Innovation in action

2015 will see veggies appearing in unexpected places & more demand for healthy foods

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Veggies will appear in unexpected places in 2015

Related tags Nutrition

Eating all your vegetables might be easier in 2015 than in recent years as they increasingly show up in unexpected places, including desserts and drinks, according to the International Food Network. 

The product development firm also expects to see in 2015 more foods made with tea, sprouted and ancient grains, bold flavors and regional ingredients, as well as more foods bearing clean labels, said Sarah Rosemarino, sales and marketing coordinator for IFN.

She explained that while IFN protects the confidentiality of the products it helps food companies create, its representatives make a point to attend as many trade shows and conferences throughout the year as possible to track emerging trends so that they can help their clients create products that consumers want.

For example, consumers appear to be increasingly interested in vegetables and vegetable flavors, Rosemarino said. She noted that earlier in 2014 Haagen-Dazs in Japan introduced under its Spoon Vege (pronounced veggie) line two limited-time ice cream fruit and veggie blends, including Carrot Orange and Tomato Cherry.

The firm chose the pairs because the sweetness of the carrots and tomatoes balance out the tartness of orange and cherry, according to parent company General Mills. It adds that the flavors are only available for a limited time, but that new veggie blend flavors will come in the future. This strategy is an effort to keep the flavors fresh in consumers’ mouths.

Blue Hill also has jumped on the veggie bandwagon, adding to its yogurts several vegetable flavors, including carrot, sweet potato, beet, butternut squash, tomato and parsnip. The New England-based farm and restaurant chain touts on its website the “unexpected”​ yogurt flavors as delicious on their own but also good as ingredients in sweet and savory dishes, such as adding beet yogurt to a baked potato or roasted beet soup or adding the tomato yogurt to a faro and cherry tomato salad. Recipes for these and more are on its website.

Healthy remains hot in 2015

Blue Hill’s positioning of its yogurt as an ingredient in baked goods, desserts and savory entrees reflects another trend that IFN identified in 2014, which it also expects will continue next year: the use of yogurt across platforms to make foods healthier and to add protein.

“A lot of people are looking for healthier items so they are using Greek yogurt in a dip or something that is not quite as healthy”​ to lighten the fat or calories, Rosemarino said. Yogurt also is appearing in protein drinks.

Other trends aimed at making foods healthier that emerged in 2014 and likely will continue to develop next year include efforts to reduce sugar and sodium and making “mini items”​ as a way to control calories, Rosemarino said.

Demand for clean labels also will continue next year as a riff on consumer interest in products that are natural, Rosemarino said. She explained that consumers still want natural products even though manufacturers increasingly are hesitant to make natural claims given the deluge of class action lawsuits against firms claiming products are natural when they include artificial or synthetically produced ingredients.

Without this key claim, consumers and manufacturers are using other indicators to distinguish natural products, such as clean labels, organic certification and substituting specific ingredients for ones that consumers perceive as unhealthy, Rosemarino said.

How to incorporate these trends in products

Manufacturers hoping to tap into these trends need to consider how new ingredients and flavors will interact with their existing formulas, from where they will source ingredients, if they can secure enough of the ingredients, what kinds of processing challenges they might face and if they need to new equipment to handle the innovations, Rosemarino said.

She noted that this is where IFN often steps in to help a firm develop products. She said that IFN can help with everything from brainstorming, formulating, packaging and consumer research for new products, and it can do so on a tight timeline of just a few weeks if necessary.

The developer also hands over all intellectual property developed to the client and does not advertise the innovations or who it works with so that everything is kept safe and confidential, Rosemarino said.

Looking beyond 2015

Even though 2015 has not even started, IFN already is looking to 2016 when several key regulations will go into effect that could impact how some products are formulated and packaged, Rosemarino said.

Specifically, FDA anticipates launching its new Nutrition Facts label in 2016, which will call out added sugar, vitamin D and potassium. It also will adjust serving sizes for individually packaged foods to account for more realistic eating patterns. Firms will need to change their labels to comply and if they don’t think consumers will like what they see they may want to reformulate to reduce added sugar or fortify their products.

Read more about the Nutrition Facts panel overhaul HERE​. 

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