The business of detecting tomorrow’s food trends

As an end-to-end flavours & ingredient organisation, IFF has the tools for holistic trend-driven innovation – enabling food manufacturers to meet consumer demands for healthy and delicious food and beverages with the planet in mind.

It is tough to predict the future of food, as some food trends have been around so long that it’s hard to see beyond them.  IFF’s global presence, strong consumer insights, and capabilities backed by our cutting-edge technologies enable the team to create products that meet consumer aspirations and customer needs. For example, today we manufacture a variety of better-for-you products that are low in added sugar, salt and fat, without compromising on taste experience, which makes a significant difference to the consumers.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen market trends move faster than before. Lockdowns and quarantines have confronted consumers with the need to think more about health and wellness. At the same time, the spread of a global virus has heightened concerns about the health of the planet. More people have been asking themselves about the sustainability of the food they eat and whether there will be enough safe food to go around in the future.

In such a scenario, consumer-friendly ingredient labels are also expected to trend in the Indian market; something that we at IFF are getting ready to address. It is now imperative for the food and beverage manufacturers to identify this future market scope and fine-tune their product development and make sure their brand continues to stand out on store shelves.

None of these concerns have, however, dampened expectations around the sensory experiences that food and beverages deliver. Here, consumers are as demanding as ever, with preferences that are broadly shaped by local culture and raw materials.

Early trend detection       

 At IFF, we have made it our business to detect early signals in the market and prime our portfolio of flavors and functional ingredients so we can support the agile product development of food and beverage manufacturers.

So how do we do this? The starting point is what we call our Panoptic Framework, which enables us to understanding emerging changes and why they are happening. Comprising three interrelated levels – societal, lifestyle, and market and sensorial – the framework allows us to build a picture of short, mid, and long-term trends over a timespan of up to ten years.

Collaboration with external trend and foresight partners, advanced analytics plus input from our own internal experts and proprietary research contribute to our detailed overview at all levels. We also partner with promising startup companies that are working with new technology relevant to future needs, for example in the alternative protein space. Their creative breakthroughs help accelerate the growth of food businesses.

Inspiring innovation

Against this backdrop of market intelligence, our sensory experience design teams bring together flavors and functional ingredients to create inspirational concepts for trend-driven product innovation. These could include the development of new plant-based meat alternatives for production by 3D printing technology; healthy juice beverages with a novel texture or new taste modulating technology that interacts with the receptors on the tongue.

The Panoptic Framework also draws our attention to what we should focus on in our own raw material sourcing and processing. As part of this, we are exploring how to unlock the value of food processing side streams by creating closed-loop systems where waste is a resource. Examples include our essential citrus oils and pectin ingredients made from upcycled fresh orange peel. In India, we use side streams from turmeric processing to produce turmeric root extract and leaf oil.

Sustainable sourcing

We aim to improve the sustainability of vanilla production and the quality of workers’ lives, by working closely with our raw material suppliers. Among local vanilla producers in Madagascar, for instance, more than 4,000 people benefited from our sustainability program in 2021, with more than 2,000 gaining access to free healthcare. Their skill secures the high quality of IFF Vanilla.

Similarly, we source three of the primary pigments in our natural food colors – annatto, carmine and paprika – directly from our farmer partners. This allows us to ensure the quality and consistency of our color solutions and help farmers implement sustainable farming practices that improve yields while reducing environmental impact.

Plant-based nutrition

Another example is our sourcing of soybeans for protein production. The soybeans are grown as close to our facilities as possible by suppliers who are committed to protecting biodiversity and human and labor rights.  

In addition to their low environmental footprint, soybeans are a commercially viable, plant-based source of high-quality complete protein. From a nutritional perspective, soy protein is proven to benefit growth and development, muscle and heart health and weight management. Years of development work have resulted in soy protein products for a wide range of appealing food and beverage products.

In other words, at IFF we both have a keen eye for trend detection and are ready to deliver timely solutions to the global food industry. That’s important at a time when concerns about health and sustainability have a growing influence on consumer purchasing decisions – along with, of course, the unrelenting focus on good sensory experiences. As a supplier of flavours and ingredients, we can cater for all needs, both today and in the future.

Prakash MG, Managing Director India and Sub-Regional Lead, IFF

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