels can lead to a decrease in protein in staples like wheat and rice, and it may also affect the iron content of other crops. Because both are among of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, fortification of these may become the new normal.
Fortification can even be applied successfully to improve products that have been reformulated in other ways. For example, lactose intolerance is high among some subgroups in Asia. With the exploding popularity of dairy around the region, companies that reformulate and fortify products to remove lactose and add easily absorbable calcium will have a built-in consumer base.
The demand for improved taste and nutrition throughout the Asia Pacific region means reformulation is here to stay. To learn more about how to cut sugar, fat and salt without compromising on taste, including through our taste modulation line of TasteSense products, contact Kerry.