The number of consumers following specific diet plans or eating patterns – including clean eating, plant-based and gluten-free diets – is growing every year.1 NPD teams are challenged to innovate new products that align with consumers’ health and wellness goals, while offering unique flavors, textures and memorable snacking experiences.
We talked with Kathy De La Bastide, Group R&D Manager at Chaucer Foods, about the latest lifestyle diet trends influencing NPD and how product developers can stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences.
1. Which diet trends are most relevant for today’s product developers?
Many of today’s popular diets align with the larger, growing focus on natural, recognizable ingredients. Consumers are striving to reduce their consumption of highly processed foods and increase consumption of more nutrient-dense foods that support a healthy, balanced diet. Minimally processed foods are typically perceived as “cleaner,” healthier and more natural.
COVID-19 has also accelerated interest in immune health, and many consumers are now looking to plant-based ingredients, such as herbal extracts, fruits, and vegetables, as a natural way to boost their immune response. Consumers are also learning more about how to manage their digestive health, and see this as an important part of holistic wellness. This is fueling growth for fermented ingredients and those rich in dietary fiber, which are thought to have a positive impact on the digestive system.
2. How has sustainability influenced new lifestyle diet trends?
Ethical and environmental considerations are playing a greater role in consumers’ food purchase decisions. Consumers are becoming more aware of how their food is produced and the impact that has on the environment, and show a growing preference for plant-based ingredients, which are often perceived as more sustainable. The number of consumers adhering to a vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet has grown considerably over the years. There is also a growing segment of the population that identifies as flexitarian, and even more consumers who are striving to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet, even if they may not be making a full switch to strictly plant-based.
3. Which of these trends are likely to have the most staying power and why?
While specific lifestyle diet trends may come and go, consumer interest in natural ingredients, environmental sustainability, and overall nutrition is here to stay. Consumers are paying more attention to labels, looking for ingredients that they recognize as healthy and natural, and claims that align with their personal health and wellness goals. They have also become increasingly wary of preservatives and artificial additives meant to enhance a product’s flavor, appearance or shelf life. Traceability, sustainability and simplicity will continue to be important factors for NPD moving forward.
4. How can product developers innovate against these trends?
Inclusions are often one of the easiest and most effective ways to innovate, and there will continue to be a focus on natural, clean label and whole food inclusions given recent consumer trends. Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables, for example, are perfectly aligned with the trend toward functional, plant-based ingredients and a simpler label. Unlike other drying methods, the freeze-drying process preserves the shape, color and flavor of fruit and vegetables, as well as key nutrients. When used as an ingredient, inclusion, or topping, freeze-dried fruit and vegetables can add authentic nutrition and natural colors and flavors to a range of food and drink applications, including beverages, snacks, bakery, confectionery and dairy.
Our sweet and savory baked ingredients are also valuable for adding texture and flavor to formulations without detracting from a product’s “natural” claims. All of Chaucer’s baked selections are made with authentic ingredients in a traditional batch bakery, which makes them a more natural alternative to highly-processed ingredients. Our products are also free of additives and artificial preservatives, supporting a simpler label
Our R&D team is constantly developing new application ideas and creating ingredient solutions that add real value for our customers. Check out more inspiration for formulating healthy snacks, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a sample or more information.
1. 2020 Food & Health Survey, International Food Information Council. 2020.