Health, taste, and more: US consumers want products that offer multiple benefits14 Apr 2023
Products that offer double or even triple health benefits are standing out to consumers and dominating new launches in the US, according to Ooyen Research, which went trendspotting at Natural Products Expo West this year.
After three years of pandemic-related obstacles, food and beverage brands are proving that they are ready to deliver on high expectations from consumers. Shoppers are getting back out there and looking to try new things, with a few caveats.
With fewer pandemic restrictions, consumers may be feeling more adventurous, but they are being held back by rising prices and job market uncertainty.
They want more out of their products, and when every purchase matters, they want to see the value. That might mean healthy products, affordable products that are still considered luxurious or items that double up on functionality and benefits.
Supplementing flavours and functions
Many food and beverage trends are first spotted on the floor of industry trade shows, like Natural Products Expo West in California. Carla Ooyen, owner and principal market researcher at Ooyen Research, spoke to Ingredients Network about her experience at last month’s event.
Ooyen said that product innovation at the tradeshow was more incremental than revolutionary this year, though familiar trends like plant-based are still managing to evolve even in seemingly saturated markets.
Flavour innovation: Sesame, umami, and yuzu
The versatility of some plant ingredient powerhouses, like chickpeas and cauliflower, continue to shine in a variety of products. Chickpea snacks, flour, pasta and even ice cream are hitting the shelves and expanding in popularity.
But one function isn’t enough. Consumers expect their food and beverages to go even further to address health needs and flavour trends. Brands are topping up their plant-based products by adding global flavour profiles like chili, sesame, umami, and yuzu.
“Post-pandemic, consumers have become more health conscious and are looking for products to help manage issues like stress, mood and immunity,” Ooyen said.
“Ingredients like mushrooms, probiotics, prebiotics and ashwagandha are becoming increasingly popular in both functional foods and supplements. For consumers that are newer to the world of supplementation, these alternative delivery formats make it easier to get the desired health benefits while enjoying a treat.”
Novel formats appeal to consumers
And with so many new delivery methods for these functional ingredients – gummies, powders, effervescents, lozenges, liquids, and chocolates – Ooyen said that the line between food and supplements is blurring.
“While gummies hold the largest share of the alternative delivery supplement market, powders are also super popular because they can be mixed into a smoothie or added to water, at home or on-the-go,” Ooyen said.
“On the food side, nutrition bars continue to be the most popular functional format, as they also offer great portability and can pack a lot of protein and other functional ingredients into one serving.”
Functionality refreshes the beverage category
Multi-function snack products are an easy way for shoppers to test out new flavours and ingredients without too much commitment. This is especially true in beverages like hydration and energy drinks, two categories experiencing a fresh wave of attention due in part to brands reformulating and repositioning them as functional.
There has been growth in the popularity of powder hydration products from brands like Liquid IV and Pedialyte. Legacy sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have experimented with new launches with caffeine and more electrolytes.
Energy drink brands have fine-tuned their offerings as well. In addition to caffeine, they are adding electrolytes, CoQ10, zinc and zero sugar options.
There is less of a focus on traditional health and more attention being paid to general wellness. Young consumers in particular are talking more about digestive health, bloating and detoxing, and looking for food and beverages that are low-carb, low-sugar and that have prebiotic and probiotic ingredients.
If brands are hoping to tap into these trends, there is a lot to pay attention to but also significant opportunities for growth in function-forward food and beverage.
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