The increase in ‘artificial’ intelligence

Savvy consumers are more conscious of food labels and demand more products that list ‘no artificial ingredients’

Modern consumers are reading more labels, eating more snacks and relying more on the internet for nutritional information.

The top trend is a demand for clear labels that assure consumers the products contain no artificial ingredients or GMOs, said Joanne Clifton of Innova Market Insights, an international database that tracks food trends and new products.

“There is a more than doubling in ‘no artificial ingredients’ claim in 2014 compared to 2010,” Clifton said at a food innovations conference in Calgary May 27.

Information from consumers’ actual purchasing behaviour shows that more of them are buying food containing no preservatives.

“Consumers want to know the origin of the food they eat and understandability in labels,” Clifton said.

Innova’s research found that 44 percent of Canadians claimed they decreased their consumption of processed food in the last two years. They wanted less sodium, sugar and high fructose corn syrup in their food.

The next trend is more convenience along with continued interest in home cooking. It is seen as fashionable, fun and social, as well as healthy and cost-effective.

“It has driven demand for a greater choice of fresh foods, ingredients for cooking from scratch and a wider use of recipe suggestions by manufacturers and retailers,” she said.

Home cooks want convenience, so more retailers are offering packages of suitable combinations of meat and vegetables that can be purchased to make a meal.

Marketing to 15- to 35-year-olds is the next trend.

These young people rely increasingly on websites for nutritional information and account for one-third of the global population. They are well informed, want to try something different and are generally less brand loyal than older consumers. They want to connect with products and brands and know the story behind them. They acknowledge they would like to eat healthy but do not always do so.

Another trend is the switch to snacks as formal mealtimes continue to decline in popularity.

“A growing number of foods and drinks are considered snacks and are tending to replace traditional meals,” said Clifton.

Most of the increase in snack products is found in North America.

More than 40 percent of Canadians said they believe eating several healthy snacks a day is better than three meals. A quarter of them said they feel guilty about eating snacks, but cutting down on them would mean a big lifestyle change.

More than half of Chinese consumers said they prefer snacks to meals, but only nine percent of those in Japan agreed.

Snacks may be new products such as breakfast biscuits. They are often a whole grain, dense cookie that can be eaten on the go rather than preparing a meal.

Good fats and carbohydrates are on the trendy list as the increasing concern over obesity has resulted in a growing emphasis on unsaturated and natural fats and oils.

There is more interest in omega 3 fatty acid content, and real butter is returning as a natural alternative to margarine. Naturally occurring sugar is favoured at the expense of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Another change is the desire for more protein in the diet.

Consumers can expect to see more protein derived from soybeans, peas, nuts, whey, algae and insects, which could be added to drinks and cereals.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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