Future of natural food additives in colors, fat replacers: Packaged Facts

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food additive

Future of natural food additives in colors, fat replacers
As US consumers have fallen out of love with artificial additives and long, unpronounceable ingredient lists, the food additive industry is undergoing a considerable shift, according to a study by Packaged Facts. 

Sales of many additive-laden foods are declining, while at the same time foods claiming to be natural or lacking certain categories of artificial additives are showing strong growth.

With consumer optimism about naturals (including additives) showing positive movement, the market for natural additives—in particular colors, flavor enhancers, carbohydrate- and protein-based fat replacers and preservatives—is projected to grow in the next five years, according to the report, authored by Robert Eckard.

Unlike food ingredients, food additives include various synthetic/artificial or natural substances that preserve or enhance freshness, appearance, flavor, texture or other physical or chemical characteristics. It is estimated that there are upwards of 10,000 food additives currently within the US food supply, 3,000 of which are FDA approved. These include color additives, emulsifiers, fat replacers, flavor enhancers, humectants, pH controllers, preservatives, stabilizers/thickeners/binders and texturizers.

Colors to lead market growth

From 2007 to 2013, the overall market for additives was flat—with tonnages decreasing negligibly from 2.59 billion tons to 2.58 billion tons—led by pH controllers and emulsifiers. That number is expected to increase over the next five years, from 2.60 million tons to 2.72 million tons, at a compound annual growth rate of 0.9%, according to the study. The market value in dollars increased from $4.26 billion in 2007 to $4.75 billion in 2012, or a CAGR of 2.1%. That number will increase more rapidly through 2018, from $4.87 billion to $5.78 billion, resulting in a CAGR of 3.5%.

Color additives, which continue to expand amid increasing penetration of costly and new natural colors, will drive market growth through 2018, with a CAGR of 7.8%. Other moderate to strong growth categories include preservatives—as emerging natural formulations will offset losses in synthetic preservatives (4.7% CAGR)—as well as stabilizers, thickeners, binders and texturizers (3.9%); fat replacers (3.9%); and flavor enhancers (3.7%).

Regulatory process outdated?

Some consider the Food and Drug Administration’s current federal regulatory process for reviewing and approving food additives (based on the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the Food Additives Amendment of 1958 and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990) to be outdated. As a result, the system could be revised within the next decade amid ongoing consumer, institutional and scientific concern over food additive safety.

Updates could result in additive cost increases, increased consumer confidence, increased regulatory processing fees, continued support for natural additives (and continued loss of market share for artificials), as well as longer FDA review time for new additives, according to the report.

Consumers back on diet food train

Consumer interest in low-fat, diet foods waned during the 2000-2010 period, though they appear to once again be interested in cutting out fat from their diets, a trend that will likely affect the market for fat replacers, according to the report.

Color also remains a critical factor in the appeal and marketability of food, with growth in color additives coming largely from the transition of product lines away from synthetic and toward natural colors. But the higher cost and formulation challenges with naturals remain critical factors in this market.

Convenience foods continue to support market development for food additives, though additive application in this sector remains segmented. Also pressing on consumers’ minds will be continued concern over the healthfulness and safety of food additives.

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