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December 29, 2023
The food and beverage industry is constantly evolving. Here are some ingredients, flavors and colors set to explode in 2024.
Four in 10 consumers said they are actively trying to reduce their consumption of animal-based products. Many, however, have had no choice but to reach for fish or fish-derived supplements to get adequate amounts of certain important nutrients, like the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. (The third type of omega-3, ALA, is easily obtained from nuts and seeds.)
This might be about to change. A forthcoming January 2024 study in the journal BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids concluded that oil from the seeds of the ahiflower, a flowering herb often found in the U.K. hedgerows, could help raise DHA levels similarly to increasing dietary DHA intake.
Why is this such a big deal? According to the study’s authors, the project of helping the world’s population meet the current dietary DHA recommendations through seafood alone would have “ecologically disastrous implications.”
Ahiflower isn’t just something you take in a capsule, either. Unlike fish oil, its delicate flavor is at home in food products like dressings, dips and spreads.
Hydration drinks and sports drinks are one of the fastest-growing categories of functional beverages, with a value of $6.77 billion in 2022 and a projection of $9.38 billion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insights.
The only problem? There’s little consensus about what should go in them. “Ask 10 different groups [for a formulation], and you’ll get 10 different answers,” Luke Huber from the Council for Responsible Nutrition said in the SupplySide West 2023 educational session, “Hydration Innovation.”
Electrolyte minerals like sodium and potassium are a no-brainers when the goal is hydration, but increasingly, these drinks also contain other functional ingredients. For one example, Kyowa Hakko launched Launch Hydrate, a bottled sports drink with the nootropic Cognizin in 2023. Other brands are taking this category in even more unexpected directions, such as beauty and longevity.
“They’re making claims for anti-aging and healthy skin, with clinical research supporting these brands,” Liz Cummings, VP of business development at the Nicholas Hall Group of Companies, said in the “Hydration Innovation” session. “Beauty is an area to watch out for, with lots of opportunities to offer clinically proven benefits with premium packaging for consumers.”
A number of innovative, nonanimal fermented proteins launched in 2022 and 2023, but most currently remain far more expensive and less nutritionally robust than chicken or beef. As food scientist, founder and co-CEO of EQUII, Monica Bhati, Ph.D., said in the SupplySide West seminar, “Fermentation’s Role in the Future of Food and Beverage,” the dollar-per-kilogram of protein cost of fermented protein is still too high for these ingredients to become staples, rather than luxury items.
That could change soon, however. The Oman Investment Authority launched a joint venture with mushroom-based protein manufacturer MycoTechnology to construct a state-of-the-art facility to scale up protein production serving countries in the Middle East. The facility will use upcycled dates from Oman’s vast orchards to fuel MycoTechnology’s proprietary fermentation platform using mushroom mycelia.
“We did a tasting in June in Saudi Arabia, and what was interesting was that all the food was close to their normal flavors and textures,” MycoTechnology CTO Ranjan Patnaik, Ph.D., said. “The fibers in mushrooms are actually much closer to animal fibers like chicken meat than they are to plant fiber. So, what we have to do is figure out how to sell mushrooms as animals in their own way.”
The nutritional power of spices like turmeric and paprika have become common knowledge in recent years, but in addition to being potent antioxidants, they’re also potent coloring agents. According to Dan O’Connell, CEO and founder of the marketing firm Foodmix, label-conscious consumers are eager to find more ingredients that can do double-duty: boosting food’s visual appeal along with its nutrition.
The next big color? The deep purple hue of ube, a purple yam originally from the Philippines. The tuber’s sweet, vanilla-like flavor can serve as the centerpiece of a dessert, but it’s also popping up in everything from hot dog buns to cocktails as an additive or extract. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, but ube’s appeal also derives from what it’s not: an artificial colorant like Red No. 3, which was recently banned in California.
“This is part of a broader ‘clean label’ choice for many consumers,” O’Connell said. “When you look at that label, people are really looking for simplicity and clarity of ingredients.”
Nick Collias is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience working in the health and fitness industry. From 2016 to 2021, he was the host of the Bodybuilding.com Podcast, interviewing elite athletes and training thought-leaders on a wide range of exercise, nutrition and lifestyle topics. Additionally, he has worked for the last 20 years as a longform print and online journalist, as well as a book author, ghostwriter and editor.
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