Diets and healthy eating trends, free-from foods, protein, organic, world foods and spice blends are the hot topics at the moment and here, Christine Peers shares her insights on the current trends in food ingredients

The ingredients market is an exciting place to be as there are constant shifts in tastes, demand for international herbs and spices, waves of world foods and new eating trends and diets. Food manufacturing requires constant innovation and product development, and ingredients play a huge role in this so it’s important to ensure a reliable supply of authentic, fully traceable, quality natural herbs, spices and dried ingredients to include in dishes and formulations.

The UK market for seasonings, herbs and spices is calculated at around 86,000 tonnes and is valued at £166 million (RTS Resource). These go to all sectors of the food manufacturing industry to be used in international ready meals, meat, fish and vegetable dishes, soups, sauces and starters, bakery and morning goods and for meal kits and marinades.

To diet or not to diet….
There is a clear trend for eating and making free-from, unprocessed foods, to fit in with today’s fashionable diets and lifestyles, such as the Paleo diet and clean eating craze. In addition, there is an increase in self-diagnosis of food intolerances, especially with wheat, dairy, yeast, and this has led to a surge in demand for ingredients that fit into diets that omit processed foods and allergens.

In line with this there has been a revival of certain food ingredients with coconut holding a key place in the market and experiencing an increase in demand. Coconut has received positive media coverage highlighting the health benefits of the superfood. Its reputation has brought it to the forefront of health food store shelves and catapulted into the mainstream. Consumers are discovering the health benefits of coconut as a functional food – it is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, can help stave off infections, reduce hunger pangs, lower the risk of heart disease, and also boost brain function. In addition, it is a natural sweetener and is recognised as a gluten- and lactose-free ingredient so is suitable for vegans, those following free-from diets and consumers with intolerances and allergies.

We have stocked coconut as a food ingredient for many years and it has always been popular in the health food and natural ingredient sectors, but increasingly, we are increasingly seeing it appear within sweet and savoury foods on supermarket shelves. Over the last 12 months we have witnessed an uplift in sales of our coconut ingredients and we predict that this growth is set to continue and that demand will remain high due to several factors: the rise in self-diagnosis of food allergies and intolerances; the popularity of free-from diets; and the increase in NPD in this sector with coconut products becoming more mainstream and having a broader appeal in the marketplace.

Gluten-free is a hot topic of conversation in the food industry right now so it’s important for food manufacturers to be aware of the ingredients available to them, stay one step ahead and develop popular, quality free-from products that consumers will love and buy time and again.

Protein power
Protein is a key buzzword in the food industry and we expect its popularity to grow even further. The rise in popularity of protein-packed ingredients, such as seeds and nuts, suggest consumer demand is gathering pace for protein intake. Adding nuts and seeds to prepared foods, salads, baked goods, savoury biscuits and snacks is a great way to enhance existing products, highlight health benefits, offer new tastes and textures and meet preferences for protein-enhanced foods.

Organic growth
According to The Soil Association, UK sales of organic products increased by 4.9 per cent this year with the market currently valued at £1.96 billion. The research also revealed that shoppers are becoming more and more health conscious, and organic products offer answers to questions about food quality and provenance1.

Organic September is the UK’s biggest celebration of organic food and drink, so food manufacturers and processors should invest in a selection of organic herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, grains and spice blends to develop quality end products to meet market trends and consumer demand for quality, international organic dishes.

The spice is right
Foods from around the world are on the menu daily with more and more international cuisines finding themselves on supermarket shelves, in restaurants and on family dinner tables. Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean have always been popular options in the UK, but we are witnessing a rise in demand for Brazilian, Mexican, Peruvian and Asian, including Thai, Korean and Vietnamese.

With the Olympics taking place in Rio in August, we anticipate that ingredients and dishes from Brazil will experience a boost in popularity in the UK, influencing the flavour combinations and products available to consumers. There has been a rise in Brazilian restaurants in many cities in the UK, with consumers eager to experience new and exotic flavours2. Manufacturers can tap into the worldwide sporting celebration by experimenting with authentic Brazilian ingredients and blends with foods for supermarket shelves and foodservice outlets.

1 Soil Association

Christine Peers is sales director at EHL Ingredients, an importer, blender and packer of food ingredients form around the world. From herbs and spices, to beans and pulses and dried fruit, it supplies over 300 food ingredients to all areas of the food industry, and boasts a 200-strong organic range as well as over 70 custom blends.