Fusing Food with Medicine – A Growing Trend in the Food Ingredients Industry!

Food Ingredients, Additives & Nutraceuticals is a major division at Key Corporate Services. We recruit and place elite professionals within these industries on a continual basis. And, our recruiting specialists follow the industry trends closely.

One growing trend in this industry involves the growth of “functional” foods. You may be asking, “what are ‘functional foods?

Quite simply, they’re anything that is designed with a buyer’s health in mind. You see them every time you go to the grocery store. These can include everything from probiotic yogurts to enriched dairy products, pasta, and even cereal.

An article in Advanced Biotech entitled Functional Food Trends discussed how flavorists are playing an ever-increasing role in the growth of these functional foods. http://www.adv-bio.com/functional-food-trends/

Nutraceuticals and functional food products are increasingly making their way to mainstream store shelves. Whether it’s a beverage with added lutein for eye health or bread with omega-3 rich fish oil, functional foods offer consumers the opportunity to get added nutrients while fulfilling their caloric needs. “Instead of just buying products that taste good, people want something that has functionality to it,” said Bob Marincic, vice president of sales with Blue Pacific Flavors in City of Industry, Calif. “People are willing to pay more for those premium products.”

There’s a clear reason why this trend in functional foods is taking place. Though they’ve been around for years, there was never really a focus on delicious flavor in these types of foods until recent years. However, with buyers increasing their focus on health and nutrition, it’s more important than ever to develop functional food products that are also optimized for delicious flavor.

Formulating products with unique ingredients that have health value often involves the use of ingredients that have tastes and aromas not typically found in traditional foods or beverages. Luckily for consumers, the science to cover up those “off” notes is developing as rapidly as the interest. Flavorists add masking and modifying agents as natural or chemical additions that offset the harsh flavors from other ingredients.

The goal of formulators is to reduce “off notes’ in some manner to make products more palatable and to confuse the taste buds,” said Maureen Draganchuk, vice president of business development with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Virginia Dare. “Masking agents cover up unwanted flavors without altering the active materials. People are realizing that things that are good for you don’t have to taste bad.”

Among the most common attributes that flavor houses are asked to mask are bitterness, metallic aftertaste and barnyard/beany notes. Bitterness is found in many botanical ingredients, while soy is the most common beany contributor. Herbal ingredients are declining in popularity, while omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as lutein are picking up speed. Also, soy remains on a fast growth track in many functional products, thanks in large part to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) allowance of a heart health claim for the ingredient.

And, there is a move to whole grains and wheat rather than refined flour in food products. Flavorists must now seek out ways to deliver flavors that work with the natural taste of these grains. Additionally, the importance of natural flavor ingredients in flavor creation is more important than ever before.

The same need is evident in the explosive growth of gluten-free food products. Early on, these products were very bland and lacked the taste of gluten-enriched counterparts. But now, gluten- free products are everywhere and the taste has improved dramatically. In fact, when it comes to gluten-free foods today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between these flavors and any other flavors one might pick up. This radical improvement is the result of flavorists working to develop substitute flavors normally associated with gluten-related ingredients.

Flavorists are increasingly developing “artisanal flavors” previously absent in conventional food production. The motivation to do this is the result of millennial-led expanding interest in tastes normally associated with exotic, distant lands. Increased travel afforded by greater disposable income of this generation has fueled the growth in demand for these artisanal flavors.

Whether natural cinnamic acid and natural vanillin are being used, or whether a lavender and lemon flavor combination is being used, the one thing that should be key in functional food production is understanding the motivation for consumers who are purchasing these products. While satisfying an increased demand for more exotic flavorings, consumers also want to feel good about their food choices. So, sticking to the freshest and most natural flavors possible is always the optimal choice in creating flavors for these functional food products.

Functional foods are playing an increasingly important role in addressing health-related issues.

functional foods and health-related issuesThe fusion between food and medicine is evident everywhere. We’ve all heard the axiom “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” One day, food may actually contain the keys to curing your diseases and preventing illness. This trend is driven not by millenials, but rather by the aging baby-boomer population.

According to Michele Fite, President of Protein Solutions for Solae, part of DuPont Nutrition & Health and a division that specializes in soy ingredients, “Medical foods or nutraceutical foods are a bridge between pharma-specific drugs to solve specific problems – and foods that are better for you.  Somewhere in the middle are foods that are also more medicinal than mainstream foods are today.”

The aging US population has numerous health concerns ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer to protein deficiencies. Medicinal foods could greatly reduce the prevalence of these aliments by containing additional functional benefits or specific nutritional elements that have an active impact on human health.

Functional foods could treat such illnesses as cognitive function, solve joint health, reduce heart disease, or lower blood pressure. While some are the result of new sciences, others harken back to ancient systems of healing. Herbal nutrition and medicine, long practiced in Asia, are providing proven sources of what does and doesn’t work.

As a major executive recruiter, Key Corporate Services is well-positioned to connect qualified candidates to outstanding career opportunities in Food Ingredients, Additives & Nutraceuticals. At any time, we have several open positions available in this growing segment.

We invite you to take a look at our current openings in the food ingredients sector and give us a call if you are looking for new opportunities in this exciting industry.