When it comes to R&D in the food industry, optimism is high for 2023. Nearly two out of three (63%) food & beverage industry professionals anticipate sales growth while 69% project rising revenue throughout the year.
While hopeful about the future, concerns about supply chain disruption and inflation persist. To address those challenges, nearly three out of four (72%) food manufacturers and other food & beverage industry executives say that product/service expansion and innovation are their top business strategies.
How they achieve those goals will depend largely on the broader, behind-the-scenes work done by research and development (R&D) teams. What initiatives are product developers working on? Seven prevalent R&D food trends are driving deliverables, versatility and competitiveness in the marketplace:
- Reliable Ingredient Sourcing
- Trimming of SKUs in Inventory
- New, Not Just Improved Products
- Collaborative Product Development
- Increased Speed to Market
- Targeted Health Claims
- Sustainable, Real ingredients
1. Reliable Ingredient Sourcing
No matter how innovative a formulation may be, it will be of little use if the ingredients aren’t available at scale or when they’re needed. A recent survey of R&D professionals in the food industry cited problems resulting from shortages of starches, gums and maltodextrin, among others. Despite being commodities, such ingredients have been hard to come by. Price volatility of fresh dairy is a major concern as well.
Even though consumer behaviors are returning to pre-pandemic norms, ingredient supply chain disruption continues. As a result, food manufacturers are changing sourcing or manufacturing to sites where they have better control, stressing the importance of working with a supplier that can ensure deliverability.
R&D teams and formulators may want to consider Grande Bravo® whey protein concentrate from Grande Custom Ingredients Group as an all-natural alternative to partially replace heavy cream, delivering optimal flavor and texture in creamy applications. Just as importantly, it is produced in the heart of the Midwest, meaning it is readily available and will show up when promised.
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2. Trimming of SKUs in Inventory
Linked to ingredient supply chain issues is the attempt to reduce the number of ingredient SKUs kept in inventory. SKU rationalization and optimization help to reduce overhead costs and streamline inventory management. Reducing SKUs can also align with initiatives to reduce ingredient lists and clean up labels. To do so, however, formulators and R&D teams need to leverage all-in-one solutions.
Unlike commodity whey protein concentrates, the use of Grande Bravo in creamy soups, sauces, dips and dressings builds viscosity and provides structure. No additional masking or thickening agents are required to deliver a rich, thick, creamy texture. Likewise, Grande Gusto®, a partial replacement for cheese and cheese powder, improves texture in cheese sauces while maintaining signature flavors.
RELATED ARTICLE: Whey Protein’s Place in Food Trends
3. New, Not Just Improved Products
Survey participants were asked what their most important emphasis would be in the coming year. One-third (33%) said they were pursuing “really new” product development, but gains were also seen in existing product improvement and cleaning up current products.
How are food and beverage R&D teams coming up with their product ideas and improvements?
4. Collaborative Product Development
The makeup of R&D teams looks a lot different than it did a few years ago. About one-third of R&D teams (31%) now say they seek assistance from outside suppliers. These types of collaborative business relationships with their supply chains can increase the probability of product success.
This kind of approach aligns closely with Grande Custom Ingredients Group’s team of professional formulators and food scientists who adhere to the highest levels of confidentiality and assist R&D teams by helping customers determine ideal formulations for their applications.
R&D product development is also influenced by cross-departmental teams, with 69% of marketing and sales teams participating in ideation and 50% of manufacturing and management also weighing in.
5. Increased Speed to Market
An end result of all that collaboration is getting to market faster. Product development timelines shortened considerably in 2022, with 40% saying it takes them six months to get from concept to shelf, up from 28% last year. One-third say it takes nearly a year.
To get to market quickly, R&D professionals need to rely on proven and readily available 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.
6. Targeted Health Claims
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-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.
Reduced-fat products with a twist are making a big comeback, making Grande Bravo a go-to choice when replacing high-fat dairy. Products targeting reduced sodium are also a priority for many food manufacturers that want to align with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) call to help Americans reduce their daily sodium intake. The FDA reports that more than 70% of sodium in consumers’ diets is from salt added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation. Sodium reduction initiatives using all-natural ingredients will continue to gain market share in coming years.
RELATED ARTICLE: Sodium Reduction Initiatives Gain Traction in Food Industry
7. Sustainable, Real Ingredients
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. In fact, the market value of some alternative plant-based meat products fell a shocking 85% in 2022. Reasons include higher cost, a drop in consumer perception as a healthier option and, quite simply, their flavors and textures can’t compete with the real thing.
Some survey respondents said they were “sourcing upcycled ingredients.” One such ingredient is all-natural whey protein concentrate. It’s been proven to have less environmental impact than plant proteins and many other ingredients. Using ingredients that can combine sustainability, waste reduction, clean labels and transparency may help manufacturers weather shifting consumer preferences over time.
Whey Protein Aligns With R&D Goals
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. Whey protein, like Grande Bravo, is a recognized and trusted ingredient that is shelf stable and price stable, unlike fresh cream, cream cheese and cheese.
Most importantly, however, is that Grande Bravo whey protein concentrate maintains or enhances a product’s flavor, texture and mouthfeel. For more on the latest food trends, view our on-demand Consumer Food Trends and Market Response webinar. Click the button below, and contact us to discuss choosing all-natural ingredients offered by Grande Custom Ingredients Group.