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Less is More: Sugar Reduction, Less Sodium & Low-FODMAPS in Food, Beverage

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by Laura Dembitzer -

Consumers have become slightly obsessed with the “less is more" philosophy. Within the food and beverage industry, we see a demand for smaller portions—consumers are willing to pay the same or more for 7.5-ounce cans instead of 12-ounce cans of carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). Shorter ingredient statements also are viewed as superior, as products boast slogans like “just 5 ingredients". Many brands are even listing their ingredients right on the front of the package. (Suja, Kind, Blueprint, Temple Turmeric, Pressery, and Juice Served Here are just a few brands that come to mind). In addition to fewer ingredients on the label, there are other ways that we’re seeing “less" manifested in food and beverages.

Sugar Reduction

The emphasis on sugar reduction exists for two main reasons: the first is the prevalence of ailments like heart disease and diabetes. These diseases have strong links to obesity, which is often caused by diets high in sugar. The bold step by FDA to change the Nutrition Facts panel also has brought sugar reduction to the limelight.

Health concerns and better educated consumers are propelling the demand for sugar reduction across food and beverage categories. In turn, food product developers are looking to new ingredient technologies that allow them to maintain taste and texture while maintaining as clean of an ingredient statement as possible. Sugar reduction will be one of the top marketing claims prominently feature on products in the coming year—whether it’s through increases in sugar reduction percentages, or total grams of sugar called out more frequently.

Less Sodium

High blood pressure, stroke and coronary heart disease are just a few of the ailments associated with a high-sodium diet. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, more than 90 percent of Americans are eating much more than the 2,300 mg target set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Current dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 mg of sodium, and FDA acknowledges that the average sodium intake, 3,400 mg, is heavily impacted by the consumption of processed foods.

To make Americans healthier, the agency is currently asking for volunteers to reformulate with sodium reduction in mind. Since many food and beverage products take a year or two to make it to market, their goal is to make an impact in sodium reduction in the food and beverage industry at the end of 10 years. Because of this FDA initiative, which will bring more attention to sodium, I expect to see more consumers become impassioned about sodium reduction in the next three to five years.

Low-FODMAP

FODMAPs are not a specific ingredient, but rather a group of compounds consumers are looking to reduce in their diet. They have had a captive audience of those suffering from severe gastrointestinal diseases for the past decade; however, the brand FODMAPPED for you! that was launched at this year’s Expo West is helping this diet gain more mainstream attention with their soups and sauces. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for several types of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols - those that are fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Since the gut houses 70 percent of the immune system, avoiding these compounds (which are linked to digestive disorders) can help relieve GI issues. Foods that are naturally low in FODMAPs include many fruits and vegetables such as kale, ginger, sweet potatoes, bananas and blueberries. Since consumers look to food as medicine, brands may benefit from calling out if their future products are low-FODMAP friendly.

The interesting dichotomy here is that while consumers want clean label products with fewer and simpler ingredients, they also are demanding more health benefits from their food and beverages than ever before. Consumers want shorter ingredient statements but also more protein, antioxidants, energy, vitamins, probiotics, fiber, etc. Analysts do not expect this demand for nutrient dense food to slow down any time soon. London-based TechNavio forecasts the global functional food and beverage market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8 percent through 2021.

I see this trend in the marketplace, as well as in the beverage development projects in our lab. Imbibe’s scientists are constantly working to deliver robust flavor, texture, mouthfeel and sweetness with cleaner and shorter ingredient statements.  I look forward to seeing (and tasting) how the industry at large continues to innovate and create solutions to deliver more with less. As always, I would love to hear your feedback and continue the conversation. I can be reached at lklibanow@imbibeinc.com.

Laura Dembitzer Laura DembitzerMarketing Director

Laura Dembitzer is the marketing director at Imbibe, a Chicago-based flavor and beverage development company. Dembitzer works with beverage brands and retail chains to help them innovate and create products from the initial stages of development all the way through to commercialization and launch. She is focused on monitoring trends in the food and beverage industry in order to provide market insights to brand owners and senior decision makers. Her insights inform critical product-development decisions in order to formulate and develop products for long-term success. Dembitzer earned her bachelor’s degree from McGill University and her MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining Imbibe, Dembitzer launched a boutique bakery business and her products were sold at retailers throughout Chicagoland, as well as through a custom-built website focused on targeting kosher-conscious consumers. She ran all her own marketing and sales, so she knows a thing or two about brand building and trendspotting.