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Fat reduction: Tracking the latest trends and innovations

Article-Fat reduction: Tracking the latest trends and innovations

iStock / BrianAJackson fat-reduction-mintel.jpg
Growing consumer awareness of the link between diet and health is creating opportunities for fat alternatives, particularly those that align with ‘natural’ and ‘healthy indulgence’ trends.

Recent patent insights from Mintel shed light on the innovations and consumer-driven shifts driving the fat reduction space.

Low/no/reduced fat claims fall globally

Consumers are increasingly prioritising both health and indulgence, seeking out ‘better-for-you’ products that do not compromise on taste. Two thirds (67%) of senior Thai consumers agree taste is one of their top three priorities when choosing food and drinks and 89% of Indian shoppers see tasty food as a key mood booster and reliver of stress, according to Mintel.

Aside from taste, fat content is a key consideration for consumers, with around a third of US consumers and Canadian dairy milk buyers agreeing that fat content is a top consideration when purchasing products, Mintel data shows.

Nevertheless, the number of patents globally relating to low- or no- fat food and drink products per year dropped by almost 45% from 2018 to 2023, according to Mintel. Dairy, the category with the highest number of low/no/fat dairy claims, also saw a sharp decline in launches of these products in the past five years.

In regions like North America, healthier fat claims on dairy products fell from a total of 21 in 2018 to 13 in 2023, as brands switched low/no/reduced fat claims for more positive functional claims liked to protein and fibre, the same research found.

Natural fibres serve as a source of healthier fat substitutes

Emerging innovations spotlight natural fibres, such as those extracted from fruits and vegetables, as promising fat substitutes.

Most of the Western world is deficient in fibre. In the US, only 5% of people meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily fibre target, and in the UK an estimated 91% of the population do not eat enough fibre, research shows. 

Various pending patents, such as Ruitai Gaozhi Biotech Wuhan's fat substitute made up of a low-dextrose equivalent value high-amylose hydrolysate and high-amylose resistant starch, showcase how fibres can mimic the taste and texture of fat in food applications, while reducing the negative health impacts linked to high fat consumption.

Fruit fibres can also be a healthier substitute for fat, reducing the sugar, fat, and salt content of foods while preserving sensory attributes.  

Planet conscious consumers switch animal for plant-based fats

Plant proteins are also growing in popularity as fat replacers, driven by consumer interest in sustainable ingredients. According to a recent survey by The Economist, global online searches for sustainable goods have grown by 71% since 2018.

Isralei food company Gavan have produced FaTrix, a protein that binds plant oil and water to form a sustainable, clean-label protein-enriched plant-based fat, with the same functionality as animal-derived fat.

Dutch startup NoPalm Ingredients is producing sustainable oils to replace the use of palm oil in consumer goods. A circular solution, the company applies microbial fermentation technology to side streams such as potato peels, unwanted vegetables, and biomass containing sugar, fatty acids, and alcohols to create a “truly sustainable alternative to palm oil,” co-founder and CEO, Lars Langhout says.

Closing the taste gap between plant- and animal-based products

Fat is intrinsic to the taste, mouthfeel, and aroma of meat, yet replicating it often proves challenging. According to Mintel, over half of Thai plant-based meat consumers say that meat alternatives that replicate the taste of meat would be appealing to them, while 48% of US consumers avoid buying plant-based meat alternatives due to taste and flavour concerns.

Increasing investment and interest in plant-based and cultivated meat alternatives, alongside developments in technology, are paving the way for new, next generation fats that mimic the properties of conventional fat, without the need for animals.

Creating hybrid products that combine plant-based ingredients with cell cultured fat, San Francisco-headquartered Mission Barns is also looking to bring more sustainable, animal-fat alternatives to market. Focussing on cultivated fat to deliver flavour and plant-based ingredients for texture, the company is currently producing a range of products including bacon, meatballs, and sausages, but say the application for its fat is wide.

Patent-pending innovations like Nestlé’s animal fat analogue, consisting of potato fibre, pea protein isolate, lipids, and calcium salt, cater to this growing segment, emphasising appearance, texture, and taste akin to conventional meat.