The next edition of Vitafoods Europe (Geneva, May 10 to 12, 2016) will mark 20 years of the event. A lot has changed in the world of nutrition since the event was first staged in 1997. But how will it look in 2020? We asked a selection of leading experts to give us their predictions in a range of key areas.
Plants Seize Power
Protein’s popularity is sky-high in the world of nutrition, as illustrated by the extraordinary success of the Greek yogurt category in recent years. On the back of this trend, Ewa Hudson, global head of health and wellness research at Euromonitor International, forecasted that plant proteins will blaze a trail in 2020.
“We envisage that a wide variety of plant-based proteins—derived from many different types of beans, lentils, nuts, grains, seeds, vegetables and so on—are going to be important in the future, rather than just a select few ‘blockbuster’ proteins." she said. The large variety of plant-based protein options is important, Hudson said, because they are common allergens, and no single protein type is tolerated by everyone. “Consumers need to be able to choose what is right for their bodies," she said.
In addition, variety satisfies consumer preferences in terms of sourcing, sustainability and ethics, Hudson noted. For instance, algal proteins, consisting of around 50 percent protein by weight, are new in the market, but are likely to establish themselves firmly by 2020. “In terms of environmental sustainability and nutritional credentials, they make for an ideal choice as a vegan protein source," she said. “Their potential remains underexploited. This applies particularly to microalgae, of which barely one-tenth of the world’s species have so far been scientifically classified."
Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, agreed that “plant power" looks set to be a key trend in 2020. “Plants are in the sweet spot of sustainability, health and naturalness," she explained. “One of the most striking things I saw in 2015 is the vast range of meat substitutes being launched. I think we are going to see a lot of more innovation in this space by 2020, and the products will continue to improve, which will drive consumer demand further."
Beyond plant protein, Hudson said she believes it’s impossible to ignore the potential of insect protein. “Its merits on the nutrition and sustainability fronts are undeniable," she said. “Huge quantities of insect proteins can be produced in very little time, cheaply, using waste materials as a substrate and feed. So, in theory, insect protein could easily satisfy the protein needs of a growing global population. Just 100 g of insect meat is sufficient to satisfy the adult daily requirement for protein, iron and several B vitamins."
The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that around 1,700 insect species are consumed by humans globally. FAO identified four core geographies, where insects constitute an important part of local diets: Africa, Mexico, China and the Mekong Delta area in South East Asia. “In these regions, insect protein has significant growth potential," Hudson said. “However, it is unlikely that consumers in Europe, North America, Australia and other markets, where insects have no significant consumption tradition, are going to embrace insects as a mainstream food. The aversion barrier is just too great for insects to achieve mass-market popularity—and certainly not by 2020—be it as fresh or dried whole insects, insects processed into powder or paste format, or as a protein isolate ingredient."
Interested in protein? Experts from Euromonitor International will be talking in more detail about protein trends on the new Vitafoods Centre Stage. They’ll be joined by independent legal experts, who will offer advice on how the EU’s novel foods regulation impacts the introduction of alternative proteins.
Weight of Expectation
As many as 39 percent of adults aged 18 years or older were overweight in 2014, and 13 percent were obese, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Will we have finally come to grips with this problem by 2020? Probably not, according to Professor Julian Mercer, Ph.D., who heads research on obesity at the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition & Health, Scotland.
“2020 is not that far away when considering something as complex and embedded in contemporary societies as obesity," he said. “So globally, I would imagine that obesity will be as bad as, or worse than, it is now, but we may be starting to see a turn in the tide in some countries. However, even if prevalence rates appear to drop from one year to the next, it will require several consecutive years of data before a real change can be claimed with assurance."
Mercer believes the food industry will play a key role in cutting rates of overweight and obesity by 2020 with a range of portion-controlled foods.
The latest nutrition research into weight management will be covered in depth at the Vitafoods Europe Conference, in a session dedicated to the subject, starting at 9:30 a.m. on May 10.
Natural to Become a No-No?
It has been the biggest trend in the industry for the past few years, but what will it mean for a product to be “natural" in 2020? According to Patrick Coppens, regional director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at EAS Strategies, we can expect more scrutiny from regulators. “It is likely that this term will be better defined, either through guidance or in legislation," he said. He said the term “natural" should only be used for products that are comprised only of ingredients that have not undergone chemical or artificial treatments. “If this cannot be ensured, companies sometimes indicate that the product originates from a natural source. This is obviously not the same." He noted nearly everything we eat is derived from natural animal or vegetable origin, so this term would cover the vast majority of food ingredients.
Williams of Innova Market Insights said the word “natural" may even be falling out of use by 2020. “Like health claims in the early 2000s, ‘natural’ has been abused to the point that it is no longer a differentiator in terms of product positioning. I think this is where transparency takes over. Claims are becoming more specific, and ‘natural’ will be considered too general a term by 2020."
More information about the labelling laws governing the use of terms such as “natural" will be available in the new Vitafoods Europe Advice Centre, where exhibitors and visitors can connect one-to-one, and discuss specific challenges and opportunities in specialist areas such as regulation, testing and quality assurance (QA).
The Age of Longevity
According to United Nations data, in 1950, life expectancy at birth was 65 years in developed countries; by 2020, it will have reached nearly 80 years, and will continue to rise beyond then. In addition, the gap between life expectancies in the developed world and in developing regions is narrowing steadily.
Peter Wennstrom, founder and expert consultant at the Healthy Marketing Team, said he believes older people will embrace the benefits of technology where they will monitor their health with digital devices, getting constant feedback—what he calls “iNutrition." He explained, “This means the health benefits of nutrition products will be more personalized and more driven by the consumer than today. As a result, nutraceutical companies will need to follow senior consumers, their needs and their lifestyles carefully, and stay very close to nutrition science and the development of digital devices."
The new Life Stages Theatre at Vitafoods Europe 2016 will play host to leading independent experts, who will share perspectives on specific nutrition requirements for consumers of all ages, from infant to senior. There will also be a conference session dedicated to healthy aging starting at 3:45 p.m. on May 10.
Packaging that Talks Back
Consumers are already spending huge amounts of time looking at their smart phones, and in 2020, this is likely to have a greater influence on how they shop for nutrition products. “Packaging in 2020 will interact more directly with smart phones," predicted Jeff Hilton, partner and co-founder at BrandHive. “In particular, more healthy product consumers will want to know what experiences other people have had with particular brands. Packaging will facilitate this by allowing a consumer to scan a code—QR or some other type—that takes their mobile to a page of consumer reviews for that particular product."
The new Vitafoods Europe Packaging Innovation Centre will offer an exclusive insight into advances in packaging technology, with a focus on hot topics such as pack design, delivery systems, convenience, labelling and sustainability.
“3-D printing" is already making waves, revolutionizing the way a range of objects are produced. What role might it play in the nutrition industry? Lauren Clardy, president of NutriMarketing Group, sees potential for its application in personalizing products for the consumer. “3-D printing technology can allow for customized doses based on nutrigenomics and metabolomics, and can be adapted for the weight of the patient," she said. “It can also allow for a varied release profile. So, for example, we might see a 3-D-printed pill that contains bio-actives such as probiotics that will release nutrients at different stages and times in the gut."
Innova’s Williams added: “For consumers that track everything and are willing to get blood tested frequently enough, 3-D printing of nutrition products could create an opportunity for creating personalized supplements."
Vitafoods Europe 2016 will be packed with exciting features and attractions offering insight into what the future holds for the world of nutrition. Click the following links to peruse the breadth of educational sessions in the conference program and the international speaker roster, or go directly to vitafoods.eu.com for more details and to register.