SSW 2017 Recap: Proteins, Sugars and Clean Label Reign Supreme

Thursday 12 October, 2017

Clean Label made a big appearance on the expo floor, alongside Alternative Protein and Sugar Reduction. Innovation 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; dropping by as much as 19% since 20051. There has been a proliferation of products that tout added protein (launches of high protein products have grown by approximately 150% since 2014)2. With a rise in veganism and vegetarianism, consumers are adopting an alternative protein lifestyle to meet their nutritional needs. New Hope Natural Media suggests 36% of U.S. consumers prefer milk alternatives and use meat alternatives, which is more than those who claim to be 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 & 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 that featured 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, 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.



The Marine-Based Ingredient Boom
Omega-3’s are typically a popular ingredient often seen at SupplySide West. However, the assortment of exhibitors showcasing marine-sourced ingredients at this year’s expo was certainly higher than usual. Omega-3’s could be observed in nearly every aisle of the show, including the dedicated Omega-3 Resource Center. This area of the expo allowed attendees to discover Omega-3 suppliers and learn about key market issues and the importance of Omega-3’s from interactive displays. A large exhibitor even offered Omega-3 testing within their booth. While many highlighted fish oil as a source for omega-3’s, there were many unique offerings including krill extract, micro algae’s, cod protein, greenshell mussel oil extracts and caviar oil and proteins. The growth in additional marine-sourced options can be attributed to studies that show Omega-3’s from marine phospholipids are better absorbed than from other oil sources and more resistant to oxidation. 

Collagen Growing In Popularity 
Following the same growth of alternative proteins, a vast selection collagen products could also be found on the floor at SupplySide West. Beauty has become a critical piece in consumers’ perception of good health, with 45% of collagen based beauty products launched over the last 4 years5. Used to promote healthy aging, bone & joint health, skin beauty and support sports nutrition, both fish and bovine-based collagen options were plentiful and account for almost 53% of all collagen based launches, according to Mintel. Overall, it seemed that marine-based collagen products were more heavily promoted. Perhaps this can be attributed to fish-derived collagen peptides receiving more attention due to their favorable characteristics and fewer consumer reservations compared to mammal-derived ingredients.


SupplySide West 2017, held September 27 and 28th at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas had nearly 15,000 attendees from across the global dietary supplement, beverage, functional food, personal care and sports nutrition industries.  There also were over 10,000 ingredients from over 1,200 exhibitors and 140+ hours of educational and conference programming available to attendees. SupplySide West is about the science and strategy around the development of finished food, beverage and supplement products. Kerry showcased a variety of taste & nutrition solutions and technology capabilities in the pharmaceutical market at SupplySide this year.

Contributed by Jordan Miller, Brand Manager and Soumya Nair, Market Research and Consumer Insights Manager.

1. Natural Resources Defense Council, Fox News article dated March 22, 2017
2. Mintel GNPD, 3 years pull, on “no/low sugar” claim
3. Mintel GNPD, 2017
4. Mintel GNPD, 2017
5. Mintel GNPD, 2017