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Identify Trends, Stay Relevant with the Evolving Consumer Market

Posted on:April 23, 2018

April 23, 2018— The Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars consists of a one-day Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies and a one-day Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins. Attendees can register for either one alone or for both for a cost savings. The Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies’ goal was to provide information for upper-level managers to help them identify opportunities and threats in the protein ingredient marketplace. Speaker highlights into consumer and product trends, market volatility, global regulations and emerging market opportunities, among other topics, were offered.

This year’s conference took place on May 23-24, in Itasca, Illinois. The “2017 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Summary-Business Strategies” provides presentation highpoints and is available for download by clicking here.

How to Identify Trends to Stay Relevant with the Evolving Consumer Market
Blake Mitchell, Partner and President, Interact On Shelf

“A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” by G. Seurat (1884). The painting, a pixelated composition of colored dots, provides a good metaphor for how many innovations, fads and trends combine to define patterns of innovation in the food and beverage industries.

People in the food and beverage industries need to get out of their laboratories and into the hidden corners of consumer food markets, if they want to catch the leading edges of food and beverage innovation.

That was the message conveyed by Blake Mitchell, Partner and President of Interact on Shelf, in his presentation titled “How to Identify Trends to Stay Relevant with the Evolving Consumer Market.”

“We help food and beverage brands realize their full potential through packaging and marketing. But this talk really is about how to identify trends,” said Mitchell. He cited his location in Boulder, Colo., as being especially well-situated for catching incipient food trends. “Boulder has a wonderful food and beverage community that supports a lot of innovation,” he said, listing leading avant-garde food brands incubated in the Boulder environment, such as Doctor D’s, Quinn Snacks and Purely Elizabeth. The Huffington Post once listed Boulder as “the number one place to start a food company,” continued Mitchell.

Mitchell likened the process of analyzing food trends to the pixelated impressionism of 19th Century painter, Georges Seurat. “Each point of color stands alone, but combined with others, creates an overall trend pattern.” However, he cautioned, one has to learn to distinguish between fads and ideas. Even famous painters erase designs and repaint their canvasses before their masterpieces emerge.

The venues whereby Mitchell and his colleagues search out incipient food trends range from food magazines and trade journals; global food and beverage trade shows (they attend some 14 per year); to major retailers—and to the dark, hidden alleys of major world cities, such as Hong Kong.

Some food and beverage trend events are readily accessible online through web services, like Project Nosh; others are small, specialized and highly regional trade shows, such as the all plant-based, annual Seed Food and Wine Festival, located in Miami, Fla. Rabobank, a leading international food and agricultural-focused bank, developed FoodBytes, a series of events and competitions designed to connect food companies and investors with start-up innovators.

Small foodservice outlets also incubate food and beverage ideas, transforming fads into tangible food and beverage trends. Mitchell pointed to MatchaBar’s (Brooklyn, N.Y.) building a beverage franchise around matcha-green tea beverages, while the Juice Press Bar in New York City features an expanding line of coldpressed fruit and vegetable juice-based beverages: Both companies sell their products on-line.

Speaking of protein, Los Angeles-based Mainland Poke (“po-kay”) has been introducing the “wildly popular” Hawaiian raw, cubed fish cuisine to the continental U.S. Presumably, poke will not be sold on-line.

“Food trucks are another great source of inspiration,” said Mitchell. “Take the time to speak with the chefs: They love to discuss their ideas and businesses.” Globally, farmers and fresh food markets around the world are continuous sources of ideas for new flavors and food combinations.

Finally, a wide constellation of food and beverage incubators beckons from around the world. Take the time to visit them or, if nothing else, explore their websites for ideas, says Mitchell. For example, NYC-based AccelFoods, a food entrepreneur accelerator and incubator backed by $35 million in investment capital, plans to use Amazon.com to launch new product ideas.

It bears reflection at this point to ponder how on-line sales venues have completely transformed the financial models for food and beverage start-ups. In Los Angeles, L.A. Prep and L.A. Kitchens are combining efforts to build a large incubator facility dedicated to helping entrepreneurs tackle issues such as regional unemployment and food waste. In Chicago, there is the Food Hatchery Chicago. In London, there is the Food Foundry. “These are great places to meet entrepreneurs and to learn how they think,” said Mitchell.

The bottom line is that the world is full of great ideas that are easily accessible, once one takes the initiative to start digging in both the obvious and the hidden corners of the world. “Be curious, be uncomfortable, be OK walking down a dark alley late at night toward a beckoning neon sign in some international city. Talk to entrepreneurs; talk to category managers.” And always: Ask questions.

“How to Identify Trends to Stay Relevant with the Evolving Consumer Market,” Blake Mitchell, Partner and President of Interact on Shelf, blake@interactonshelf.com

 


Supply Chain Challenges: Organic and Non-GMO Ingredients

Posted on:April 9, 2018

April 9, 2018–The Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars consists of a one-day Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies and a one-day Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins. Attendees can register for either one alone or for both for a cost savings. The Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies’ goal was to provide information for upper-level managers to help them identify opportunities and threats in the protein ingredient marketplace. Speaker highlights into consumer and product trends, market volatility, global regulations and emerging market opportunities, among other topics, were offered.

This year’s conference took place on May 23-24, in Itasca, Illinois. The “2017 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Summary-Business Strategies” provides presentation highpoints and is available for download by clicking here.

Steady growth in demand, combined with raw material-production bottlenecks, translate into increased price volatility for raw organic ingredients and finished goods. This increases market risks for organic food and beverage producers, manufacturers and retailers. [For larger PDF version of chart, click on image.]

Supply Chain Challenges: Organic and Non-GMO Ingredients

Nathan Clark, MSc, former Director of Business Development at Mercaris (Silver Spring, Maryland), flagged the growing supply-chain challenges facing the organic food, beverage and ingredient categories, with particular reference to animal proteins. Mercaris, a company committed to supporting sustainable agriculture practices, supplies market data along with an electronic trading platform for North American organic, non-GMO and other certified-sustainable food ingredients.

“In 2016, the U.S. organic foods market was valued between $45-47 billion, according to best estimates,” said Clark (up-from $30 billion in 2012). Fresh organic fruits and vegetables remain the strongest pillars of this category (about 35% of sales), followed by dairy and packaged/prepared foods (each at 15% of sales). The fastest growth organic food categories between 2005- 2013 were snack foods and packaged/prepared
foods (+14%). Organic breads and grain sales grew 11%, while organic meat, fish and poultry sales grew 12% during the same period. Although a well-established category, the dairy products sector showed a bit lower growth at 10%—still a healthy, double-digit level.

Such continued growth momentum has put special strains on the supply of organic-certified ingredients, creating supply-chain bottlenecks. This is especially challenging as organic certification expands into more animal protein categories, such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy…and by association, dairy protein ingredients, explained Clark. “Nearly half (48%) of all organic grains and feed production is channeled into the dairy category,” Clark stated.

Farmers desiring to engage in organic production to meet this growing demand face significant hurdles. Foremost, organic certification requires a three-year transition period in production. This means farmers must invest in new agricultural production practices and contend with lower yields for three seasons, before they can recoup their costs via organic price premiums. Given that farming represents a high-risk endeavor, this is especially onerous for farmers operating on already-thin margins.

In addition, longer geographical distances between organic producers and users can further put the price of organic crops at a disadvantage, not just in transportation costs, but also by the added complexity of organic-certified storage, transportation, warehousing and distribution. Combined, these hurdles work against/negatively impact market supply and demand flexibility.

“Much organic production occurs in non-traditional growing areas,” said Clark. He displayed a map identifying New York state as the second-largest organic corn-producer. This is a good location for up-state New York yogurt manufacturers—but not for organic milk and beef producers situated 2,000 miles (3,220 km) away in the West.

Organic milk production has more than doubled in the last 10 years, said Clark, expanding from 2 billion lbs (0.9 billion kg) to more than 4 billion. (1.8 billion kg) per annum. “About half of U.S. organic milk production is channeled into value-added dairy products. With conventional milk sales declining, the market share for organic fluid milk reached 5% of total fluid milk sales in 2016.”

Within the organic dairy category, the fastest growth categories ($-sales) are cheese (+24%), followed by butter (+16%) and yogurt (+9%). For now, organic cheeses enjoy only a 6% slice of market share in organic dairy products. Should consumer demand for these products and protein powders surge, expect a surge of pressure on organic fluid milk and, therefore, animal feed supplies. Growing numbers of large and small, food and beverage manufacturing and retail companies (General Mills, Nestlé, Clif Bar, Danone, Stoneyfield Farms, Walmart, Costco) have publicly committed to expanding their own organic and other sustainable product portfolios.

For large-volume manufacturing companies, the supply-chain demands serve to further accentuate price volatility at the raw materials and retail levels. Thus, corporate ingredient buyers have been forced to try new ways to secure reliable access to organic raw materials, from vertically integrating themselves farm-to-factory, to extended contracting with growers through complete crop-rotation cycles.

To summarize: “For the foreseeable future, organic ingredient demand will continue to outpace supply,” warned Clark. This challenges organic food, beverage and—more specifically—protein ingredient manufacturers to aggressively anticipate and address tightening supply-chain bottlenecks.

“Supply Chain Challenges: Organic and Non-GMO Ingredients,” Nathan Clark, former Director of Business Development, Mercaris, [Note: Please contact Kellee James, Founder & CEO, Mercaris, kellee.james@mercaris.com, mercaris@mercaris.com]


2017 Food & Health Survey

Posted on:March 30, 2018

April 2, 2018–The Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars consists of a one-day Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies and a one-day Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins. Attendees can register for either one alone or for both for a cost savings. The Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies’ goal was to provide information for upper-level managers to help them identify opportunities and threats in the protein ingredient marketplace. Speaker highlights into consumer and product trends, market volatility, global regulations and emerging market opportunities, among other topics, were offered.

This year’s conference took place on May 23-24, in Itasca, Illinois. The “2017 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Summary-Business Strategies” provides presentation high points and is available for download by clicking here.

A Healthy Perspective: Protein Trends and the American Consumer  

IFIC’s annual survey of consumer food choices indicates that both animal- and plant-based protein consumption should continue to exhibit steady growth. [For larger PDF of chart, click on image.]

2017 Food & Health Survey
The good news is that most consumers associate “protein” with positive health benefits. So, protein sales are likely to continue their upward trajectory. The bad news is…most consumers don’t appear to be very clear as to what they mean by “healthy.” However, that’s a longer-term concern: For now, things look good.

These were the principle takeaways from the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) annual “2017 Food & Health Survey.” The survey was drawn from on-line interviews of approximately 1,000 consumers weighted to represent the demographic profile of the U.S. IFIC is an industry-supported foundation dedicated to “effectively communicating science-based information on health, food safety and nutrition for the public good,” explained Liz Sanders, MPH, RDN, Director, Research and Partnerships, at IFIC.

Confusion about protein’s association with positive health benefits is particularly important, as the FDA’s current focus on “healthy food” definitions could have major implications for how protein is labeled on food and beverage packages, explained Sanders.

Close to 60% of respondents associated “healthy” foods as those high in nutritious ingredients, while about 58% associated them with the absence of undesirable ingredients (artificial ingredients, preservatives, etc.). Forty-eight percent of respondents associated “healthy” with specific food groups. However, at least half of consumer appear to be generally unable to link specific foods to specific health benefits, such as cardiovascular or digestive health.

And, while “weight-loss management” was the most commonly expressed “health benefit” that respondents were interested in getting from foods (30% of those surveyed), “We’ve never seen many respondents really pointing to protein as a source of weight gain,” said Sanders. So, in general, protein’s “health halo” remains rather undefined.

What do consumers perceive as healthy ingredients? The usual suspects (vitamin D, fiber, whole grains) still top the list, but a solid 70% of respondents identified plant proteins as “healthy,” and about 38% of respondents vouched the same for animal proteins.

Interestingly, the Millennial generation (age 18-34) expressed a far more positive health image for animal proteins than did aging Baby Boomers (age 65+): 47% of Millennials surveyed proclaimed animal protein to be healthy, against 27% of Boomer respondents.

The survey did expose a slight bias against meat proteins: 15% of respondents professed to perceive meat protein to be less healthful vs. 12% professing the opposite. For plant proteins, the bias was more in favor of their perceived healthfulness, with 21% perceiving them as being “more healthful,” against 8% perceiving them as less so. Underscoring the importance of marketing and public relations, these respondents cited media, friends and family as the primary sources for these perceptions. Ironically, Sanders also presented data indicating “media reports” to be among the least-trusted sources for nutritional and dietary information.

The survey highlighted the higher percentage of people trying to increase their protein consumption—from 48 to 64%, between the years 2012-2016. When asked about which specific types of protein they sought to consume more, most respondents (70-76%) identified poultry and eggs.

The greatest number of respondents professing an increased avoidance of any protein was in relation to beef, with 45% actively trying to avoid beef vs. 53% trying to increase their beef consumption. This is still a net positive for the beef industry. For soy, 14% sought to increase their consumption in 2016, while 27% sought to avoid consumption. Significantly, 68% of respondent sought to consume high-protein beans, nuts and seeds.

Is there a ceiling to increased protein consumption? Likely not. Still, barriers to protein consumption remain among some groups. About half (44%) of respondents claimed they were already consuming sufficient protein in their diet, while 21% respondents cited the higher cost of protein as a barrier to higher consumption. Lower income
respondents were more likely to cite cost as a barrier to protein consumption.

“2017 Food & Health Survey,” Liz Sanders, MPH, RDN Director, Research and Partnerships, International Food Information Council Foundation, sanders@ific.org 

 


A New Look at the Changing Protein Category

Posted on:March 21, 2018

March 21, 2018— The Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars consists of a one-day Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies and a one-day Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins. Attendees can register for either one alone or for both for a cost savings. The Pre-conference Program: Business Strategies’ goal was to provide information for upper-level managers to help them identify opportunities and threats in the protein ingredient marketplace. Speaker highlights into consumer and product trends, market volatility, global regulations and emerging market opportunities, among other topics, were offered.

This year’s conference took place on May 23-24, in Itasca, Illinois. The “2017 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Summary-Business Strategies” provides presentation high points and is available for download by clicking here.

 

A New Look at the Changing Protein Category

Protein powders show the greatest increase in plant-based protein use, with the multiple plant-based sources second only to whey, when looking at protein sources.

Nutritional Researcher, Scott Dicker, SPINS, brought his perspective, which is backed by an expertise in sports nutrition and fitness, to the 2017 Protein Trends & Technology Seminar. “Sportification” of non athletes is driving protein from the locker rooms to mainstream products, he believes, as more people turn to this macro-nutrient to help them with fitness and wellness goals. While protein traditionally has been marketed to young men as a means to get bigger and stronger, he pointed out that companies are re-positioning their products and using the same protein ingredients to market to women to help them get lean and toned.

Dicker referenced the “2017 IFIC Food & Health Survey,” which said 66% of Americans tried to consume more protein in 2016, up from 50% in 2014. “The overall desire to eat more protein is heavily influenced by consumer belief that calories from protein are less likely to cause weight gain than calories from carbs or fat,” he said. Also, 20% of Americans view plant protein as more healthful than they did in the previous year.

This trend is reflected in dollar changes and protein sources in sports products. Animal proteins, primarily from dairy sources, dominate performance bars. [Editor’s note: Performance bars include only those where protein is the primary component.] Whey protein is up 66.4% from the last year. Although the sales for pea-fortified bars aren’t high, he stressed the growth percentage can’t be ignored, and he noted that performance bars fortified with pea protein are up 4,696% from last year.

In ready-to-drink (RTD) protein supplements and meal replacements, use of animal proteins (whey, milk and casein) showed the highest gains. [Editor’s note: primarily whey/casein and whey/milk blends, while casein alone use was down.] In contrast, combinations of plant proteins declined 12.1%, Dicker said. However, among plant proteins, pea protein is again the one to watch, up 74.9% compared to 0.1% change for “soy foods.”

In the protein powder category, although whey protein dropped 5.6%, it still has a hold on market sales. “Products with a grass-fed labeling claim are still relatively new, but we believe the strong growth percentage [14.9%] will start to correlate to large dollar increases,” Dicker said. “Protein powders are also where we’re seeing the rise in plant-based proteins, with the multiple plant-based sources second only to whey, when  looking at protein sources.”

While not a top-10 functional ingredient, he called out collagen as having 461% sales growth in this segment. Sports and wellness consumers are now using collagen for recovery and joint support. [Editor’s note: The “functional ingredient” term is here used as a nutritional, rather than a physiochemical, property.]

Three-year, cross-channel product sales growth shows that, even though these subcategories already have high dollar sales, they are still growing. Modest percentage growth still equates to large dollar increases. Year-over-year sales growth for performance bars are about 7 and 6% for the past two years, respectively. Sales growth of protein powders is also steady. When looking only at the RTD protein supplements, the growth rate is accelerating slightly—almost reaching double-digit growth over the last 12 months. “When dealing with such high dollars, double-digit growth can be extremely significant,” Dicker commented.

Examination of sales in the conventional, multi-outlet (MULO) and convenience stores show that all three are selling more protein powder and meal replacements in terms of dollars and units. Conventional retailers are picking up more SKUs of protein powder. Consumers of protein powder are looking for sales and may be less brand-loyal.

RTD sales are also growing, although stagnant in the natural channel. As retailers pick up more protein powders, they are starting to pick up less of the RTD. Performance bars hold the lion’s share of the market in conventional, MULO and convenience. Sales in the natural channel are up 18.5%.

Growth in the natural channel is often where trends begin, suggesting a sign that natural claims will continue to develop and take hold in the conventional channel. However, when looking at the conventional channel, products that are naturally positioned in the bar category are slightly down, over 4%. Products positioned in the specialty and wellness group are up 14%.

This supports the observation that the sport and wellness consumer niches are
continuing to merge regarding protein use. Sports companies are adapting by highlighting the overall health and wellness benefits of protein to their products.

“A New Look at the Changing Protein Category,” Scott Dicker, SPINS Product Library, sdicker@spins.com


Unlocking the Potential of Dairy Proteins

Posted on:March 16, 2018

March 16, 2018– The Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars consists of a one-day Pre-conference program: Business Strategies and a one-day Technical Program: Formulating with Proteins. Attendees can register for either one alone or for both for a cost savings. The Technology Program: Formulating with Proteins focuses on the development of protein-enhanced foods, beverages and nutritional supplements. Core to the events are speakers presenting impartial information on protein food science, consumer and product trends, emerging nutritional benefits and regulatory issues.

This year’s conference took place on May 23-24, in Itasca, Illinois. The “2017 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar-Formulating with Proteins Summary” provides presentation highpoints and is available for download by clicking here.

Milk Protein Ingredients: Functional Properties & How to Maximize Use in Formulating Foods, Hasmukh Patel, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist and Section Manager, Dairy Foods Research and Development, Land O’Lakes

Both formulation and process parameters affect the performance of dairy protein ingredients. [For larger version of chart, click on image.]

A good understanding of protein functionality will enable food and beverage formulators to optimize protein use in a wide variety of applications including, beverages, bars, soups, sauces and retorted products. There is a structure-function relationship. “The protein type, chemical composition, structure, amino acid profile, sequence of amino acids and hydrophobicity all contribute to protein functionality in the finished product. Ingredient processing will have a dynamic effect on protein performance,” said Hasmukh Patel, Ph.D., Ingredient Solutions Platform, Land O’Lakes, Inc., in his presentation titled, “Milk Protein Ingredients: Functional Properties & How to Maximize Use in Formulating Foods.”

Casein and whey protein have very different structures. Whey proteins are globular proteins in their undenatured state. When heated, they unfold and interact through sulfhydryl groups and are very heat-labile. Variations in processing of whey ingredients can achieve a wide range of final textures in food products. In contrast, casein proteins are colloidal aggregates with limited tertiary and quaternary structure. Their low content of sulphur-containing amino acids in the casein and limited tertiary and quaternary structure means that they are very heat-stable.

Milk proteins contain both casein and whey in a ratio of 80/20. They are highly functional ingredients with excellent solubility and hydration properties, and add little viscosity or water-binding. Performance of dairy protein ingredients will be influenced by many factors including pH of final product; process parameters; added minerals; type and concentration of protein; other components in the formula; and storage conditions. Patel went on and discussed several protein properties. Solubility is the ability of a protein to go into solution and remain soluble under different processing conditions.
Protein ingredients with optimal solubility will minimize defects, such as chalkiness or grittiness; avoid sedimentation and floating particles; and provide desired nutritional and
functional benefits, Patel said.

Compared to a number of other protein ingredients, whey protein isolate has excellent solubility over a wide range of pH levels. Factors which affect solubility include reconstitution temperature, mineral content of the water and pH of the solvent. Other formula components, such as sugar, will compete with the protein for solubility. Whey proteins are most soluble in the wide pH range from 3.0-7.0, while milk proteins or casein based ingredients perform optimally closer to pH 6.7.

Heat stability can be defined as ability to withstand severe heat treatment such as UHT or retort temperatures without coagulation, precipitation, excessive thickening, gelation or viscosity increase. Coffee creamers, soups, sauces, evaporated milk, UHT and retorted beverages, baby formula and shelf-stable products are severely heat treated. Therefore, heat stability of dairy components is an important attribute in such products.

When whey protein solutions are heated, they denature/ unfold, aggregate and interact with each other. When heated at higher protein concentrations (e.g., more than 8-10% protein content), they aggregate and cross-link to form a gel. Additives, such as sugars, phosphate and citrates, can improve heat stability, as can processing adjustments including pre-heating and homogenization.

Emulsification is the ability of two immiscible liquid (e.g., oil and water) to remain in a stable solution. The proteins in milk and the phospholipids that are present in the cream and buttermilk can successfully act at oil/water interfaces to form and stabilize emulsions, thus functioning as clean label emulsifiers, Patel advised.

New developments in dairy ingredient processing are creating additional opportunities for dairy protein use. For example, innovations in membrane technology have allowed
dairy manufacturers to produce a wide range of higher value ingredients, such as whey protein concentrates and isolates; milk protein concentrates and isolates; and ingredients rich in specific protein fractions. Native whey is filtered directly from fresh milk and is not a co-product of the cheese-making process. It has a cleaner flavor and better clarity than traditional whey.

Regular milk protein concentrate (MPC) has a ratio of 80/20 casein-to-whey, but suppliers can produce micellar casein with higher ratios of casein-to-whey. These milk protein ingredients have clean flavor and improved heat stability, making them valuable in applications such as retorted meal replacement, nutritional or sports beverages. Carbon dioxide treatment can be used to create MPC with improved functionality, such as better solubility, heat stability and emulsification. These MPC have superior solubility over 180 days of ingredient storage, Patel said.

Patel also explained that milk proteins have different charges at different pH. Using charged membranes, dairy processors can produce pure protein fractions, for example, alpha a-Lactalbumin (up to 97% purity) and ß-Lactoglobulin isolates (up to 87% purity) without use of chromatography. This technology is currently being researched at UW Madison by Professor Etzel.

These newer dairy protein ingredients add to the list of value- added dairy ingredients that can be tailored to the needs of specific end-uses or applications, Patel concluded.

“Milk Protein Ingredients: Functional Properties & How to Maximize Use in Formulating Foods,” Hasmukh Patel, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist and Section Manager, Dairy Foods Research and Development, Land O’Lakes, HPatel@landolakes.com

Chart caption: Both formulation and process parameters affect the performance of dairy protein ingredients.


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