European consumers are hungry for new ingredients that boast natural health benefits, according to new research from Mintel. As many as 41% of Italian, 38% of Polish, 35% of German, 32% of French, and 21% of Spanish consumers say they enjoy experimenting with ingredients. Consumer appetite is strong, and according to Mintel, there are four key ingredients that are expected to excel in 2018: chaga mushroom, green banana flour, hemp, and blue algae.
According to Mintel research, consumer interest in ingredients with natural functionality is high and, as a result, the chaga mushroom is receiving renewed interest. As many as 73% of German consumers agree that the health-promoting benefits of natural foods such as fruit and vegetables are preferable to the added benefits of functional foods. Meanwhile, 48% of Spanish consumers have used a functional food or drink product containing antioxidants.
Emma Schofield, global food science analyst at Mintel, says: “Traditionally known as a medicinal mushroom, chaga mushrooms are touted as being rich sources of beta-glucans, antioxidants, and certain B vitamins. Chaga is conventionally grated into a fine powder and used to brew a beverage resembling tea or coffee. More recently, however, chaga has been used in cold drinks, food supplements, and healthcare products. Brands looking to turn to chaga mushroom to enhance their products can emphasize the ingredients’ properties as an adaptogen. The term adaptogen is not legally or scientifically recognised, but is touted as being a substance that can help the body cope better with mental or physical stress.”
Green Banana Flour
Gluten has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years, with the number of products featuring gluten-free claims booming. According to data from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), 12% of bakery products launched in Europe this year through September 2017 carried a gluten-free claim, up from just 6% of those launched in the year to September 2013. Taking advantage of this trend is green banana flour, whose use in food and drink products is starting to take off, according to Mintel GNPD.
“Green bananas are simply unripened yellow bananas. However, from a nutritional perspective, they are very different. Green banana flour is gluten-free and rich in resistant starch, as a result it is emerging as a fiber-rich, clean label, grain-free flour,” Schofield comments.
Aspirations for healthier and ‘cleaner’ lifestyles are motivating consumers to include more vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains in their diets. More than one in four (28%) consumers in Germany say they are incorporating more protein into their diet compared to a year ago, while 23% say they are incorporating more vegetarian foods, such as soy burgers and vegetarian sausages, into their diet compared to a year ago.
“Hemp seeds have been ignored for a long time, but the ingredient is said to contain a complete set of amino acids and a similar total protein content to soybean; it also contains micronutrients such as vitamin E and omega acids. As a result, hemp is emerging as a clean label plant protein ingredient that could thrive in plant-based, free-from and high protein innovations,” Schofield adds.
While once the taste of food was the first priority when it came to innovation, the rise of social media has spurred a rise in innovations that look striking too. As a result, colors, particularly natural colors, are receiving greater attention.
“With the exception of a few examples such as blue cheese and blueberries, blue colors aren’t associated that positively with food and drink. However, more blue-colored foods are beginning to emerge. The superfood spirulina provides color with health and can be used to provide a blue color in food and drink. Blue spirulina is making its way into cold-pressed juices, protein powders, and even lattes,” Schofield concludes.