From functional foods to CRISPR, IFIC forecasts hot food topics in 2017

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Consumers are increasingly interested in functional foods, and enthusiasm for protein won’t trail off anytime this year, predicts the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

The organization drew from its in-house survey which was conducted last year on 1,003 Americans ages 18 to 80. Here are some of the food trends IFIC said will be hot topics this year:

Functional Foods

Once a little-known concept among the public, functional foods—or foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition—are becoming a subject of high interest and high demand,” the foundation said.

According to its survey’s data, nearly half of consumers said that weight loss or weight management was a health benefit they are interested in getting from foods. Additionally, one-third of Americans listed that they want food to give them ‘increased health,’ ‘cardiovascular health,’ ‘healthy aging,’ or ‘digestive health.’

The responses mirrored a Google Trend report from October last year, which found that popular functional food ingredients such as kale, turmeric, and blueberry topped the popular search list.

‘Protein still a power house’

“There are no signs that the health halo around protein will be knocked off in 2017,” IFIC said. “According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans are trying to consume more protein or as much as possible, up significantly from 54% in 2015 and 50% in 2014.” 

Survey data revealed that one-fifth of Americans view plant protein as more healthful, and brands in this category continue to thrive. Views of animal protein were split, with 12% perceiving it as more healthful and 15% perceiving it as less healthful.

However, several companies are pushing the envelope of what ‘animal protein’ means, as in vitro meat creeps into the market, brought on by companies such as Memphis Meats and SuperMeat.

CRISPR, gateway to biotechnology acceptance?

Short for ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,’ IFIC believes this form of biotechnology is poised to go mainstream. It edits an organism’s own genes in a highly targeted way, rather than splicing in genes from other organisms (or “transgenics”), gaining momentum in 2016 in both media attention and regulatory action.

“Because transgenics are not involved, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2016 determined that it does not need to approve individual applications of the technology,” IFIC said. “CRISPR also would come without the stigma of other biotechnology applications, thus potentially accelerating consumer acceptance.”

Defining ‘healthy’ claims

The debate on the definition of ‘healthy’ will continue and take the spotlight this year. After a squabble over the word’s definition between snack company KIND and FDA last year, the FDA promised to weigh in on the issue and recently extended the comment period to April 26.

“The 2016 Food and Health Survey found that for more than one-third of consumers, a “healthy” food is defined in part by what it does not contain rather than what it does contain,” IFIC said.

You can find the full list of seven trends on IFIC’s website HERE.

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