The Germany-based ingredients company, which held the event to mark its 75thAnniversary this week, focused on how the food industry could create value through innovations that target this trend.
'Achieving healthy corporate growth with healthy products' was how Hans-Peter Voss managing director at Wild, expressed the objective of the food industry for the coming years, even decades.
In his estimation, although the initial economic conditions for food companies in Europe are not easy, the prospects are very positive. After the massive concentration processes and cut-price policies of the past, he foresees - like many market researchers - a reversal in the trend.
He said that consumers are increasingly demanding quality, a term that includes criteria such as health and wellness. Quality as a purchasing criterion has become more important than price, according to Voss.
According to Voss, the greatest challenge - in addition to the definite scientific effect - is to prove to consumers that healthy food developed in this way can also be delicious. Taste is still the deciding factor.
Growth potential in the dairy industry
Stephane Lecoq, vice president of the food strategic business unit at Wild, gave a presentation on the development of dairy products and the current trends in Europe.
Lecoq regarded the greatest area of growth potential in the dairy industry to be products perceived by consumers to be 'natural and healthy' with high fruit content, new fruit and vegetable combinations or organic products benefits. In Europe, health is the second most frequently stated reason after "enjoyment and pleasure".
Consumers therefore are attracted to health products with functional added value. As a result, the market of functional products has developed very well and currently accounts for approximately $81 billion, after reaching $65 billion the previous year.
For 2010, a turnover of $120 billion is expected.
Lecoq saw two fundamental directions in terms of development for products with health-promoting additional benefits: first, the reduction of ingredients with a negative image, such as sugar, fat, salt or additives with E numbers and secondly, the enrichment of products with functional ingredients such as soy, omega-3 fatty acids and plant extracts, which have a positive image.
Rainer Engler, sales director for sweets Europe at Wild, said that the continued existence of high-calorie confectionery in today's health-conscious society could be explained by the emotional value of confectionery as a personal reward and also the numerous innovative product concepts in this sector. Engler emphasised that taste remains top priority in the confectionery industry.
However, modern confectionery concepts with healthy additional benefits are beginning to measure up to traditional products due to the rapid developments in technology and unique new raw ingredients.
Engler identified a number of fundamental trends in the confectionery industry, the first being the growth of the premium sector. Price is no longer the most important factor, and innovative new technology has enabled new products to be produced.
In addition, Engler recommended making increased use of the high regard for fruit and its positive image. He presented products with 20 per cent more fruit juice, sugarcoated sweets with natural colourings and fruity ice cream creations from pure, natural ingredients.
Engler believes that natural colours are becoming increasingly important in many European countries - in particular, products aimed at children. Roel van Dam, manager of business development at VSI, analysed the European chocolate bar market and found that the trend towards enrichment with healthy ingredients was also noticeable. Artificial ingredients, such as sweeteners or fat substitutes, are being replaced with natural ingredients according to van Dam.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Finally, Wild identified a number of 'true functionals' such as omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols, whose physiological effects are known.
Philipp C. Calder, a professor at the Institute for Human Nutrition at theUniversity of Southampton, demonstrated the importance of omega-3 fatty acids for health. He verified that omega-3 fatty acids are 'true functionalIngredients', where the positive health effects have been proven in numerousresearch projects.