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Consumers focused on natural ingredients, protein to improve health – Food Business News

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ARNHEM, THE NETHERLANDS — Ingredients, especially those consumers perceive as being natural, are becoming increasingly important factors in purchasing decisions, according to data from Innova Market Insights.

The market researcher identified “ingredients taking the spotlight” as its top trend for 2024 as consumers continue to emphasize the role of diet on their well-being, particularly due to the pandemic. More than 40% of consumers said they are engaging in a healthy and nutritious diet as the main way to improve their health, and ingredients identified as fresh and natural with high nutritional value are seen as a key aspect in their dietary improvements.

“(The pandemic) really did put health and well-being higher up on the agenda,” said Tessa Schoones, market analyst at Innova, in an online webinar. “We see so many more consumers taking a proactive approach.”

As a result of their health and wellness focus, consumers also have begun to pay more attention to ingredient information on product packaging, with roughly one third of consumers saying they always look at ingredients of interest on packaging. Shoppers are highly conscientious about reducing their intake of artificial ingredients, and 60% said clean label concerns have at least some influence on their purchasing habits.

“Consumers are just really aware of the ingredients and the nutrients that they need to live healthily,” Schoones said.

Ingredients associated with natural elements have become a point of emphasis. Nearly three-quarters of consumers said natural foods deliver sufficient nutrients to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, and 62% said choosing natural foods is the best way to ensure a healthy diet.

Popular ingredients in the natural trend include mushrooms like maitake and lion’s mane. Innova found a 40% growth in compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for new products featuring maitake mushrooms, along with a 27% CAGR increase for new products with lion’s mane and a 26% CAGR increase for chaga mushroom product launches.

“Healthy mushrooms are really a standout category,” Schoones said.

Protein also has remained a focus for many shoppers, with 42% identifying protein as their most important ingredient. Millennials and Gen Z are especially focused on protein, naming it their most important ingredient.

The popularity of protein has allowed the ingredient to grow beyond its traditional core category of sports nutrition products. Applications in desserts and ice cream are on the rise, with a 36% growth in CAGR for product launches using protein in the name. The snack category also has seen a 17% CAGR increase in product launches with protein in the name. New products featuring “high in protein” or “high source of protein” claims also have seen consistent growth over the last several years, rising from 100 launches in 2019, to 124 in 2021 and 133 in 2023.

“Of course, protein is not something new, but we see it really emerging as a star ingredient in the modern marketplace,” Schoones said.

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