04 Apr 2018 --- Consumer demands for health and sustainability are fundamental drivers for change in the food sector as these have a direct influence on production processes and subsequent packaging, according to Carola K. Herbst from the DLG’s (German Agricultural Society) Food Competence Center. Speaking to NutritionInsight and during seminars at Anuga FoodTec 2018, which took place in Cologne in March, Herbst said the lifestyle of consumers dictated what and how people want to eat.
“Experience from the German market shows that consumers are getting older; eating more flexibly outside the home; eating ideologically or in line with religious beliefs; and their diets reflect individual values as they attempt to optimize their physical and mental performance,” says Herbst.
As a result, packaging has to address all these factor and is a direct interface with the consumer, so it has to be designed in a way that communicates messages clearly. It needs to reach the consumer on an emotional level, and meet the growing desire for natural packaging materials, as well as conveying other ideals such as beauty, well-being, health and fitness. Visitors to Anuga FoodTec 2018 had the opportunity to learn about the latest trends in food and beverage processing and packaging.
Amid growing calls for lower sugar, fat and salt in NPD, it is important to consider the views of both consumers and developers. DLG recently conducted a study into attitudes towards reformulation, the results of which Herbst shared at Anuga FoodTec 2018 with NutritionInsight.
“With reformulation, you have to focus the customer and how to handle the situation of changing a recipe, and what they need in processing,” Herbst notes.
“For example, the sensory aspect: if you have a product with reduced sugar, then the mouthfeel of the product may be different to what the customer has known before. The previous mouthfeel may have been why they bought the product. So how do you handle this? You need a strategy so that in the end, you can produce the same product or, produce a product that is different but would be suitable to be relaunched,” she notes.
“There are many technological ways to handle the situation. For example, when you reduce the sugar content, the mouthfeel and smell, and how these areas interact, may be different. You could put in some vanilla to counteract the sugar reduction, so the customer still has a sweet sensation.”
“Overall, customers would pay more for a healthy aspect of their food but not it if doesn’t smell and taste good; then they suggest they would not buy the product anymore,” according to Herbst. “Our results show that a minority of consumers would persevere with buying a product with a reduced claim if the taste was not good. This was 17 percent for a reduced fat content, 22 percent for sugar and 19 percent for salt.”
“Some of our technological strategies that food engineers could use are our high pressure technology, globular proteins and double emulsion technique for fat reduction. For sugar reduction we have some ingredients that could be used like aspartame, and for salt you could take high pressure technology too or you could have ingredients with salty tastes and chemical components,” Herbst notes.
“Smart packaging offers an additional function with integrated technologies,” she says. “These are chemically or electronically based and are used in a market-driven or consumer-oriented manner. Data carriers can inform consumers about the origin or ingredients of a product, while special indicator substances can indicate the degree of freshness or the temperature of the product.”
To meet consumers’ desires, investment in new technologies and processes would be required, but product quality and manufacturing costs also have to be optimized. In addition, the food sector has to address concerns about sustainability and resource efficiency.
“With the world's population rising dramatically, increasing demand for processed food, especially in emerging economies, bottlenecks in water and energy supply, and the incalculable consequences of global climate change, resource efficiency is increasingly becoming the focus of attention,” says Herbst. “The DLG’s ‘Trend Monitor 2018 – Investments and Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry’ report says investments in new technologies for the reduction of water, cold, heat and electricity loads and in energy management are particularly in demand in the next three years.”
Another important theme this year was the use of plastics in food packaging, particularly as the European Commission is currently focusing on the issue of waste polyethylene terephthalate (PET) due to China’s import ban on plastic waste put into force earlier this year.
“The trend towards recycling PET has already reached a high level in Germany,” says Herbst. “More than 97 percent of bottle PET was already recycled in 2015 thanks to a deposit scheme. Both recycling and upcycling lead to a reuse of the PET, with the difference being that upcycling produces a higher-quality secondary product. Newly developed processes enable the high-quality recirculation of PET, thus reducing the consumption of new plastics.”
by Laxmi Haigh and Lucy Gunn