06 June 2016
The days of the meat-and-potatoes diet are over—modern Americans want variety in their food and beverage consumption. With shoppers often seeking products with different flavors, producers need to keep up with emerging ingredient trends.

Adventure isn’t the only attribute consumers seek when grocery shopping. They also desire products that meet specific health needs, offer high quality and fit their budgets. Food and beverage companies can feed these many and changing consumer wants and needs by launching and offering products with the ingredients shoppers crave. Some of the trends expected to peak in coming months include:

Hitting the Sweet Spot Naturally. Consumer concerns about weight, diabetes and other health issues are leading some to look for foods and beverages with fewer added sugars. Yet the desire to indulge remains. These concerns, along with a consumer desire for natural products, has given rise to use of natural sweeteners by manufacturers. Coconut sugar, as Food Navigator predicts, might become the next big alternative, but it still has a calorie count. Options combining low calorie counts with natural qualities are climbing, and consumers are paying attention.

For example, beverage formulators are turning to sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit to improve health benefits, according to Beverage Industry. The Monk Fruit Corp.—whose namesake berry-derived juice (which it claims is many times sweeter than sugar) is already used in a range of foods and beverages, including some yogurts and coffee drinks—is poised to double capacity at its plant to meet growing consumer taste for the ingredient, reports Beverage Daily.

Raising Coffee’s Flavor Quotient. Thanks to ultra-hip cafes, consumers are clamoring for cold-brew coffee, according to Fortune. Made by steeping grounds overnight rather than brewing with piping-hot water, this hot-yet-cool beverage is a sensation because it reportedly offers more refined flavor than drinks made via conventional brewing. Because the process doesn’t extract bitter, acid compounds, coffees prepared this way are much smoother.

With its explosion of flavors, cold-brew coffee has moved from independent shops to chains such as Peet’s, Starbucks and others, and is now making the move from café counters to grocery shelves. Just last year, BevNET reports, Califia Farms launched a line of cold-brew coffee concentrates that enable consumers to craft barista-like beverages at home.

Picking Plant Protein. Earlier this year at Natural Products Expo West, the leading trade show for natural, organic, and healthy products, one key trend stood out: plant-based products continue to grow. This trend remains driven by continued consumer demand for “natural” foods and beverages.  In fact, plant protein is projected to reach a global value of more than $10bn by 2020, according to FoodBev Media.

Offered by brands such as Orgain and Veggemo, these innovative beverages align not only with the consumer desire for clean-label options, but also the demand for more sustainable ones. The rise of flexitarians, or part-time vegetarians, who reduce meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns, has played a large role in the upswing of plant proteins – from soy to peas to algae-based ingredients.

Leaping On Lentils. Lentils might be tiny seeds, but they could be poised for a big surge in popularity, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. The agricultural industry reportedly is partial to the crop, because it is kind to the soil and affordable; consumers and producers find the nutritional attributes (such as richness in plant-based protein) appetizing.

Lentils’ current domain is the soup aisle, but as Packaged Facts reports, food formulation experts’ discoveries about their versatility are broadening the retail presence. Bakery and Snacks notes producers are offering lentil-based flours in a variety of products. Also, Food Ingredients First reports the launch of a powder derived from water lentils, suitable for dry goods, sports drinks and other beverages.

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