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Driving the fruit and veg plosion

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Consumers around the globe are adopting plant-forward lifestyles. It is a trend evident in the non-food and food and drink sector. Fruit and vegetables are exploding into new product developments, primarily driven by health. The trend develops as consumers become much more knowledgeable about their health, as implications surrounding the consumption of meat, sugar, emulsifiers and artificial flavours continue to grow.

Growing functionality and healthy convenience

After a number of high profile scandals and contradictory advice concerning diet, ethical, environmental, animal and human welfare concerns are helping drive transparency, traceability and the exemplification of natural. Consumers across the globe are rejecting synthetic flavours in favour of natural extracts and essences as “natural” boasts “cleaner” implications. As a result, clean-label and free-from claims have increased to reassure consumers with ingredient purity, production processes and supply chains.

Gravitation towards added functionality remains strong in almost every beverage category, as consumers want to “biohack” themselves better. Providing hydration simply is not enough for the modern-day consumer, who now expects a whole host of benefits with the products they buy. On-the-go ready-to-drink (RTD) functionality is key for consumers who desire to “live better.” They want to purchase products that will help reach their personal targets. Whether it is to meet their daily micronutrients or to resolve issues such as fatigue or stress. From added protein, fibre and vitamins, consumers want convenient and beneficial solutions to integrate seamlessly into their lifestyles, premediating their diets before difficulties in health arise. This is driving manufacturers to reformulate, configuring a balance between structure, flavour and sweetness whilst removing key ingredients, such as sugar.

Taste and flavour can be altered by a variety of factors. It can be caused by underlying harvest characteristics through to processing. This can be problematic for beverage manufacturers who strive for consistency. Treatt is a leading ingredients manufacturer and solutions provider to the global flavour, fragrance and consumer goods market. Treatt’s flavour ingredients can be used to create well-rounded, fresh and true to nature profiles or as an impactful top note to add that little something extra. Offering everything from 100% natural, clean label solutions from the named fruit, bespoke blends or price-stable synthetics, our solutions can make all the difference.

Treatt’s portfolio also consists of citrus oils that range from single folds to terpeneless solutions, including a series of folds in between. Treatt’s reputation as a trusted solutions provider in the citrus space has been earned over our 130 year history by delivering consistently high-quality ingredients in what has become an increasingly challenging marketplace.

Familiar and different ingredients

By blending familiar, known or trusted ingredients or pairing with the more unusual, brands can appeal to a broader and more profitable consumer audience. Fruits and vegetables also allow brands to tap into seasonal and cultural preferences with recognisable ingredients. This is apparent in non-alcoholic craft-style beverages with flavour pairings such as orange combined with a less recognisable ingredient such as guanabana.

As image-centric social media becomes more popular amongst millennials, the food and drink we purchase is influenced by this social sharing. Brands are pushing flavour boundaries as consumers become more willing to experiment with new flavours. Rich and indulgent cross-category pairings are becoming more apparent in the drink sector, such as lemon drizzle gins as permissible indulgence becomes acceptable. This is a counter trend towards sugar reduction.

Karen Cocksedge, Treatt’s Applications Manager says: “Consumer demand for healthier beverages is really driving the push towards fruit and vegetable drinks which are naturally low in sugar. Consumers are wanting products they can trust and as such, are seeking beverages which contain ingredients that they are familiar with. That being said, consumers are travelling to more exotic places and are eager to experience more unfamiliar taste sensations. Beverage manufacturers are keeping up with this demand by pairing the more familiar, trusted ingredients with more unusual flavours pairings. Consumers’ taste palates are evolving and there is a demand for more sophisticated flavour profiles as well as fresh and authentic tasting experiences. Fruits and vegetables will continue to be at the forefront of this push towards cleaner, healthier beverages.”

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Gut health and the microbiome

The gut is known as the “second brain.” Consumers are becoming more aware of the inextricable link between gut health and immune system function. Mood food is also a trend developing as consumers become aware of the correlation between gut health and mood. A diet rich in diversity plays an integral role in feeding our gut microbes. A well-balanced microbiota is proven to have a positive impact on mental health, inflammation, weight, allergies and our immune system. Our microbiome is our system of organisms made up of fungi, yeasts, bacteria, viruses and protozoans which thrive on a plant-based nutrition and high-fibre vegetables. Fermented beverages such as kombucha, kefir-based drinks and jun are becoming more mainstream to tackle brain-gut microbiome, as well as drinking vinegars which are said to help support gut health. These beverages are often flavoured with exotic fruits to help balance and distract from more unusual acidity and flavours in the beverages".

Veganism and plant-forward lifestyles

As meat consumption increases along with the global population growth, production is growing at an unsustainable pace. Our heavy consumption of meat is contributing to greenhouse gases, global acidification, eutrophication, reduced biodiversity and the anticipation of water scarcity.

Environmental concerns combined with health are the two primary drivers which are encouraging more consumers to adopt vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyles. Owing to consumer demand, vegan and vegetarian substitutes have developed beyond the beef category, with egg-free substitutes such as aquafaba, a liquid from legumes that acts as an emulsifier. Research has shown the risk of chronic diseases can be lowered and longevity is often lengthened through a plant-based diet. This shift is also driven by the mainstream vegan trend, individual taste preference, economic and moral reasons.

Making green juices taste better

Reducing sugar levels remains high on the agenda for beverage brands and suppliers across the globe with sugar taxes continuing to gain momentum, as well as increasing pressure from health lobbyists driving manufacturers to dramatically reduce sugar content. Consumer appetite for bitter flavours has grown. However, taste remains a key purchase driver. As a result, categories such as flavoured waters are igniting with consumers turning to healthier options. This is pushing consumers towards other beverages such as RTD teas and flavoured waters. In flavoured waters, citrus is the favourite flavour, with orange, lemon and grapefruit being the most popular for their natural and refreshing taste. Grapefruit is still showing an upward trend, despite facing challenging market conditions.

Charlotte Catignani, Treatt’s R&D Manager says: “It is interesting to note, vegetable-based beverages can often be perceived by consumers to contain lower amounts of sugar than fruit-based beverages. However, this can often be misleading as many vegetable-based products are enhanced with sugar to improve flavour. Treatt can solve this problem, as our innovative technology allows flavour and mouthfeel to be improved with our 100% natural solutions, without adding any sugar, calories or colouring.”