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Back to basics innovation in creating healthier products

Article-Back to basics innovation in creating healthier products

Innovation in fruit and vegetable ingredients is increasing, tapping into trends for natural, organic and sustainable foods and beverages – but their wider use also reflects developments in natural colours and flavours and, more recently, heightened consumer interest in immune support.

According to Innova Market Insights, the number of new products with fruit and vegetable ingredients increased by about 4% a year from 2016 to 2020. Innova picked Plant-Forward as one of its top trends for 2021, highlighting health, diet variety, sustainability and taste as the four main reasons that consumers are opting for more plant-based foods and beverages. New products with fruit or vegetable ingredients are increasingly likely to carry a plant-based claim, according to Innova, with this combination rising an average of 54% a year from 2016 to 2020.

Demand for natural ingredients

Taura Natural Ingredients is among those to have seen rising demand for its ingredients over the past few years, particularly in light of plant-based trends. It provides customised process-stable fruit pastes, flakes and pieces that retain the taste, colour and nutritional value of the original fruit.

Company spokesperson Claire Piddington said, “Desire for more natural options is inspiring more imaginative use of fruit and vegetables, and inclusions that retain their natural nutrients and authentic sensory characteristics.”

Immunity and health halos

The company has also seen increased interest in ingredients associated with immune support, such as berries and citrus fruits.

“Fruit blended with botanicals, herbs or spices are also proving popular across all food categories, as consumers perceive these can contribute to emotional, as well as physical, well-being,” Piddington said, with blends including apple-cinnamon, apricot-rosemary, pear with ginger and turmeric, or sour cherry with chilli.

Formulating with fruit helps manufacturers diversify their product range, she added, while boosting the health halo of packaged foods. 


Colouring with fruit and veg

This plant-based trend has driven demand for fruit- and vegetable-derived colours, too. Maartje Hendrickx, Market Development Manager, at GNT Group said:

“Many of those who buy plant-based food and drink are motivated by health, the environment and ethics, so it’s vital to use a truly natural colouring solution.”

The company supplies a range of colouring foods, a term that refers to colours from fruits, vegetables and other plants that are extracted by physical processes, such as chopping and boiling.

“They’re considered food ingredients rather than additives under EU regulations, which means they don’t require E numbers and can be described in a way that’s easy to understand, such as ‘Colouring Food (concentrate of carrot and pumpkin)’,” she said, adding that colouring foods have emerged as the obvious choice for plant-based products.

A step beyond ‘natural’

“Transparency is more important than ever in the food and drink industry and consumers don’t just want bright colours – they want colouring ingredients they can trust,” she said, citing recent FMCG research, which found more than three-quarters of consumers said it was important that products did not contain artificial colours.

“Even so-called natural colours often have chemical-sounding names that can alienate modern shoppers,” she added.

When it comes to fruit and vegetable ingredients more generally, a compound annual growth rate of 4% is reasonably modest, but the fastest growing ingredients far outstrip the average. Lion’s mane mushroom, for instance, had a CAGR of 53% in new products from 2016 to 2020, according to Innova data, and jackfruit grew 35%, blackcurrant 31%, dragon fruit 31%, and cassava flour 29%.

Dealing with natural variation

Hendrickx suggests that reliance on fruit, vegetables and plants can be a potential challenge for those working with plant-based ingredients because of natural variations and crop shortages. She explained that GNT manages this by having a vertically integrated supply chain, with farmers using the company’s own seeds to maximise colour intensity and consistency.

“In addition, we hold significant inventory of both raw materials and finished ingredients to enable us to cope with any fluctuations in the size of the harvest or customer demand,” she said. “This has been our long-term approach and it has proven to be extremely valuable during the pandemic…We have always taken steps to ensure our customers don’t have to contend with any unwelcome surprises.”