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Specialty food ingredient trends: An overview
Thursday, 05 March, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ramesh Kumar Sharma
The health and wellness trends in food industry nowadays have not been easily cashable by manufacturers. Particularly in the year 2013-14 food regulatory issues were worldwide discussed as a continuous debate by food scientists, law experts, clinicians and industry representatives in conferences and food journals. The specialty food ingredients and additives, whether natural or nature friendly or synthetic, in general are now likely to be examined for the health and nutrition claim making status. However the natural trend is likely to persist in food trade because consumers increasingly prefer to buy a ‘preservative free’ or ‘natural’ labeled food article.

As far as the issue of dietary supplement is concerned, the scientific clinical trail results are not in favour of vitamin supplementation. The US government recently decided not to advise multivitamins as routine supplementation. Theoretically proteins and minerals, in general, seem to maintain health and nutrition claim making status because those are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) food constituents while vitamins are known as medicine. But the debate on ‘dietary supplement : food or drug?’ is going on. For example in 14th December 2013 article “Skip the Supplements” authored by Offitt and Erush of Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and published in New York Times, it was stated that vitamins, amino acids, minerals, herbs and other botanical have pharmacological effects and therefore are drugs. As a rebuttal to this article, Val John Anderson of Mineral Resource International (MRI) stated that drug legally doesn’t have anything to do with safety and there are natural products approved as drugs.

Almost irrespective of ‘food versus drug’ debate, hotel and restaurant industry focuses on valve addition or cost control and quality improvement. Since 2010, the Indian restaurants have been demanding more indigenous spices and flavours than earlier as an infusion of European styles with South-East Asian types including India’s traditional food patterns. Restaurants are focusing on fresh, natural ingredients that nowadays are known as organic products. While dried beans (mungo, lentils, chickpeas), cardamom, chili, peppers, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, ginger, mustard seed, onion, garlic and turmeric are globally demanded Indian food ingredients, there is a much lengthy list of indigenous products, organic in nature, for use into Indian dishes and cuisine. The cost effective production of organic crops (without applying synthetic fertilizers and insecticides and in place of it using animal dung, compost manure and natural insecticides like neem leaf juice) is really a challenging task for Indian farmers due to vast deforestation and follow-up of intensive farming.

However a strong demand for organic ingredients – Atta (whole wheat flour), Besan (gram flour), Chawal (rice), Chawal ka Atta (rise flour), Narial (coconut), Dal (pulses) and Masala (Indian spices, spice powders and mixtures) exists in exponentially growing Indian restaurants industry where direly expected creativity is not often derived from the “authentic” ingredient labels. Highlighting the fact that ‘manipulation of ingredients is just not real cooking’ Rahul Akerkar, MD, deGustibus Hospitality states in his article ‘Live to Eat’ published in Business Today, “Cuisines with strong and distinct flavours – not necessarily spicy – worked well. I’ve never been comfortable with being typecast when it comes to cuisine. Labels like ‘authentic’ deter me. They narrow scope for creativity and discredit food, right at its face value. I believe the opposite. Modern European styles infused with South-East Asian flavours can be successful in India. Le Cirque at Delhi’s Leela Palace, for example, adapted to Indian palates by downplaying unfamiliar French flavours and instead used Italian ingredients.”  

According to Akerkar many international chains are also keen to set up here in India. He is hopeful for a change in Indian legalities that are major deterrents for foreign culinary units. He considers India as one of the few frontiers left open to experimentation where culinary industry is coming of age. He wrote that restaurants are building solid back-end teams focusing on high quality, fresh, organic ingredients and new techniques such as sous vide and molecular gastronomy have begun to trend in kitchens of popular high-end restaurants.

It is often said that the demand for processed foods in India is constrained by low income and socio-cultural factors (that find purity in home kitchen preparations). As far as Indian food consumption pattern is concerned, the share of cereal and pulse products is the highest followed by milk and milk products, vegetables, edible oil and meat products. As per NSSO data and Rabobank analysis the growth rates for fruits, vegetables meat and dairy products is higher than that for cereals and pulses, indicating a shift in consumption patterns. Therefore for the last three decades agricultural production in India has been diversifying, coming up with food ingredients to match the changing consumption preferences. The demand for natural, organic ingredients (both at homemade and processed foods’ ends) is lower in India than that existing globally. According to a few organic products manufactures, cent per cent raw material importing and cent per cent exporting units, certified Indian organic ingredients (say “authentic” as Rahul Akerkar says) are often rejected by several importing countries on account of high insecticide residue or/and microbial like salmonella.

Despite poor harvests due to climate changes, increasing populations with improving life expectancy, economic output and spending power are aware of the health and nutrition aspects of food ingredients. Obviously natural ingredients and additives continue to outpace certified or legally approved synthetic substitutes. For example Natural Colours (carotenoids, athocyanins, turmeric etc.) versus Southampton Six (Alurra Red, Ponceau 4R, Tartrazine, Sunset Yellow, Quinoline Yellow and Carmoisine) issue has been worldwide very much prevalent since 2007 when a British study connected latter to hyperactivity in children. According to Campbell Barnum, Vice President, Branding and Market Development, D.D. Williamson Inc., Louisville, Ky, the warning label required for the Southampton Six colours in EU has resulted in a de-facto ban on equivalents to Red 40 (Alurra Red), Yellow 5 (Tartrazine) and 6 (Sunset Yellow). He noted that in the first half of 2013 ‘red’ was replaced by ‘yellow’ as the top beverage hue in soft drink launches and predicted that peach will be a popular hue for product launches in the second half of 2013 and later on. Similarly non-GMO and allergen-free (like gluten-free) food ingredients are rising as a concern for public health. “The trend can be seen as creating a ‘cleaner’ label and providing a perceived consumer benefit” Rodger Jonas, Director (Sales), P.L. Thomas & Co.(N.J.) says, “multinational ingredients will continue to thrive.”

To meet the demand for food and beverage industry in context of product development with fine appearance, pleasant flavor, extended shelf life, enhanced nutritional value and cost control the global food ingredient and functional additive market has taken a shape of parallel industry, now going to surpass $10 billion mark. Based on the reports of LFR (Leatherhead Food Research), Koncept Analytics (KA) and other food market research organizations the perceived market trends are as follows :-
1) The legal enforcement of health claims will have little impact and the market will continue to grow. Manufacturers that can show consumers proof verified by independent science, that the product lives up to its promise will see continued market growth. (LFR)
2) Interest will not wane in the effort to reduce salt, fat and sugar. Incremental reduction will continue and complement breakthrough technologies and process to achieve step-change reductions. (LFR)
3) The time is right to redefine age and separate the needs of the over 55s and those aged 75 and upwards. (LFR)
4) Sales of Fair trade foods have continued to rise throughout the global economic downturn and more kite marks are used to designate qualities such as higher welfare standards, provenance and bio-diversity. This means that consumers will not compromise on ethical issues. (LFR)
5) The presence of certain ingredients can transform the value proposition of a product. (LFR)
6) Flavouring represents the leading segment in the food ingredient market followed by hydrocolloids, sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, colors and food cultures. Beverages account for the majority of the flavor market segment, with dairy products in second place followed by bakery products, and savory and convenience foods. (KA)
7) Global demand for gelatin is expected to reach a volume of almost 396 thousand metric tons by 2017. Demand is driven by the world’s aging population, increasing awareness of health issues, and end-use industries including pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and food and beverages. Demand in emerging markets such as India and China will also fuel expansion, along with rising standards of living and the availability of vegetarian gelatin options. Obstacles to industry growth include consumer concerns regarding the potential health threat in using products derived from animal body parts. (Global Industry Analysts).
8) The worldwide emulsifier industry is expected to exceed a volume of 2.5 million metric tons in 2017. Emulsifiers are used not only in food and beverage products but also in the personal care industry. Consumers are readily opting for natural emulsifiers. The market is also being driven by the trend of fat replacement in food products and product innovation. (Global Industry Analysts).
9) The global sugar and sweetener market is witnessing the addition of many sweeteners made from corns, such as high fructose corn syrup. Sugar still dominates the market followed by high fructose corn syrup and high-intensity sweeteners. High-intensity sweeteners hold strong market growth potential due to advantages over other traditional caloric sweeteners. (KA)
10) The worldwide yeast market is expected to reach almost $5 billion in 2015. This represents a $2 billion increase in six years for a yearly growth rate of almost 8%. Bakery yeast represents the leading market segment, worth $904 million in 2009, and is forecast to record yearly growth of 8% to reach $1.4 billion by 2015. (BCC Research)
11) Kerry is the leading specialist food ingredients and flavours supplier. Other major players in the global food ingredient market include ABF, Tate Lyle and McCormick, Danisco, DSM, and Givaudan. (KA)
12) The world’s growing population and evolving consumer habits will continue to combine to boost demand for food ingredients in the future. Other factors affecting demand include urbanization, rising incomes, and health concerns. Consumers will continue to demand natural colors, flavours, and additives due to growing awareness of health issues linked with dietary habits. (KA)

(The author is Bikaner-based food technologist)
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