In the age of clean label, are consumers in developed markets losing interest in fortified foods?

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Nutrition Milk

With clean label now “the most dominant trend in food and drink," many food and beverage manufacturers are moving away from fortifying foods with minerals, vitamins and other nutritious ingredients, says Euromonitor International.

“Between 2010 and 2015 there were declines in the consumption of [fortified] iron, vitamin A and vitamin K in North America, and in probiotic cultures, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D in Western Europe,” Euromonitor​ International ingredients analyst John George told FoodNavigator-USA.

He is not the first to comment on this trend, with Catherine Adams Hutt, PhD, RD, chief science & regulatory officer at Sloan Trends and principal at consultancy RdR Solutions, recently telling  FoodNavigator-USA​ ​that moves to remove vitamins and minerals in order to present a shorter ingredients list or meet certification requirements, such as a Non-GMO Project verification, were "very troubling."

Move away from fortification 'very troubling'

While many vitamins and minerals have 'chemical-sounding' names, she added, they are valuable additions to many food products: “Speaking as a registered dietitian as well as a food industry member, we need to make sure that we’re providing nutrients, particularly those that are in short supply and under-consumed by consumers. Often we get our added calcium and vitamin D for example from fortified foods.

“The drive away from fortification we believe is driven by consumers’ interest in clean label and getting something that’s minimally processed without chemical-sounding ingredients included in it. These things sound scary to consumers.”

Dr Wayne Parrott, professor of crop science at the University of Georgia, also lamented the trend, telling FoodNavigator-USA in a past interview​ that when Original Cheerios was reformulated as part of a non-GMO drive, riboflavin disappeared from the ingredients list, such that it “went from being a major source of vitamin B2 to being almost zip.”

Omega-3’s popularity migrates to Asia-Pacific region

But while fortification in some markets is falling, it is going up in others. A prime example for this is omega-3 fortification. “The interest in Omega-3 fortification in food and beverage appears to be on the wane in developed markets where consumers have become apathetic towards their benefits,” ​said John Madden, head of ingredients at Euromonitor International.

“This is the case in Western Europe where omega-3 ingredients only posted a 1.4% growth from 2010 to 2015, with declining consumption in areas like bread contributing to this. Over the same period, consumption in Asia-Pacific increased by 6%, with spreadable fats and oils and milk formula particularly strong areas. This suggests that going forward the fortunes of omega-3 ingredients will depend far more on developing markets.”

Botanicals can replace synthetic ingredients

However, the use of botanicals is on the increase, especially where they can replace synthetic preservatives, said George, who noted that botanicals “definitely benefit from a natural image, and this has encouraged manufacturers to use them to replace artificial alternatives which may put off consumers.”

Euromonitor’s database divides botanicals into three sub-categories: plant extracts, essential oils, and other botanicals. “Most of the botanical ingredients used in food and beverages are plant extracts,” ​said Robles.

“Products which use the highest volumes of botanicals in food and beverages, unsurprisingly, are RTD tea in beverages, while in foods the highest botanical consumption is in dairy products—flavored milk drinks and yogurt and sour milk products,” ​she added.

The fall of synthetic and artificial ingredients was also marked by an increased use of pure commodities—which Euromonitor defines as water, cereals, egg, fish, fruit, fruit juice, herbs, honey, meat, potato products, vegetables, and vinegar.

“These are the purest of clean label ingredients in that they are widely recognised and generally held in high favor by consumers,”​ Euromonitor said. Between 2010-2015, there was a 2.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for pure commodities in beverages globally. Highest growth of pure commodity use within beverages was with energy drinks (11.40% CAGR).  

The growth rate was similar for food, with a 2.10% CAGR in the same time period. Non-dairy milk alternatives led the growth with 23%, followed by fruit and nut bars with 21.6%.

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