Special Report: 2017 Nutrition Trends - What to Watch Out For


17 Jan 2017 --- As the New Year brings a fresh surge of consumers ready to sink their teeth into the hottest nutrition trends, NutritionInsight looks ahead at some of the biggest health and nutrition developments set to disrupt and shape 2017. 

Clean Eating & Clean Label

Clean label has already been defined as the new standard, and 2016 was full of announcements around reformulation strategies. Innova Market Insights predicted trends for 2017 listed clean label as number 1 on their list, so the trend certainly looks set to continue. And with numerous consumer studies pointing to a clean label advantage when it comes to marketing, 2017 could be an even bigger year than the last.

Research from a recent pan-European consumer survey by the GNT Group found that two thirds of Europeans reach for crisps, nuts and savory nibbles at least once a week and 11% eat them as often as several times a day.

The research also found out that not only the brand name and a low price, which interest 48% and 41% respectively, are important. Even though – or possibly because – crisps and the like are not the healthiest kind of snack to eat, natural ingredients are essential for more than one third of consumers (36%), and are actually even more important than the fat (34%) and calorie content (27%) or the organic status (11%).

The research also found that 47% of the Europeans try to avoid products containing additive colors as much as possible.

The Protein Health Halo Shines On

2016 was a storming year for protein, and it seems that the health halo around the macronutrient will shine all the way into 2017. 

In fact, the 2016 IFIC Foundation's Food and Health Survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans are trying to consume more protein or as much as possible, up significantly from 54 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2014.

However, the survey also showed that views of animal protein were split, with 12 percent perceiving it as healthier than the previous year and 15 percent perceiving it as less healthy.

Plant protein, however, had a more positive reception. 20 percent of Americans view it as more healthy than they did the previous year, compared with 8 percent who see it as a less healthy option.

Plant Protein and Plant Foods

With protein remaining a force to be reckoned with in the nutrition sector, and with more consumers growing to view plants as a reliable form of the macronutrient, plant protein looks set to see a big surge in popularity in the year ahead.

Listed as number 6 in the Innova Market Insights predicted trends for 2017, its popularity comes with a strong rise in demand for vegetarian and vegan options, which is having a profound impact on new product development, particularly in western markets.

According to Innova Market Insights new product data, over the last 5 years, US product launches tracked with vegetarian/vegan claims have grown faster (+32-38% CAGR) than overall US food and beverage launches tracked (6.7% CAGR). Launches tracked with vegetarian or vegan claims grew from 6% to 17% of total US launches over this period.

One area of the plant foods sector which is also seeing huge growth is the algae market. Fabrice BOHIN, President and Chief Executive Officer of Algaia tells NutritionInsight, “The demand and interest in Algae keeps growing rapidly.”

“If in Asia, about 20% of the average diet is based on seaweeds, this proportion remains low in occidental countries for now. However, based on higher awareness both of composition and benefits associated to algae consumption, the demand is now ramping up double to triple digit.”

“On top of the Algae market (e.g. seaweed sold directly for Food and Feed applications), seaweed extract and microalgae based components are also enjoying a steady growth.”

The Growth of Ancient Grains

The use of ancient grains has sky rocketed over the last few years, and the trend looks set to continue well into 2017.

The use of ancient grain ingredients in new North American product launches tracked increased by 5% in H1 2016 from H1 2015, with the top sub-category for tracked launches in North America being Cereal & Energy Bars (18%).

The leading ancient grain ingredient being used is chia (44%), with quinoa (+15%) and millet (+10%) being the ancient grain ingredients to demonstrate growth, with chia having exactly the same number of product launches.

While the leading health positioning for product launches tracked containing ancient grain ingredients is allergy (69%), of the leading health positioning’s, high/source of protein was the health positioning to demonstrate the most growth (+36%).

Eating Sustainability

When it comes to the factors that play into consumers' food and beverage purchasing decisions, “sustainability” could play a big role in 2017.

According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey, sustainability marked its largest increase since the question was first asked in 2011. In 2016, 41 percent of consumers listed it as a factor influencing purchasing decision compared to 35 percent in 2015, and about three-quarters believe it's important that food products be produced in a sustainable way.

However, the cost of products will also help determine the future course of the production and consumption of sustainable foods. Only 38 percent of consumers state that they are willing to pay more for foods and beverages that are produced sustainably.

Nether-the-less, companies seem willing to respond to the change in consumer interest, especially in sectors, which are drumming up new interest.

Sustainability concerns about the environmental impact or animal/human welfare can also be quelled through the implementation of a clear supply chain traceability policy. This is particularly the case for ingredients that have attracted dubious headlines around the sustainability of their sourcing, including palm oil, soy and cocoa.

Personalized Nutrition

The idea that each body responds differently to food is one that is set to explode in 2017. The rise of products and services promoting the ‘personalized nutrition’ trend got off to strong start in 2016, and looks set to continue into the year ahead.

Innova Market Insights listed “Body in Tune,” as one of its key trends for 2017, and according to the market researcher: “Consumers are increasingly personalizing their own nutrition intake, making food choices based around what they think will make them feel better.”

This particular trend is joining forces with technology, and the big food companies are paying to attention. Last year, Campbell’s Soup announced its investment in the personal nutrition App “Habit.” Talking with NutritionInsight, Denise Morrison, Campbell’s President and Chief Executive Officer said, “The entire food industry is being transformed by the fusion of food, well-being and technology.”

“Habit is well positioned in this wired for well-being space and poised to lead the personalized nutrition category.”

“Campbell’s investment is part of our broader efforts to define the future of food, which requires fresh thinking, new models of innovation, smart external development and venture investing to create an ecosystem of innovative partners.”

And Campbell’s aren’t the only big players entering the Personalized Nutrition space.

As reported in September 2016, Innova Market Insights looked at how personalized nutrition is performing a growing role for Nestlé in an interview with Jörg Hager, who leads Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences Nutrition & Metabolic Health research team.

“We really believe that it is possible to create better-tailored products, for more specific sub-categories of individuals; first in the health business and then, probably, to extend that out to the general consumers in a targeted way,” he notes.

“For example, obese individuals with different degrees of insulin resistance have completely different weight maintenance outcomes, depending on the carbohydrate composition of their food.”

Functional Foods

Closely linked to the personalized nutrition category, is the rising popularity of functional foods.

Functional foods, or foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition, are fast becoming a subject of high interest and high demand, with the trend being observed in consumer online search behavior.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey found that nearly half of consumers said that “weight loss/management” is a health benefit they are interested in getting from foods, and about one-third of Americans listed “increased energy,” “cardiovascular health,” “healthy aging,” or “digestive health.”

The trend has also leaked into consumers’ online behavior, with Google citing “Food with a Function” as one of its top food trends in 2016, with searches for functional foods and ingredients including kefir, turmeric, and jackfruit.

BOHIN explains that for the microalgae, the demand and benefits are mainly focused on the lipid content and in particular DHA and EPA, “An interest also for their antioxidant content in particular the pigments is also increasing the demand.”

He continues, “There is a growing demand for red and green seaweeds (or macro-algae) thanks for their protein/amino acid profiles whereas for brown seaweeds, the rapid growth is due to the high content of marine fibers and the natural wide panel of trace elements... more than 60 for some species.”

Free-From Diets

The “Free from” diet sector continues to grow and develop, often leaking into the aforementioned personalized nutrition space by tackling allergies and medical conditions caused by food.

2015 was a strong year for the “free from” sector, with the market maturing and reaching commercial scale, yet 2016 managed to achieve even more growth.

According to Innova Market Insights, products launched claiming to be ‘Lactose Free’ rose by 2.2% from 2015 to 2016 in the passive health category, and 3.5% in the allergy category.

The same data show that the launch of gluten free products rose by 2% in the passive health and allergy categories, too.

However, there are more ‘free from diets’ joining the space, and Low FODMAP is an example of this. The diet aims to help people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome by removing foods known to trigger the condition from the diet, and recent developments suggest 2017 could be a big year for the diet.

Talking with NutritionInsight, Steven J Singer, Founder & CEO of FODY Food Co says, “The FODMAP trend is catching on and more media are writing about it, more gastroenterologists are advising their patients, and more dietitians are teaching their clients.”

“As more and more consumers become aware of the benefits of the low FODMAP diet, we feel there is an opportunity to offer certified foods that help in all stages of their diet.”

The Super Almond Snack

2017 looks set to be a good year for the almond. The nutritious snack market is one that the Almond Board have been working for many years to conquer, and new research has provided an opportunity to educate consumers and food professionals about the nutritional benefits of almonds and how they can contribute to better human health in the future on a global scale.

The new study showed that compared to the number of calories listed on nutrition labels, participants actually absorbed 25% fewer calories from whole unroasted almonds and 19% fewer calories from whole roasted almonds.

“Snacking is our biggest area of focus, absolutely,” Dariela Roffe-Rackind, Director for Europe for the Almond Board of California confirms.

“From a trends standpoint it’s what we have promoted, with all the years of nutrition studies that we have, it really helps us communicate that clear message around nutrition and the benefits to human health.”

Fat is Back

As NutritionInsight explored last year, the trend surrounding fat is changing. No longer are consumers so fearful of high fat foods and products; instead, they’re embracing them as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Fats such as coconut oil and butter are both extremely high in saturated fat, yet are growing in popularity.

According to Innova Market Insights data, in 2016, coconut oil was 17% more common in sports and recovery products when compared with 2015, and it’s use in ‘active health’ sports nutrition products rose from 72% in 2015 to 74% in 2016.

But this trend doesn’t stop with coconut oil. Data from Innova Market Insights shows that in general, ‘saturated fat’ products in the sports nutrition ‘active health’ sector are nearly 9% more common in 2016 compared with 2015.

Commenting on the debate and science around saturated fat, Gerald McNeill of Loders Croklaan told NutritionInsight: “There have been 2 studies out since 2010 showing that, of 350,000 people in a study, they could not find any association between saturated fat intake and risk of heart disease.”

“In other words, if you eat more saturated fat nothing happens to your risk of heart disease, and if you eat less, nothing happens. It’s completely neutral.”

However, non saturated fats such as avocado oil are also starting to gather momentum. According to Innova Market Insights data, in 2016, avocado oil, which plays a prominent role for consumers involved in clean eating, was used in spreads nearly 5% more than in 2015, and 4% in the snacks sector.

2017 for the Health & Nutrition Sector

2017 certainly looks set to innovate and nurture the health and nutrition sector, with ideas having already shown success in previous years expanding even more, and new and exciting concepts gaining momentum. For the food industry as a whole, you can see Innova Market Insight’s top 10 trends for 2017going forward here.

By Hannah Gardiner



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