6 R&D Food Trends for 2022

R&D-Innovations-Food-and-Beverage.jpgThere’s been a flurry of mergers and acquisitions as food and beverage companies attempt to buy their way into the better-for-you bracket. It’s no surprise that the majority of food and beverage industry professionals report expected sales growth in 2022, but some larger corporations don’t report as promising of an outlook compared to the private label and free-from product segments.

While consumer preferences for healthy food and beverage choices are driving these types of corporate decisions, it’s the broader, behind-the-scenes research and development (R&D) that gives manufacturers traction in the marketplace

Here are six prevalent R&D food industry trends that companies are pursuing to improve their deliverables, versatility and competitiveness.

6 R&D Food Industry Trends for 2022

  1. New, not just improved products
  2. Increased speed to market
  3. Products in response to pandemic
  4. Targeted health claim marketing 
  5. Waste reduction
  6. Sustainable ingredients

1. New, Not Just Improved Products

In a recent R&D food and beverage industry research survey, participants were asked what their most important emphasis would be in the coming year. Surprisingly, improving existing products ranked relatively low, with only 11% of R&D professionals listing it as a priority. Removing ingredients that interfered with clean label initiatives ranked at 16%.

Outranking both of these initiatives combined, however, was “really new” product development at 36%. Where do they get ideas for these new products? The majority rely on internal and general market research, but many also leverage feedback from focus groups and ingredient suppliers that may have insights into how other manufacturers use their products. Many of these R&D teams are improving their odds of product success through collaborative business relationships with their supply chains.

2. Increased Speed to Market

Two-thirds of R&D professionals reported that it takes them six months to a year to get new products to market. In general, they’re getting products to markets slightly faster than the year prior, and they’ll strive for even greater food product research and development efficiencies in 2022. Responding to the ever-changing attitudes and buying habits of consumers is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges facing the food industry. This is especially true during the pandemic, where consumer habits switched seemingly overnight. 

To get to market quickly, R&D professionals need to rely on proven ingredients that stand the test of time and are easily incorporated into existing food systems. Chasing after the next trending ingredient that is here today and gone tomorrow is proving to be costly for some.

Of note is that the pandemic has food manufacturers rethinking their sourcing decisions, especially if they sourced ingredients from other countries. Twice as many reported they are changing sourcing or manufacturing to sites where they have better control (28% in 2021 vs. 14% the year prior), stressing the importance of a reliable chain of custody

RELATED: How To Improve Your Food Product’s Quality – While Reducing Costs

3. Products in Response to Pandemic

Not surprisingly, ranking high among the new products that were launched during the pandemic are foods with immune-boosting claims, including everything from cookies and candy to products with CBD. Fermented products are demonstrating innovation in the beverage industry. Included in the foods that are shown to boost immune properties are those containing high protein ingredients, including whey protein.

Other food and beverage development focused heavily on the “make-at-home” trend as consumers spent more time (and money) in grocery stores than in restaurants. Home delivery services and subscription meal kits will continue to be front and center in 2022, reversing their earlier concerning market trends leading up to the pandemic.

4. Targeted Health Claim Marketing

R&D breakthroughs lead to opportunities for marketers to position and promote products with health claims backed by science. Remaining as a huge advantage for food and beverages in the age of the hyper-educated and hyper-vigilant consumer are clean label claims. Equally important to consumers, however, is maintaining appealing textures, flavors and other factors that impact satiety, without any additives.

Products targeting reduced sodium are a priority for one in five (20%) food manufacturers, up four percentage points from a year earlier. Sodium reduction initiatives using all-natural ingredients will continue to gain traction in coming years.

R&D teams understand the importance of appealing to all four areas of consumers’ conscious consumption. These factors combined with mandatory labeling requirements are reflected in that more than one-third (38%) of companies are actively seeking non-GMO certification. Many companies with established product lines are also developing new formulas to decrease additives and preservatives, thereby increasing freshness and consumer friendliness.

5. Waste Reduction

A major initiative that is being fueled by consumer demand is reducing waste. When paired with the demand for preservative-free foods and natural ingredients, it becomes a major challenge for formulators and R&D departments to check all the boxes. Shelf life is a priority, not only for ingredients kept in a manufacturing facility’s warehouse, but on grocery store shelves and in restaurants.

Reducing waste is not only important from an ethical standpoint, but also is a major factor in cost efficiency. When manufacturers can align consumer demand for reduced waste while still using natural ingredients, it can be a win-win for all.

6. Sustainable Ingredients

Similarly to waste reduction, consumers are looking for products that support sustainability initiatives and have minimal environmental impacts. Some plant-based foods aren’t as sustainable as their claims suggest and are coming under greater scrutiny, however. 

Just one example is the surge in almond milk consumption. The farming practices of almond groves typically use unsustainable amounts of water in already drought-stricken areas. To the scourge of consumers, increased yields are also proving to be a deadly detriment to honey bee populations. Using ingredients that can combine sustainability, waste reduction, clean labels and transparency may help manufacturers weather shifting consumers’ preferences over time.

For these reasons (and many others), it’s worth considering the use of the ultimate upcycled food — whey protein concentrate — in your formulations. It’s been proven to have less environmental impact than plant proteins and many other ingredients. There are many whey ingredients to serve different application needs and, unlike the next fad ingredient that may not resonate with consumers once a product finally hits the shelves, whey protein has proven staying power and numerous health benefits. It’s a recognized and trusted ingredient that is shelf stable and a less costly alternative to its fresh counterparts, including butter, milk, cream, yogurt, eggs, oil and more.

Most importantly, however, is that whey protein maintains or enhances a product’s flavor, texture and mouthfeel. For more on creating industry-competitive, better-for-you food and beverages, download 6 Formulation Tips for Lowering Ingredient Costs & Enhancing Quality. Click the button below to download your free copy, and contact us to discuss choosing all-natural ingredients offered by Grande Custom Ingredients Group.

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