Looking at what is available in the marketplace today is a great way to gauge the average consumer’s interests. Going to supermarkets, of various sizes and locations (urban and rural), can give the industry and others an idea of what consumers want along with upcoming trends. For this edition of Ag Innovation News, AURI asked three of its food scientists to visit local grocery stores throughout Minnesota to look for new trends. AURI staff Carissa Nath, Lolly Occhino and Ben Swanson each found a number of trends on their local grocers’ shelves. What follows is a recap from their experience on the most prevalent.
Everyone has probably noticed the steady increase in the usage of “gluten-free” labels on the market shelves, but one new trend we noticed was some stores even had entire sections specifically dedicated to gluten-free products. From local coops to Walmart, more and more locations are providing aisles dedicated exclusively to gluten-free products. Whether the need has arisen due to an increase in celiac and gluten sensitivity diagnoses, or for a specific diet change, the gluten-free claim has been appearing on a growing number of labels.
The next trend seen was a prevalence of products utilizing a clean or natural label. This is a trend that’s driven by consumers wanting to limit what is in their food through the removal of chemical or synthetic ingredients, which are replaced with natural ingredients. A great example of this would be products replacing ingredients such as petroleum-based colorants, like Red 40, with natural ones, such as paprika. Another option that is gaining popularity is the use of specially bred types of corn, like Suntava, which provides a red coloring for cosmetics and nutraceuticals. To learn more about the clean labeling trend and what goes into it, check out the article on page 4.
The last trend found was the increased demand for higher protein content in products. Nutrition is definitely the driving force behind this trend. According to a consumer research study conducted in early 2016, average consumers are looking for more protein-enriched foods, such as cereals and bread products. This combined with the fact that most people understand that plant-based proteins provide the same benefits as traditional sources means, today, half of Americans believe plants are the best source of protein.
Along with the nutritional value proteins have, they also bring great functional properties, such as solubility, emulsification and foaming.
While the reasoning behind all these trends might be different, they all present a shared opportunity for the food industry and the agriculture community. With the need to update existing products to fit the needs and wants of consumers, food processors all have the opportunity to be a part of these trends by incorporating new ingredients into existing products or developing all new products that meet consumers’ needs. Together, they will lead to further value-added opportunities that will be a significant benefit to Minnesota producers.