Creating the future of food: Omega Ingredients CEO, food futurist discuss trends, sustainability

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - Ian Nolan
Image Credit: Getty Images - Ian Nolan

Related tags Texture Consumer trends Food waste Sustainability

When it comes to creating the tastes of the future, food and beverage CPG companies aren't only tackling the demand to meet consumer ever-evolving taste preferences in a global economy, but they are grappling with making the supply chain more sustainable and accessible to everyone, a panel of experts shared in a World Taste & Smell Association webinar.

The consumer is always wanting something new, something different, as a new variety and of course, international travel the way that's expanded again... means the consumer then experiences flavors, aromas from different parts of the world and then wants them in their food and local area,​” said Steven Pearce, CEO of flavor and fragrance company Omega Ingredients.

How CPG brands can deliver on bitter flavors, unique textures

As the demand for globally inspired flavors increases, CPG companies are caught between needing to deliver a consistent taste experience and providing unique flavor experiences based on cultural preference, Pearce pointed out.

If you're working in global brands, for example, you need that product to be the same, or the customer can expect that to be the same wherever they are in the world. So, in a way, that kind of globalization and standardization goes against that concept of innovation and variety.​”

Cultures have different bitterness and texture preferences, which can create challenges creating and marketing a product, Pearce noted. For instance, vanilla is commonly used in sweet applications in the West and used in savory cooking in Asia, Pearce said.

When it comes to perceptions and tolerance for bitter flavors, consumers aren’t only seeking them out more due to things like the non-alcoholic beverage trend,​ but they are also a byproduct of consumers eating healthier, food futurist Morgaine Gaye shared during the discussion. "Over the years, incrementally, all brands had to lower their sugar content in processed foods, and also we've been eating more greens, and we are seeing kale in chocolate bars,​" she added.

Consumers are also increasingly looking for unique texture sensations, which can also bump up against cultural norms, Gaye noted.

One of the things that we see brands doing now is using a lot more inclusions, including a lot more texture as we go forward because that's kind of part of that trend," ​she said.

Addressing food accessibility, repurposing byproducts for new ingredients

In addition to meeting consumer taste preferences, CPG brands and the entire food and beverage supply chain will need to come together to address issues around food waste and feeding the growing populace, the two shared.

"I think food systems are complex, and I also think about feeding the world. That one of the biggest things that prevents us from doing that is not actually producing the food - we have a ton of food that goes to waste ... [but] in the more economically challenged countries, it's about refrigeration and transportation. [It's] not that they haven't got the crops, but they can't transport those crops ,​” Gaye said.

Omega Ingredients is also working on pilot upcycle programs to create flavors and other ingredients from food that would have been wasted, Pearce said.

We're working on projects now, for example, to take ... surplus food, parts of the food that are leftover after they're processed, we've now got active projects nearing completion where we're taking some of that extracting flavor or active materials and putting them back into the food chain in another way and rather than that decision to go to cattle feed or to landfill. So, there are things like that which are really important.​”

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