Ministers to reconsider legalising hemp for food

Australian and New Zealand government ministers will reconsider legalising hemp for food in the first quarter of 2016.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) met in Hobart to discuss a number of food regulation matters.

Before the ban on low THC hemp food may be reconsidered, there are some “knowledge gaps” which the Forum has requested be addressed first.

The FRSC Working Group is addressing the knowledge gaps identified regarding roadside drug testing, cannabidiol levels, legal and treaty issues and concerns that the marketing of hemp in food may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of cannabis.

In February, the Forum decided to maintain the ban on low THC hemp as food because of concerns that police drug testing would be compromised by the legalisation of the product.

The Forum has asked officials to progress this work as quickly as possible and has agreed to consider the report on the project outcomes in the first quarter of 2016.

Health Star Rating update

The ministers discussed the progress of the Health Star Rating roll out. The Forum tasked the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) to provide advice in relation to the clarity that is required on the HSR Terms of Reference to strengthen the governance. This will include advice regarding the process for consultation with and oversight by jurisdictions.

Nut- and seed-based beverages in the Health Star Rating system

The Forum considered a request to classify nut- and seed-based beverages as Category 1D dairy beverages’ for the purpose of the HSR system.

A majority of Forum members agreed that under the HSR system, nut- and seed-based beverages may be classified as Category 1D products, if they meet the calcium requirements for that category.

The Forum also agreed to seek further consideration by the FRSC, with advice from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on how dairy alternative beverages should be categorised within the HSR system, and how they should be treated under the relevant food standard. The Forum is also seeking further advice about reconciling recommendations received from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This will also include the outcome of the current application that is under consideration by FSANZ.

Vitamin D in breakfast cereal

The Forum has asked FSANZ to review a draft standard to permit the voluntary addition of vitamin D to breakfast cereals, to ensure consistency with the ‘Ministerial Policy Guideline for the Fortification of Food with Vitamins and Minerals’. Permitting the addition of vitamin D to breakfast cereals of poorer nutritional quality (e.g., cereals high in fat, sugar or salt) is not consistent with this Policy Guideline. The Forum also agreed that the Policy Guideline will be clarified in conjunction with the FSANZ review.

Country of Origin Labelling

The Forum noted that there was broad community interest in improving the Country of Origin Labelling framework for Australian food. New Zealand didn’t participate in the discussion, as it plans to continue with its current voluntary Country of Origin Labelling scheme.


New whole-protein ingredient launched

Hinoman has launched a vegetable whole-protein ingredient made from the Mankai plant.

The vitamin and mineral-rich Mankai plant is a native of Southeast Asia, and has been used in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for generations. Hinoman’s hydroponic technology enables it to grow the product faster, and in large quantities, without pesticides, while guaranteeing a high protein content of at least 45 per cent by dry weight.

Due to its small particle size, it can be easily incorporated in its natural form into food or beverage applications. “The Mankai plant boasts the closest protein profile to animal protein,” said Udi Alroy, VP of Marketing and Business Development for Hinoman. “The paradox is that this tiny, single-strain microgreen delivers huge health benefits to a wide range of market targets.”

Protein quality depends on digestibility, amino acid profile and content. A high-quality protein contains all the essential amino acids (those the body must source externally), with a high proportion of the branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Mankai is rich in vitamins A and E, the B vitamins, plus minerals and fatty acids.

“All the protein parameters are high in Mankai,” said Ron Salpeter, CEO for Hinoman. “With its high PDCAAS rate of digestibility—0.89—it is more potent than super vegetables, such as spinach, spirulina and kale. Mankai has a light vegetal flavour.”

The Hinoman team invested eight years in research and development to create the sustainable strain and cultivation method for year-round harvest of the ingredient.


The Australian native food industry: the next big boom?

The native food industry has grown considerably in the last five years and is gaining traction within the food manufacturing industry.

In 2010, farm gate production of the native food industry was valued between $15 million and $25 million. The annual riberry (Lilly Pilly) production alone was between 4 and 5 tonnes, and it’s estimated in 2016 production will increase to between 15 and 20 tonnes, according to Michael Clarke, RIRDC, who was the Principal Researcher on the Australian Native Food Industry Stocktake in 2012.

“With large international companies such as Bonne Maman creating products to include Australian native species in their products, plus interest from The United States, Europe and many Asian countries, the demand could well  exceed those expectations and continue to increase at a rapid rate,” Clarke says.

Jude Mayall, Outback Chef and Deputy Chair of the Australian Native Food Industry, says the perception of the native food industry has changed.

“If you go back maybe even five or six years ago, native food was still something people thought of as chomping on a leaf or eating a witchetty grub. Come up to the present day and people are starting to get really excited about native food,” Mayall says.

“We’re getting food manufacturing companies, pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic companies. Everyone’s starting to look at our native food.”

“We’re doing a lot of scientific research on native food as an industry body and it’s showing some amazing things happening with native food and the Lilly Pilly is one…we’re discovering some absolutely amazing results with all the health benefits,” Mayall says.

The Lilly Pilly has attracted the attention of French jam manufacturer, Bonne Maman, who has collaborated with the Australian Native Food industry to release a Blueberry and Lilly Pilly Conserve.

“There’s a heap of species of Lilly Pilly and everyone knows of it, but so many Australians haven’t tasted it. The industry is still in its pioneering days but having companies like Bonne Maman embracing our flavours, it’s amazing. This is what is going to help the industry as a whole to move forward, to have companies who have really great traditions embracing our flavours.”

Mayall was involved in sourcing the Lilly Pillys for Bonne Maman, and said it was vital to work with growers who know what they are doing.

“The one thing that you’ve got to keep in mind with native food is that it’s all wild harvested, handpicked and there’s no machinery,” Mayall says.

“The other thing is we’re watching the seasons, we’re watching the days…we’re watching the cycles of the moon, we’re watching the climate, the wind, the rain, and then all of a sudden [the grower] says ‘okay they’re ready, I’m going to start picking.’”

“Once they were ready the grower was literally up at 1am and 2am in the morning, he was out picking until 10 and 11 at night. It really was a process that just kept going and that’s just the way that it is, it’s not bringing in the big tractors and shakers because we don’t want the fruit bruised.”

While most of the native food crops are wild-harvested, there is a move towards harvesting, developing cultivation methods and researching the health benefits of native food.

The native food industry also has the potential to fuel employment, “particularly for those living in remote communities, for farmers and for indigenous people,” Mayall says.

“So it’s an industry all Australians can embrace, and that’s why I’m very keen to have big companies who already have an established name saying ‘well, this is worth a try.’”

Above: Jude Mayall, Outback Chef and Deputy Chair of the Australian Native Food Industry.

Senate committee recommends sugar Code of Conduct

A federal parliamentary inquiry into the marketing of Australian sugar has made only one recommendation.

The single recommendation reads “the committee recommends the development and implementation of a mandatory sugar industry Code of Conduct, acknowledging that, provided appropriate stakeholder consultation is undertaken, the work of the Sugar Marketing Code of Conduct Taskforce may provide a foundation upon which a Code of Conduct may be established.”

Dominic Nolan, CEO of the The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) said the report was largely expected.

“There were clear indications throughout the public hearings conducted by the Committee that the Report from the Inquiry was going to recommend a mandatory Code of Conduct, and that is what we have,” Nolan said.

“The report does not make a case for government intervention, and it does not adequately consider what the impact of such regulation will be for the sugar industry. There is still no clear statement of what the problem is that this recommended regulatory approach is supposed to address.”

“There are no surprises in the Inquiry’s recommendation, however it doesn’t take away from the real imperative: the only viable solution to current challenges around sugar marketing arrangements is through a commercially negotiated outcome between mill companies and their growers,” Nolan said.


New ingredient prevents yoghurt from setting

A new protein-based ingredient will allow dairies operating a set yoghurt production line to use their existing equipment to make drinking yoghurt.

The Nutrilac protein ingredient, developed by Arla Foods Ingredients, is added to the manufacturing process at the beginning of the production cycle. It subsequently prevents the yoghurt from setting, resulting in a liquid yoghurt drink with a protein level of up to 5 percent.

When added to a standard set yoghurt recipe, the Nutrilac protein blocks the mechanism that causes the product to gel, creating instead a protein-rich drinking yoghurt – without requiring the installation of a new production line. Colours, flavours, sugars and sweeteners can be added at the beginning of the manufacturing process as per usual, along with healthy ingredients for fortification such as calcium, fibre and probiotic bacteria.

Torben Jensen, Category Manager for Fresh Dairy Products at Arla Foods Ingredients, said: “Our Nutrilac protein offers an easy way for dairies to add another product range to their portfolio, and to make much better use of their existing production line. This is an ingredient solution that can be used by dairies of all sizes. However, we expect it to be particularly interesting to smaller companies without the space to install a second line, but who wish to capitalise on the great opportunity offered by protein-rich drinking yoghurts.”


Fonterra commissions new dairy ingredients plant

New Zealand-based Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited has commissioned its new dairy ingredients plant in Heerenveen, in the north of the Netherlands.

The plant produces whey and lactose specialty ingredients that will be used in high-value paediatric, maternal, and sports nutrition products by Fonterra and its global customers.

Built on a 25 hectare site that has been developed in partnership with Dutch cheese manufacturer A-ware Food Group, the plant is Fonterra’s first wholly owned and operated ingredients plant in Europe.

Chief executive Theo Spierings said the plant forms part of Fonterra’s fully integrated global supply chain from the farm gate direct to global consumers, using Fonterra’s milk pools and manufacturing sites in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

“The commissioning of our new plant in Heerenveen further strengthens our ability to deliver high quality, advanced dairy nutrition that meets the needs of our priority markets and global customers.

“Fonterra has substantial intellectual property in the manufacture of functional whey protein ingredients and had been looking for some time for a source of high quality whey to enable us to commercialise these innovations.

“Our partnership with A-ware Food Group fits well with our strategic priorities aimed at increasing the volume and value of our ingredients and branded products,” said Spierings.

Fonterra Regional Director for Ingredients in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia & CIS (EMEA) Hans Huistra said the plant’s location and capacity would enable Fonterra to better serve its European and global customer base, delivering a secure, reliable source of high quality ingredient products.

The new plant will produce 5,000 metric tonnes of whey protein and 25,000 metric tonnes of lactose annually. It will operate around the clock: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Approximately 50 new employees currently work for Fonterra at the site.


Why many low-fat products fail

The ability to taste fat could be the reason many low-fat products struggle in popularity over time, according to sensory science researchers.

Deakin’s newly formed Centre of Advanced Sensory Science has found there is overwhelming evidence for the tongue’s ability to detect fat, suggesting it is the sixth taste.

“There is great potential for the food and health industries to develop new low energy products using the knowledge on fat taste,” says Professor Russell Keast, head of the Centre of Advanced Sensory Science.

“If we think about the food industry in particular, there’s a lot of low fat foods that were put out for dieting back in the 80’s and 90’s that had subsequently failed because over time they failed to deliver in terms of what the consumer wants, which is the acceptance and liking over time of foods.

“This presumably is because fat has a taste component to it wasn’t taken into account.”

“Fat has multiple effects in foods, it provides mouthfeel, acts as a flavour carrier and helps with flavour release,” Keast says.

“What we are saying is that in addition to those attributes, fat also activates taste receptors. If fat taste had been considered during low fat food development, perhaps there would not have been so many low fat failures.

“Part of the role of having a taste is embodying the fix that the nutrients bring to the food so if you reduce them or take them out, the sensing mechanisms that we have to identify those nutrients isn’t necessarily there.”

While failed low-fat foods were able to mimic the mouth-feel and flavour-release properties of fat, what they weren’t able to mimic is the actual fat or fatty acid activating the taste receptors and the responses that happens from that activation.

“The key is to find some of these fatty acids that are higher activating. If they are higher activating then you can effectively reduce the level of fat in foods but still activate those taste receptors that provide the feelings that we want from fat and that would in the long term have a great benefit for the development of low fat foods that are sustainable over the long term for consumers.”

The evidence that fat is a sixth taste has opened the door on low-fat product innovation, but Keast says more research still needs to be done.

“We don’t know which fatty acids are higher activating and that’s going to take a bit of effort to work out but I would say that the dairy industry in particular should be trying to take advantage of this type of research because they have fractured the first fatty acid profile from bovine milk.”

“It’s not an easy thing to discover, it will take time and effort on part of the dairy industry and maybe even the meat industry to be able to find what fatty acids are best to apply into foods.”

The review, ‘Is fat the 6th taste primary. Evidence and implication’, is published in Flavour Journal.


Researchers develop functional ingredients out of lobster byproducts

Flinders University and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) have teamed up to find innovative ways of using leftover shells and parts from the processing of lobsters.

The two institutes are working with Adelaide-based lobster exporter Ferguson Australia to help the company generate new products from lobster "offcuts", and to develop a cost-effective manufacturing process to improve Ferguson's annual turnover and environmental stewardship.

Prototypes developed so far at Flinders University's Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development include lobster essence oil, protein powder and chitin; derived 100 per cent from lobsters.

Flinders PhD candidate Trung Nguyen, who is working on the project, said the lobster oil and protein powder could be used as functional ingredients in a range of foodstuffs, from stock bases to crackers, while the chitin, chitosan and its derivatives could have a wide range of applications, from food and cosmetics to biomedicines, agriculture and the environment.

"We have extracted a variety of items, including protein hydrolysates, chitin, chitosan and oil, from food-grade lobster parts that would usually be thrown away," Nguyen said.

"The oil has quite a strong smell so it could be used as a lobster flavour in chips and crackers, and it is also rich in astaxanthin which is a powerful antioxidant," he said.

"While this particular collaboration focuses on producing lobster-flavoured products for food, my PhD study as a whole explores the development of other high-value products for the food or pharmaceutical industries.

Nguyen said the extraction of lobster compounds uses cutting-edge advanced manufacturing processes such as supercritical CO2 extraction and microwave-assisted extraction, which produces a product that is of high purity while also being cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

Flinders Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development manager Raymond Tham said the products, once refined, will be marketed to potential partners in the food industry.

"There's a real opportunity to make sure none of our high value seafood is ever wasted, and that they are used to produce products that currently do not exist on the global market," Tham said.

"Together with SARDI, our lab work has shown that we can create these products in very large quantities using sustainable technologies, ultimately increasing the competitiveness of South Australian foods in the national and international marketplace."

Ferguson Australia managing director Andrew Ferguson said the creation of new products from leftover lobsters would enable the company to reduce its waste management costs and improve environmental and resource sustainability.

"These products will reduce the amount of lobster waste sent to landfills, which has a high cost for both the business and environment, but will instead have a higher retail value and longer shelf life to reach wider export markets," Ferguson said.


Are sprouted grains the next big trend?

In the US, the sprouted grains market is developing fast, with sales of products featuring sprouted grains on track to reach over $250 million by 2018, according to Mintel.

Driving interest in sprouted grains is a small but growing percentage of mainstream consumers who are reducing their consumption of carbohydrates, in particular foods made from wheat and corn.

The number of new product launches with sprouted grains is small – just 19 in 2014 according to Mintel – but numbers are growing fast.

A number of breakfast cereals from start-ups and organic brands are using sprouted grains and the concept has even shown up in better-for-you pizza.

“By taking grains and sprouting them before using them in snacks and other foods, they’re delivering ‘good grains’ that are naturally gluten-free,” said Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, which has been tracking the sprouted grains trend over the past year.

What are they?

Sprouted grains have a long history of use in bakery in markets as diverse as Germany and the Middle East.

The idea of using sprouted grains is that a seed is basically a storage container for grain, keeping everything inert until the conditions are just right for the germ to digest the endosperm and begin growing. And at that point, studies show, the nutrients held by the plant become more bioavailable in the human body.

According to US industry body the Whole Grains Council:

  • The amount of soluble fibre in sprouted grains is higher than in regular grains.
  • There are higher levels of certain minerals and vitamins.
  • The nutrients in sprouted grains stand up to heat processing better than those in regular grains.


New ingredients shape future of ready meals market: Canadean

Ready meal manufacturers must innovate with new ingredients and premium products to cater for consumers who are turning to convenient ready meals to free up more time.

Busy urbanites look for convenient products

According to a new Canadean report, consumers seek products that suit their hectic lifestyles, influencing US$314 billion of food and beverages consumption in 2013. Parents, those with busy jobs and young urbanites without traditional cooking skills are most likely to look for fast and convenient food preparation. Urban males between the age of 16 and 35 alone are responsible for 16.7 percent of food and beverage consumption by volume in 2013. Kirsty Nolan, analyst at Canadean, says “people want to free up some time on their busy schedules and are actively looking for convenient products to reduce the time they spend on food preparation.”

New challenges ahead for microwavable food

The report shows that the search for convenience is one of the key factors why microwavable food continues to be a huge trend – despite consumers growing increasingly aware of healthy eating. Nolan says: “Since its initial launch in the late 60s, the countertop microwave oven has become an essential in modern kitchens globally. The challenge for ready meal manufacturers in the coming years will be to come up with new, innovative products that are positioned around premium quality.”

Ingredients manufacturers such as Budenheim will help to bring microwavable innovations to the market. Budenheim launched Budal MW500 – a new ingredient that keeps microwavable snacks, such as baked goods, crispy on the outside. This allows food manufacturers to further expand their microwavable cuisine range to include croissants and pastries, which previously have not fared well during microwave preparation. Nolan adds: “Such innovations are making traditional cooking skills obsolete, providing busy consumers with the opportunity to spend time on other activities.”


Proposed Guidance on Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment published

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has published their proposed guidance to assess the vulnerabilities for food fraud.

This is a framework document that allows a company to assess the vulnerabilities of the food ingredient and to develop systems to help prevent food fraud.

The guidance is structured in three major steps of which the first two steps are designed to characterize the vulnerabilities of a food ingredient and the last step is designed to develop mitigation strategies.

Step 1: is the assessment of the contributing factors such as supply chain, audit strategy, supplier relationship, history of supplier quality and safety issues, susceptibility of quality assurance methods and specifications, testing frequency, fraud history, geopolitical considerations and economic anomalies.

Step 2: is the assessment of potential impacts such as food safety and economics.

Step 3: is the development of a mitigation strategy.

The public can comment on this document starting 31 December 2014 at the FCC Forum until March 31, 2015.


Sustainable chocolate key to lucrative mid-lifer market, Canadean

A new report from Canadean has found that chocolate is becoming increasingly popular among consumers aged 35-44, and that the key to capitalising on this trend is to promote chocolate as an indulgent treat with natural ingredients and sustainable production methods.

Canadean's survey finds that 46 percent of consumers aged 35-44 claim that ‘natural products’ are neither important nor unimportant when they look for chocolate. Moreover, 66 percent have never put a confectionery product back on the shelf because it was not natural enough.

In addition only 20 percent of respondents believe that confectionery is artificial, meaning that the majority of consumers see chocolate as a natural product. In order to emphasise the often overlooked natural positioning of chocolate and its ‘better for you and the world’ credentials, Canadean say that marketers need to establish a link between concepts such as ‘natural’ and ‘sustainable’.

“Chocolate can be positioned both as an indulgent treat and a ‘good’ product,” says Raquel Perez-Lopez, analyst at Canadean. “This can be done by positioning a product around the claim of ‘creating a better and sustainable world’. Moreover, appropriate labelling, such as Fairtrade certification, would allow consumers to enjoy a guilt-free moment of indulgence by eating a product that has been produced in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner.”


Which flavours will be favoured in 2015?

2014 seemed to be the year of the coconut. Whether it was coconut oil, coconut water or some sort of extract, it was one ingredient that demanded attention. But which ingredients and flavour trends will lead the way in 2015?

Food magazine recently caught up with some of the industry's top marketing research companies to look at which ingredient and flavour trends manufacturers will be at the mercy of in 2015.

When it comes to identifying which flavours will dominate, the overarching consensus was in regards to those conducive to the health and wellness movement.

"Consumer concerns regarding health and an increasing demand for convenient foods that fit in with time-poor consumers are expected to drive product trends over the next five years," says Caroline Finch, senior industry analyst at IBISWorld.

"Producers are expected to increasingly integrate exotic flavours with premium and healthy ingredients, such as wholegrain, fibre, protein and vitamins promoted for specific health benefits."

Similar to what we saw in 2014, Finch says that the popularity of "superfoods" is expected to increase within the health and wellness category.

"Superfoods that are forecast to continue to gain popularity in 2015 include maca powder, chia seeds, goji berries, acai, raw cacao, hemp seeds, coconut oil, bee pollen, and wakame seaweed. Free-from products are also expected to be a growth area, as more and more consumers discover that they have intolerances,allergies or sensitivities to certain foods."

Turning fads into sustainable trends

Lead analyst at Canadean, Michael Hughes says that two of the current trends in the FMCG space will continue into 2015:  hot and spicy ingredients from the Far East and South America, and the introduction of more 'superfood' ingredients such as beetroot juice. Specifically in relation to superfoods, Hughes says that the popularity of FMCGs containing these ingredients will continue to increase.

"This trend will continue to gain momentum in 2015, as consumers continue to seek out magic bullet solutions for their health needs – the key for manufacturers is ensuring such "fads" are turned into sustainable trends and that consumers understand they need to be consumed in accordance with a balanced diet," he says.

"Alternative protein will become a big trend – particularly in the dairy category. We also anticipate that vegetable nutrition will become a big trend with demand for beetroot juice expected to grow in particular."

Daniel Grimsey, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International believes that the superfood trend is likely to increase, but warns that not every consumer is on board.

"I guess it depends on the social aspects. A lot of people are obviously into quinoa and gluten-free products, while other people hate that sort of thing," he says. "I suspect that [superfoods] will become more mainstream but it could go either way."

Functional beverages on the rise

Other areas to focus on include the gluten-free space which has gained immense popularity over the past five years, and is expected to continue to gain momentum.

But an interesting category to watch is that of plant-based water and 'superfruit' enriched beverages. Grimsey expects that elderflower, chia and superfruits such as pomegranate will emerge in the beverages category, whereas Finch of IBISWorld believes that chlorophyll may be an ingredient to watch.  

"There is considerable innovation in the functional beverage category," says Finch.

"Consumers that purchase these products are typically well informed, and will select the type of plant-based water depending on the health benefits they provide. chlorophyll water is a trend that may build."

Hughes from Canadean expects the popularity of plant-based waters such as coconut water to increase, however he stresses that the market is still comparatively small compared to the soft drink market.

"It will have to be remembered that these categories will remain a niche," says Hughes. "The demand however will be driven by consumers looking to exit the carbonated soft drink market and instead seek out healthier alternative beverages. For those less driven by the desire for health, price can be a barrier for such products."

Leading the way in innovation

In terms of product innovation and addressing any gaps in the market, the health and wellness category continues to be the one to watch. However Hughes warns that the positioning of particular products within the category needs attention to secure sustainable demand.

"At the moment, I think more could be done to align certain ingredients with who should be their core audience in order to sustain fads into trends and by moving away from those consumers simply seeking a magic bullet health solution," he says.

"For example, coconut water manufacturers should do more to position products at athletes because of the potassium content, whilst alternative protein manufacturers are missing a trick not doing more to highlight the importance of protein and muscle retention to an ageing society."

Still within the health and wellness category, Finch from IBISWorld believes that there is plenty of room to grow within the vegan, biodynamic and raw food categories in mainstream supermarkets, despite a surge in new product releases over the past few years. She also adds that products targeting specific food intolerances will continue to experience increased demand.

"Products targeting fructose malabsorption also present an opportunity, as awareness builds with consumers. At the moment, there is not much depth in the range of products aimed at these consumers, presenting an opportunity in the market," she says.

Categories to watch

Finch also emphasises that manufacturers of health foods are in a stronger position for growth when compared to producers of traditional snack foods.

According to IBISWorld data, health and snack food production has experienced a six percent annualised growth in the five years to 2014-15 ($601.9 million), with forecast growth at 4.7 percent annually for the five years to 2019-20 ($758.4 million). Whereas snack food production is sitting at 1.3 percent annualised growth in the five years through to 2014-15 ($2.4 billion), with forecast growth at 1.6 percent annualised in the five years to 2019-20 ($2.6 billion).

"Some players have enjoyed immense growth by tapping into niche markets with unique ingredients, production methods and flavours," says Finch. "For example the milk company. A2 enjoyed revenue growth of almost 16 percent in 2013-14 with its milk products aimed at consumers with dairy-related digestive issues, and Carman's Fine Foods revenue increased at an annualised 24.6 percent over the five years up to 2013-14, due to the growing popularity of its health snack foods."

To add to this, Euromonitor's Daniel Grimsey believes that private label brands within the health and wellness category are leading the way in terms of product innovation.

Grimsey says that the Macro and gluten-free section in Woolworths has been particularly well executed.

"As far as health foods go, about half the market within Woolworths seems to be private labels, not to mention the Coles Finest and Woolworths Gold at the premium end of things which appear to be pushing more exotic ingredients," he says.

"Also Sanitarium Weetbix in the last year or so has branched out in several areas. They have a gluten-free version and a protein enriched version, so major brands like that which have enough shelf space can have different variants such as those.

"Goodman Fielder is also introducing gluten-free bread to the mainstream audience, and Nudie Foods is another brand to watch as they have introduced a juice containing chia now. Within the iced tea space, the Stolen recipe brand is another innovative manufacturer."

Michael Hughes from Canadean says that in his opinion, Nestle is one brand that is ahead of the curve.

"Nestle is investing a lot in health and functionality, and I am really interested to see how it make strides in the market over the next couple of years given their R&D investment," he says.


New whey protein developed for yoghurt based nutrition products

Arla Foods Ingredients has developed a whey protein for yoghurt based sports nutrition products.

Arla says that its Nutrilac solution product will provide a great alternative for active consumers who prefer not to consume traditional gels and shakes as it has a pleasant taste, and a texture similar to drinking yoghurt but with a whey protein content as high as 28g per serving.

The company also says that the category of sports yoghurt is expected to resonate with ordinary customers as well as those dedicated to fitness.

“The numbers of people participating in sports is rocketing, but many are put off using traditional sports nutrition products because they don’t like their taste and texture,” says Torben Jensen, category manager for functional dairy products at Arla Foods Ingredients.

“Our Nutrilac protein solution for sports yoghurts provides a real alternative that makes high protein products much more approachable for active consumers. Because they taste and feel just like a conventional drinking yoghurt, sports yoghurts will widen the appeal of sports nutrition products to reach new active consumers, helping to encourage incremental growth in the category.”


Swedish start-up wins at world’s largest beverage contest

Swedish start-up, NOA Potions has beaten the likes of multinational heavy weights such as Pernod Ricard and Del Monte by taking out the premium beverages category at the World Beverage Innovation Awards.

NOA Potions won the category with its anti-stress beverage, NOA Relaxation. The product has been on shelves for less than a month and according to the company’s founder, Noa Fridmark, the beverage has already received considerable attention both domestically and internationally.

“There is an empty spot on the market, that’s why we have been welcomed with open arms,” says Fridmark. “The relaxation drink has emerged as a counter-reaction to energy drinks. The need for this type of drink is out there – people are stressed. Our beverage makes your head sharp and body calm. It’s a healthier way to focus. I see this prize as a big recognition.”

According to Fridmark, the sales of relaxation drinks have boomed in recent times in the US with the likes of Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal highlighting the market as a potential billion-dollar industry.

Fridmark has gone from his initial idea to the release of the final product in less than a year with the help of financial backing from several big names within the industry including former GM of Red Bull Nordic, Robert Grenmark, and Göran Lundqvist, former CEO of Absolut Vodka. 

World Beverage Innovation Awards is the world's largest beverage contest. Last year, more than 400 brands participated from over 40 different countries. This year's contestants included, among others, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Arla Foods, Carlsberg and Evian. The awards were presented Wednesday evening 12 November during a ceremony at the largest beverage exhibition, BrauBevaile, in Nuremberg, Germany.


Canadean predicts five biggest trends within FMCGs

A new report from market research company Canadean has identified what it believes to be the best opportunities in consumer markets over the next five years.

Taking out the number one position and predicted to be worth US$1.71b by 2018 is that of ‘Magic Bullet Health Solutions’. These are inclusive of ingredients such as ‘superfoods’ that offer immediate health benefits such as disease prevention, weight management and nutritional boosts.

Coming in second at a predicted value of US$1.66b by 2018, is a focus on the Next Emerging Economies which offer opportunities for new product development and innovation.

“Companies have already seen the value in setting up innovation centres in emerging economies to help tailor their products to consumer needs,” Ronan Stafford, analyst at Canadean says.

“We increasingly see pack formats developed to keep costs low in emerging economies used to target austerity-minded consumers in Europe. Meanwhile, consumers are now highly aware of global culinary trends and want more experiential flavours. This means that Far Eastern and African flavours and ingredients are high in demand,” Stafford says. 

"The more big brands invest in targeting consumers in Lagos, Jakarta and Hanoi, the better they will meet the value and experience-seeking needs of consumers in New York, London, Madrid and Sydney."

The third trend revolves around “The Health Time Bomb” where society takes dramatic steps to reverse the effects of food related diseases such as obesity and type-two diabetes. This trend is expected to represent US$1.03b within the next five years.

Augmented Purchasing comes in at number four to represent US$838m by 2018, and the last trend, Trading on Trust is expected to represent US$427m with the five year period.

Stafford says that women aged 45 and over from low and middle income households in urban areas will be early adopters of innovation arising from companies investing in the next wave of emerging economies. “The low incomes of many early adopters in the next emerging economies means that manufacturers need to simplify formulations,” he says. “This includes strategies such as using fewer ingredients to lower costs or investing in lightweight packaging that is still robust enough to withstand poor quality supply chains.”

In addition to measuring the value of targeting early adopters in 2018, the report evaluates the likelihood and impact on business practices of each scenario. When all three dimensions are analysed, one scenario rises above the rest: The deep impact the next wave of emerging economies will have on consumer markets. “These opportunities in the next emerging economies need to be targeted now, or companies will lag behind their competitors on not just opening up new markets, but in better meeting the needs of their current customers,” says Stafford.


Demand for innovative breakfast snack foods on the rise

A new report from New Nutrition Business has found that the demand for on-the-go breakfast snack alternatives is continuing to rise across the globe.

The report titled, The snackification of breakfast: How changing consumer habits are creating new opportunities, states that US$300m was wiped off breakfast cereal sales this year in the US due to the increasing popularity of breakfast snack alternatives.

“Breakfast has become one of the most fought-over battlegrounds in food and health, a battle fuelled by consumers’ need for easy and quick meals in the morning – and by two massively successful disruptive innovations, Belvita’s breakfast biscuit and Up & Go’s liquid breakfast,” says Julian Mellentin, author of the new report.

The report outlined that time precious consumers are increasingly skipping breakfast across the globe. The report found that 66 percent of professional workers in Asia ate breakfast away from home three or more times in a two-week period, and 20 percent consumed breakfast away from home every single day. A study of 500 young Americans found that 27 percent skipped breakfast, and of those who did not, 25 percent ate breakfast away from home.

According to Mellentin, these changing habits provide a wealth of new opportunities for companies in every food category.

“Every type of food or beverage company, in every category, either is looking at what they can do to get their own slice of the breakfast market or is in the process of launching or building up products,” says Mellentin. “And what the successes so far – including Belvita, Up & Go, and Quaker’s single-serve oat pot Oat So Simple – have in common is a focus on the five factors that add up to success in the changing breakfast category”.

“By delivering on the five factors, Oat So Simple has gone from niche to mass despite super-premium pricing of over 950% compared to other breakfast oats,” he continues.

Mellentin adds that companies with ambitions in the breakfast category should not rule out any new product idea because it is too unfamiliar to consumers or too innovative, as it is these products that have paved the way for success thus far.


Low-calorie alcoholic drinks on the rise, IWSR

According to the International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) Global Trends Report, the popularity of low-calorie alcoholic beverages is continuing to gain momentum across the US and Europe.

The report sights the successful launch of products such as Skinnygirl and Voli Lite vodka in the US as the catalyst for a range of new low-calorie spirit, pre-mix and wine launches across the globe.

The reports states that the market for ready-to-drink market has become near saturated with many brands jumping on the low-calorie bandwagon.

Skinnygirl Cocktails recently launched two new low-calorie expressions in the US containing under 100 calories per bottle, while Slim Lizzy cocktail kegs offer a lower calorie option for the US on-trade, providing low-calorie margarita and cosmopolitan cocktails on tap.

The UK has also proven to be a lucrative market for low-calorie drinks with Diageo releasing Nola, a low-calorie vodka spritz drink in addition to a line of Smirnoff Sorbet Light pouches to tap into the low-calorie drinks trend.

The demand for low-calorie wines is also evident with the launch of products such as Skinny Champagne by Alexander Penet, and Skinny Rose by Champagne Tribaut which both boast low-calorie credentials.


Arla calls for dairy protein in food aid

Global dairy company, Arla Food Ingredients says that there needs to be a global push from industry to ensure that dairy ingredients are included as an integral part of emergency food programmes.

Arla says that ingredients derived from milk have tended to be omitted from such programmes due to cost concerns, and have decided to commission research into the benefits of whey protein and permeate in a bid to demonstrate that dairy ingredients are affordable and superior due to its dense nutritional profile.

Henrik Jørgen Andersen, senior R&D manager at Arla Foods Ingredients says that by incorporating dairy into emergency food programmes, smaller quantities can be used when compared with alternatives such as vegetable proteins. He also says that dairy ingredients can be blended with proteins of other sources to create food aid products that offer excellent all-round nutrition.

“Even though we are an international business, we don’t operate in every region that benefits from aid initiatives like the World Food Programme. This means the global dairy ingredients industry must stand together to make sure we can deliver affordable high quality products in every geographic [location] touched by these programmes,” said Andersen.

“Consequently, only if other major dairy ingredients companies join us in this effort can we succeed in persuading the organisers of food aid programmes that our products have a key role to play in the war on hunger. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the industry to show that we are not just about commercial success, but that together we can also offer the international community powerful solutions to tacking the global challenge of hunger and malnutrition.”

Andersen says that Arla Foods Ingredients has supported a clinical trial which has shown that it’s possible to make economical, sustainable and nutritionally sound products with milk proteins.

“The full results aren’t yet ready to publish, but we’re confident they will represent a huge step towards documenting the potential role of dairy ingredients as constituents in foods for future emergency aid programmes. However, we can’t do this alone – and we are keen for our fellow dairy ingredients companies to work with us towards this extremely worthwhile goal,” he said.


Red Bull to pay $US13 million over alleged false advertising

Energy drink manufacturer Red Bull has agreed to pay $US13 million to settle a class action that was brought against it over alleged false advertising, specifically in reference to the claim “Red Bull gives you wings”.

The class action was spearheaded by US Red Bull customer Benjamin Careathers, who has been a loyal customer of the brand since 2002. Careathers alleged that the company’s marketing slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings” implied that consuming the beverage would lead to increased performance and concentration and was therefore misleading, SBS World News reports.

Careathers brought the class action suit before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on 16 January 2013, and referred to published academic journals articles and reputable newspaper stories to back his claim that Red Bull energy drinks provide their boost through caffeine alone – not guarana or any other added ingredient.

Careathers said that through its marketing, Red Bull’s claimed to offer a superior source of energy that is worthy of a premium price over a standard cup of coffee despite a genuine lack of scientific evidence to support such claims.

As part of the proposed settlement, anyone living in the US who has purchased a Red Bull product from 1 January 2002, has a valid claim to receive either $US10 in cash or two free Red Bull products.

Red Bull has refuted the claims but decided to settle the dispute to “avoid the cost and distraction of litigation.”

“Red Bull maintains that its marketing and labeling have always been truthful and accurate, and denies any and all wrongdoing or liability,” the company wrote in a statement to Bevnet.

Red Bull has now decided to voluntarily update its marketing materials and product labeling in the US.