The challenge for the food industry in bringing trends to the consumer's table is achieving that all-important balance between deliciousness and competitiveness, as Mona Rademacher, European marketing manager, wholesome at Ingredion EMEA, discusses.
From salt reduction to natural foods, clean label to tackling obesity, these are just a handful of the big issues to be addressed at Food ingredients Europe (FiE) 2015 in Paris. The biannual event will see a host of industry experts and exhibitors take to the floor on headline-dominating topics such as high protein and gluten-free, helping manufacturers and retailers tap into the food trends that will drive food and drinks strategies to market in 2016.
Consumer research commissioned by Ingredion in the dairy and bakery sectors highlights the on-pack claims that most heavily influence the purchasing decisions of the clean-label conscious.
It shows that the majority of shoppers are seeking 'natural' and 'additive-free' alternatives for many staple products, like bread and yogurt, meaning such claimsare an everyday concern for households. What's more, respondents perceived clean-label products to behealthier and tastier.
Before goods can pass the taste test, however, they must first pass the scrutiny of the ever-more eagle-eyed consumer. Only ingredients that are recognisable and acceptable to the buyer are appealing to a more discerning population that prefers a natural positioning. The research showed this was especially true with baked foods, where items such as artisan breads have enhanced home-made appeal when they are made from high-quality, minimally processed 'kitchen cupboard' ingredients.
It is clear to see how these trends are shaping the landscape on the supermarket shelves as on-pack claims cry out messages of 'all natural', 'organic', 'additive-free' and similar selling points. Behind the scenes, the upshot of clean label brings added complexity for food manufacturers and product development chefs striving to maintain mouthfeel, taste and other elements of the sensory experience with ingredients that not only satisfy natural and free-from criteria, but also stand up to sometimes challenging processing requirements.
Indeed, striking the delicious balance is an art as well as a science, and takes marketing and creative teams working with technical experts to engineer a solution that meets and even exceeds the customer expectation for healthier foods that don't forgo one of life's greatest pleasures: deliciousness.
Deliciousness is an absolute priority for the leisure industry, as well as retailers and manufacturers.
Foodservice providers and retailers, fast-food chains and hoteliers all have a social responsibility to reinvent delicious creations that can help balance out extravagant lifestyles with healthier eating options. It is also about devising a quality product that delivers exceptional results to the eye and to the palate that - even if it is a dish that has been scaled up - appears to be anything but mass produced.
This concept of having 'home-made appeal' isn't just limited to household purchases. Diners are seeking authentic eating-out experiences that deliver on deliciousness and dietary requirements too. As we opt to enjoy food out of the home more frequently than previous generations, consumers are being encouraged to consider the calorie, fat, sugar and salt intake at every mealtime.
However, even the most disparaged of foodstuffs can be cleverly transformed by sourcing alternative ingredients that can take an altogether different product and message to market. The rise of the humble hamburger to a restaurant staple with a gourmet twist is a case in point.
The fast-food crowd-pleaser of yesteryear has managed to shrug off its bad press and make a fighting fit comeback in the inner foodie circle. The gourmet burger trend is evident all across Europe with the UK, France and Germany showing the biggest craving for a better burger. In fact, new research from Mintel shows that almost one in ten UK consumers seeks out a gourmet burger experience over frequenting fast-food chains.
But what does a better burger look like? Gone are the perfectly rounded patties; for today's diner, the more rough and ready the better. A somewhat misshapen offering is the true hallmark of a home-made serving. The texture must offer a consistent, tender bite, and the buns and any sauce should have a home-made feel about them too.
The quality and origin of all the ingredients together must send out a holistic message that supports a sustainably supplied ethos, such as meat burgers being of premium, organically bred stock.
Vegetarian and vegan alternatives have come back reinvigorated too. Bland, dry blends of Quorn-type products and beans have been replaced with carefully crafted pulses and lentils.
High-quality burgers of all varieties are being put together with natural, healthy and free-from ingredients such as reduced-fat sauces and cheeses, and gluten-free breads, to broaden the stagnating appeal of yesteryear's greasy contender. The burger is back, and the gourmet burger is better, health and taste-wise, than the food industry could have contemplated before art and food science successfully tackled the seemingly incongruent challenge of bringing a burger to market that could tempt healthier taste buds and more discerning palates.
The evolution of the burger is being brought to life at FiE, where Ingredion is demonstrating the range of possibilities available to satisfy current trends and appeal to different segments of the market.
Presenting a menu of deliciously balanced burgers to showcase its latest product innovations, including pulse flours and proteins, a gluten-free texturising system, clean-label starches and processed cheese solutions, a team of culinologists and technical experts will be advising visitors on the latest food technology integral to taking successful on-trend food and beverage strategies to market in 2016.
Central to the evolution of the burger theme and Ingredion's strength of position is CULINOLOGY® - the art of combining culinary arts and food science to solve industry challenges past, present and future. Leveraging a network of fine dining and industry-leading chefs, Ingredion deciphers the latest trends in flavour, texture and cooking techniques, and translates them into delicious recipes that are scalable and affordable.
Using CULINOLOGY, Ingredion can help customers to create light, moist cakes that are gluten-free; rich, creamy cheeses free from dairy products; indulgent, textured ready-meals that are fat reduced; and a whole host of other delicious food and beverages.
Demonstrating to food and drinks manufacturers how to overcome processing challenges and meet changing regulatory and consumer demands without compromising the overall eating or drinking experience, Ingredion will be addressing the perfect balance between quality, taste, texture and cost.
From 'affordable' burgers to recipes favouring specific health and nutritional benefits, all the on-stand concepts will incorporate one or more new products to deliver consumer-winning recipes that help manufacturers get to market more quickly and profitably.
One of the featured burgers is the Healthy Vegetarian Burger, which will incorporate one of Ingredion's VITESSENCE™ pulse proteins and the latest addition to the NOVATION® starch portfolio, NOVATION PRIMA® 340.
In addition to the gourmet burgers, there will also be a range of drinks and cakes, including a super-berry smoothie, a pressed mango juice drink, and a banana and pecan cake. Each of the recipes will be perfectly balanced by Ingredion's speciality starches, pulse proteins, flours and sweeteners.
As well as sampling the produce, visitors to the stand are also encouraged to be Ingredion's food critics for the day and give feedback on the deliciousness rating on the various recipes the culinologists will be cooking up.
Taking the company's 20-plus years of experience helping food and drink manufacturers create successful clean-label products, technical experts from Ingredion will also be participating in the FiE conference modules on clean label.
On day two (Wednesday 2 December), Jessica Rohwer, innovation manager wholesome - Europe, and I will be participating in a speaker slot and panel discussion centred on the challenges surrounding clean label. Delegates can find out more about the business case for clean label with topics covering areas such as defining the clean-label narrative, maintaining flavour and functionality while extending shelf life, the consumer and clean label, and how clean label supports strategies for salt and sugar reduction.
The two sessions will be:
CULINOLOGY is a tried and tested discipline that has helped and continues to help food and beverage manufacturers overcome all kinds of difficulties in recipe creation and reformulation. It allows Ingredion to occupy a unique market position, serving the entire industry, from retailers to restaurants to supermarkets. It is a groundbreaking technique that is helping the industry gain significant ground on the quest for the delicious balance.
FiE will run 1-3 December at Paris Nord Villepinte, France. You will find Ingredion at stand 6M39, where you will have the opportunity to talk to Ingredion as well as sample some delicious recipes.
References available upon request.