Top 3 Trends at Research Chef Conference

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.