Like with any exposition, in the weeks leading up to the event, editors get inundated with press releases announcing new products. This is true for both finished products at Fancy Food and ingredients at IFT. Having the two shows overlap has been helpful with confirming some real opportunities for dairy foods companies.
Here are five themes that will dominate the Fancy Food show. IFT exhibitors will be demonstrating ingredient technologies to assist with your on-trend innovation efforts to complement these themes.
1. Provide a sensory experience. This is in terms of both flavor adventure and texture.
I just finished writing an article on managing the texture of dairy foods for Food Business News. Every ingredient supplier interviewed said the same thing: texture targets must be identified early in the product development process and formulations designed to meet those targets. That’s because in many dairy products, texture can change over shelf life. These changes are usually not viewed favorably by consumers.
Today’s consumers want to explore texture and they want to know upfront what to expect in a product. New products—not just dairy, but everything from chips to beverages—are making texture a selling point. Ingredient technology assists with developing unique textures and maintaining them until consumption.
2. Highlight clean and simple. These descriptors are being used to describe finished products, the ingredients that go into the products and even the process used to make them. In a growing number of instances, even packaging gets addressed.
IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their ingredient technology solutions for clean and simple formulating. Find out more, such as if the sourcing of the ingredient has an interesting story. Communicate this sourcing to consumers via packaging and social media. Explore ingredients that serve multiple functions, which in turn enabler simpler ingredient statements.
3. Talk about the sweetener. A growing number of products are using language such as “slightly sweetened with cane sugar” or “naturally sweetened by stevia.” Products are also starting to declare added sugars.
Just because the FDA extended its compliance date for the revised Nutrition Facts label does not mean that you need to wait if you can comply sooner. Label-reading consumers are looking for this information and it’s a way to differentiate and stand out in the marketplace.
IFT exhibitors will be showcasing their tool box of sweetening solutions. Many offer technologies that are clean, and simply allow for a reduction in added sugars.
4. Premiumize the product. Fancy foods, as the name suggests are fanciful, or special. Such specialty foods are becoming a larger, more integral part of the American diet, according to “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer,” an annual report from the Specialty Food Association. Dollar sales hit $127 billion this year, a 15% jump in total sales between 2014 and 2016. By comparison, all food sales at retail grew by only 2.3%.
Specialty foods are defined as foods or beverages of the highest grade, style and/or quality in their respective categories. Their specialty nature derives from a combination of some or all of the following qualities: uniqueness, origin, processing method, design, limited supply, unusual application or use, extraordinary packaging or channel of distribution/sales.
According to the research, mainstream retail channels are heating up. Millennials, a convenience-oriented consumer group, buy specialty foods wherever they shop. This trend has helped drive sales in multi-unit grocery and mass merchants, where growth outpaced that of natural or specialty chains for the first time.
Consumers are especially focused on specialty foods in the refrigerated sections. Categories with the biggest sales growth in this area include refrigerated juices and functional beverages up 30.7%, refrigerated lunch and dinner entrees up 33.0%, and yogurt and kefir up 27.2%.
Exhibiting suppliers at IFT will have an array of ingredient systems to assist with premiumizing dairy foods. This includes everything from flavors to inclusions.
5. Market lifestyle, lifestage or daypart. Health and nutrition are on top of mind, even with consumers who don’t necessarily follow what they know is best. It’s a growing trend to promote components of finished foods for how they contribute to a healthful lifestyle, assist with nutritional needs during a specific lifestage or fuel the body at different times of day.
Ingredient suppliers will be showcasing macro and micro nutrients at IFT that can be promoted in product formulations. Be open to learning about functional nutrients with proven benefits.