High-pressure processing, protein, botanicals, premium private label and cultured foods & beverages.. Welcome to 2013

Super-premium juice firm Evolution Fresh, which is now owned by Starbucks, has raised awareness of high-pressure processing. Thanks to HPP, the brand has a 45-day shelf life – a record for non-pasteurized fresh juice...

Fresh juices and foods subjected to high pressure processing (HPP); protein - especially at breakfast; cage-free hen eggs; premium private label; fermented foods; culinary botanicals; and edible packaging could all be hot trends this year, predicts trend watcher Hartman Group.

In its webinar, ‘Ideas in Food 2013 – A Cultural Perspective’, the consultancy examines what’s shaping food culture in America and highlights a handful of hot trends it believes will gain further momentum this year.

So what’s trending in?

  • High pressure processing: HPP has been used in food production since the late 1990s to inactivate pathogens, yeasts and molds; boost shelf-life; and maintain colors, textures, flavors and nutrients that can be damaged by heat treatment.  It has also enabled firms to develop innovative new products with extended shelf-lives and reduce or eliminate sodium-containing preservatives.

However, it is now starting to become something that manufacturers are actively talking to consumers about, says Hartman Group. “HPP offers consumers the next level in fresh while retaining the halo of near raw. We can expect to see more foods and beverages with the cold pressed attribute in the coming year.”

Hain Celestial, which recently acquired upmarket cold pressed juicing firm BluePrint Cleanse, appears to agree, noting that HPP enables firms to offer a fresh squeezed taste, pulpy texture and nutrient boost and a long shelf-life, giving it the edge over pasteurized juice.

On an earnings call announcing the deal last year, Hain Celestial CEO Irwin Simon said: “BluePrint is not pasteurized [pathogens are killed using HPP] so you're getting all the nutrients… I come back and look at pasteurized juice today and it's almost like canned soup.”

Meanwhile, super-premium fruit juice maker Evolution Fresh, which was snapped up by Starbucks in late 2011, is also doing a lot to raise awareness amongst the public for the technology, which allows products to be treated in their final packaging, with flexible containers carrying the product into a high-pressure chamber, which is flooded with cold water and pressurized for 1-7 minutes. 

The pressure acts uniformly and instantly, regardless of the products’ size or shape, causing lethal damage to the cellular structure of bacteria, molds and yeasts. However, the high hydrostatic pressure does not affect any structural components of the food itself (proteins, fibers, fats, etc.), nor does it affect the structural integrity of the package used.

  • Protein: Expect to see protein featuring in more products, especially for breakfast, as shoppers look for more satisfying foods and snacks that provide sustained energy and curb hunger pangs.
  • Cultured foods & beverages: Expect to see more fermented, pickled, lacto-fermented and brewed products driven by a growing interest in immunity and digestive health and growing enthusiasm for ‘artisanal’ or ‘craft’ food production and preservation techniques, predicts Hartman Group. “The authentic production methods used to craft cultured products are representative of the movement toward fewer, simpler ingredients as well as the growing interest in beneficial bacteria. This category, with deep roots in our food culture, is here to stay. Do your current offerings reflect the cultured trend?”
  • Plant-based foods: While full-blown vegetarianism is not on the rise, more Americans are trying to reduce their meat consumption and looking for tasty veggie options, says Hartman Group.
  • Culinary botanicals: Expect to see more herbs, spices and botanicals in beverages and confectionery.
  • Premium private label: Expect more retailers to use unique, premium private label products as a means to differentiate themselves from the competition, predicts Hartman Group. “As consumers seek premium private label for everyday occasions, the product’s packaging, labeling, and ingredients must cue higher quality to reflect inspired rather than transactional experiences."
  • Edible food packaging: “As a reaction against the over-packaging of foods, there is tremendous opportunity for the food and beverage industry to tap into the demand to cut waste by leveraging new technologies practiced in avant garde cuisine and molecular gastronomy”, says Hartman Group.

“WikiCell has developed packaging to hold pumpkin soup in a spinach membrane and melted chocolate in a cherry membrane, yogurt balls enclosed in a soft outer layer, bite-sized cheeses with edible skins to extend shelf life.”

  • Ethics in food production: Expect more cage-free hen eggs and sustainable seafood.
  • Upgraded convenience: Expect more fresh foods from c-stores and drug stores, says Hartman Group, which notes that 7-Eleven aims to generate 20% of its sales from fresh foods in its North American stores by 2015, while Walgreens has developed “unexpected offerings from a drugstore”.
  • Snacks with more adventurous flavors, higher quality ingredients and better nutrition: Consumers are seeking novel flavors and ingredients in their snacks, from black vinegar to caramel peanut, says Hartman Group. “Flavors such as Ranch, Nacho Cheese, and Honey Mustard will fail to drive interest with the American consumer’s evolving palette in the coming years.” Meanwhile, expect more high-quality snacks in vending machines, it says.
  • Cleaner candy: “Expect the candy category to reinvent itself over the next few years with fairtrade principles and better-for-you ingredients”, predicts Hartman Group.
  • Sugar, the new bogeyman? Rightly or wrongly, sugar has had a bad press over the past 12 months, and more manufacturers are trying to avoid it, says the consultancy. “Is it time to question the role of sugar in the American diet?”

Read more about high pressure processing: Could HPP be the secret weapon in the battle to reduce sodium?

Click here to listen to the webinar.

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