RCA’s 2011 annual conference always attracts the leading food ingredient manufacturers and marketers who want to showcase their wares to the research and R&D chefs that are designing new foods for the major CPG and food service customer companies. It’s a great place to talk to the ingredient companies about the major trends and issues they are hearing about from their customers.
Here are three top trends I heard about from nearly every ingredient company I spoke with:
- Low-Sodium and Sodium-Replacement Products: Nearly every exhibitor at the Culinary Expo had some type of low-sodium or sodium-reduction ingredient or solution to offer. The focus has shifted to development of application-specific ingredients that perform in commercial scale operations. Customers are inundated with different ingredients and claims and want to know what will work with their products and processes.
- Customization for Customer Applications: The need to offer customizing services to fit specific customer needs in product development and manufacturing, seemed to be a consistent message from most of the ingredient companies. Customer companies are demanding more support from their suppliers and want resources and information that can help their products succeed. Engagement with R&D and marketing departments continue to be a key to long-term ingredient sales.
- Clean Label and Simple Ingredients: Ingredients that can help simplify product profiles and label statements continue to draw a lot of customer attention. Sugar and calorie reduction are also gaining more attention in new product development.
One other trend being talked about was gluten-free products. The pace of gluten-free new product introductions has slowed considerably, as many of the earlier product intros failed to gain broad consumer acceptance. Ingredient marketers say customer companies still ask about gluten-free, but disappointing sales volumes are slowing new development.