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Demand today is for sustainable, organic alternatives and functional cuisines
Thursday, 22 April, 2021, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Vinod Rajashekharan
Food is a celebration of the senses. As we explore new tastes, we experience a myriad of emotions and memorable experiences. It is this quest for novel gastronomic experiences, that drives food companies to keep creating and experimenting with unique taste solutions. The food industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, led mainly by consumer’s preferences to experience the same food differently.

Naturally, food companies are doing their best to meet these challenges head-on, experimenting with popular and niche flavour profiles. The demand today is for sustainable, organic alternatives and functional cuisines, fuelled by a new wave of well-travelled consumers.
Food trends are aplenty, and so are new ingredients and flavour innovations. Here are some of the novel taste solutions we could look forward to.

Proactive about nourishment
Taste is and has always led our palates. The need to merge tastes, diving deeper into experimentation has led to several disruptions in the food industry over the last few years. But trends are evolving. Ingredients, their nutrient value and ability to build immunity are compelling today’s consumers to purchase food tailored to their health. Nutrient- dense products with the ability to provide functional health benefits are fuelling the need for a whole new range of beverages and food items. Bright, colourful, vitamin-dense and antioxidants-rich are buzzwords that were hitherto only restricted to taste, but now have a major influence on health. People are also gravitating towards food of their childhood, nostalgia in taste and flavour profiles.

Need for functional ingredients
With consumers taking a more holistic view of their health and nutrition, there’s more emphasis on amplifying the effects of natural ingredients in foods itself, instead of taking additional over-the-counter chemicals or supplements. Functional ingredients that address specific health needs and support ageing are expected to be essential components of foods. These include garlic, cumin, ginger, which when used in their purest form, are considered elixirs, taking care of body systems as diverse as cognitive health, to digestion, mineral fortification to beauty and complexion.

Sustainability is key
Efforts to buy local and cause least damage to the environment are popular since the last decade. However, the pandemic seems to have only contributed more to this phenomenon. Now even more than before, consumers are actively searching for sustainable alternatives not only in food, but in lifestyle and living. The need to cause least damage to one’s body, and consequently to the world outside is having an impact on our everyday actions. This is compelling companies to not just consider how the product reaches the end-consumer, but also how it is packaged, transported and from where it is sourced.

Creating experiential foods
Food is a means of sustenance and this was so for centuries. With the advent of a variety of cuisines, ingredients and palates, food experimentation has become more versatile, complex and isn’t restricted to a mere satiation of appetite. With consumers becoming more demanding in their food requirements, it has become increasingly important for food companies to create an entire experience around it. Taste and flavour profiles alone can no longer drive consumers. The feel or texture, visual play of colours, scent profiles are increasingly having a sway. Whether sweetening up a dish while reducing sugar, putting together plant-based dishes with the same texture of meat, there are myriad ways in which food is crafted as an experience in itself.

The quest for clean, healthy, nutritionally-dense ingredients prepared and presented in versatile ways is what the consumers are looking for. Food companies that are able to deliver excitement and functionality in taste solutions will lead the way in future.

(The author is head, RD&A, Stonefield Flavours)
 
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