Twenty-eleven was a year filled with milestones. Let's surge forward next year, with a renewed outlook on the industry. Innovation for affordability; longer shelf-life; Fairtrade and organic; computer savvy consumers of tomorrow; and climate change will be discussed in this extensive analysis of the top trends for 2012.
The African focus – innovation for affordability
Affordability and functionality are top priorities for most South Africans. Convenience, health and wellbeing and the indulgence trends mean nothing to the majority. The challenge R&D teams face is, how can cheap, quality food with added benefits be developed cost-effectively and sold at an affordable price?
'We face tough times in this country,' says Rudy McLean, MD of Symrise, 'Tough times offer opportunities. Innovation for affordability is the way forward!'
Local is lekker
Ingredients such as baobab, aloe and rooibos continue to make it into trendy new products. It is hoped rooibos will be registered as an exclusive South African product according to Geographic Indication Standards, much like Champagne from France and Port from Portugal, by the end of 2011. This will not only set it apart as an ingredient solely produced in SA, but it will help to protect the land on which it's produced, the Cederberg, which is an important biodiversity hot spot.
Prof Alvaro Viljoen, from the Tshwane University of Technology, stressed that products stating they contain elements of certain indigenous ingredients must commit to vigorous and thorough testing by scientific professionals before making any claims. His chief concern is that the reputation of these plants will be tainted by products on the market that do not fulfil the promised claims.
Fairtrade and organic
Consumer demand for natural food products is booming in SA, says Sharon Bolel of Sharon Bolel Chemical Marketing. This is wholly in line with global trends, she says. A new Eco Pulse survey of 1000 shoppers released in June 2011 found consumers in the USA want food products with 'natural', or 'organic' on the label. Twenty-five per cent said they look for '100 per cent natural' or 'all natural' products, while 24 per cent said 'USDA certified organic' or '100 per cent organic' affected their purchases.
In SA sustainable general business practice is being bought to the fore, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to trade abroad without accreditation stating sustainable practices have been maintained. The SA wine industry is an example to follow as Western Cape farmers continue to be acknowledged for their sustainable practices both locally and abroad.
Coffee, tea and cocoa all grow on the African continent. These products have been farmed for centuries by local farmers. Coffee is the number one traded commodity in the world, and tea and chocolate aren't far behind. The first Fairtrade chocolate bar was launched in SA in October this year and large coffee producers, such a Ciro and Kraft, are embarking on Fairtrade coffee products. Watch this space.
The new labelling legislation will be implemented by the end of March next year. Many companies fear the legislation is going to make it more expensive for new products to make claims about products 'free-from', 'all-natural' or '100%'. Brand names may even have to change.
Allergens are in the spotlight and continue to spark debate. SA has a long way to go in terms of classifying and instilling high allergen alert at all food and beverage manufacturers across SA.
The ISO 22 000 accreditation, although a costly procedure, should be an industry standard rather than a celebrated achievement, South African safety auditors claim. Health and safety as well as allergen control is a risk that's far more costly in the long-run. The Consumer Protection Act, despite its detractors and daunting prospects for suppliers, may also be a tool to help get the food industry in SA in ship shape.
Salt, sugar and cholesterol – consumers want none of it! Research shows that in SA, over 30 per cent of women are classified as obese. Diabetes and obesity are world epidemics, and the food industry is pulling its weight to offer 'lite' and healthier options.
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, SA Minister of Health, put the big issue in the spotlight, encouraging South Africans to go and get tested – not just for HIV/AIDS, but diabetes. Increasing obesity figures shows an increase in type two diabetes, which has been dubbed 'an emerging epidemic' by Prof Paul Rheeder from the University of Pretoria. His research showed that, 'a prevalence figure of 3,4 per cent for the 24 million South Africans between the ages of 20 and 79, is expected to increase to 3,9 per cent by 2025.'
The Department of Health ruled that effective from the 17 August 2011, the sale, manufacture or importing of foodstuffs containing partially hydrogenated fats and oils is prohibited. According to the Department, all food products can only contain less than two grams non-ruminant trans-fats (or industrially manufactured trans-fats) per 100 grams of fat.
Trans-fatty acids occurring naturally in animal fats may have health benefits and are therefore excluded from the new legislation. Non-ruminant trans-fats are man-made trans-fats, also referred to as industrially processed trans fatty acids (IP-TFAs) identified by scientists worldwide, and the World Health Organization, to be one of the major factors contributing to the global pandemic of chronic diseases of lifestyle such as coronary heart disease and obesity.
Furthermore, the Department of Health plans to introduce legislation to lower the salt content of food. According to Dr Motsoaledi, the South African diet has been shown to be very high in salt.
Juice for thought
According to a European report, many fruit drinks are almost entirely artificially made. It found Ribena squash promotes vitamin C content without making it clear that 90 per cent of it is artificially added to the drink because so little fruit is contained in the bottle. Campaigners say manufacturers such as Britvic encourages parents to give their children squash and juice products instead of water, based on unsubstantiated claims that these products hydrate better than H2O. The Children's Food Campaign, which opposes 'junk' food, claims there is no evidence to support this.
Consumers don't just want a snack on-the-go, they want something quick and easy containing ingredients with a kick. Busier lifestyles, longer working hours and increased health consciousness are fuelling a new-wave of future foods. Snack bars containing natural functional ingredients are a big craze. Sports and energy drinks containing more than a quick buzz are in, so natural ingredients that are low-GI and promote energy throughout the day, such as ginseng, are hot. Research has also shown that functional snacks that are sugar-free are must haves. Sourcing sugar alternatives is on the agenda of most ingredient suppliers. Substitute sugars to look out for are isomaltase and monk fruit.
Organoleptic first, functional second
More than 300 consumers were recruited for a recent study conducted by Solae, developers of soy-based ingredients, and were asked to rate their opinion of 20 different nutrition bars. The study concluded consumers rate taste and texture as the key drivers for purchasing chocolate-based nutrition bars. Solae believe the results of this investigation will help to identify optimal sensory characteristics for nutrition bars and discover potential new areas of opportunity for their customers.
Overall, flavour and texture were the most important purchase drivers, followed by calories, protein and then price. However, protein and fibre content were considered key ingredients for purchase decisions. When purchasing chocolate-based nutrition bars it was found consumers don't necessarily distinguish between soy and whey protein as sources of protein.
Big food/small food
Gourmet food is a trend that's taken hold of higher LSM consumers across the globe. Consumers want to be able to buy products which give results just as good as a top chef's cuisine, so large food manufacturers are collaborating with top culinary chefs on product development. When Pillsbury launched Tubeset Batter, a ready-made cake mix, Michelangelo's executive head chef, Andrew Atkinson, was at the launch to demonstrate the various applications of the product.
Foodcorp collaborated with the Sunday Times for the Sunday Times 2011 Food Awards, providing a platform for SA chefs to show their stuff and win some great prizes. The awards dinner was hosted at the Seventh Floor Innovation Centre, Foodcorp's research and development offices in Observatory, Cape Town.
This seems to be an increasingly popular move amongst SA food manufacturers. It makes sense considering high LSM consumers move towards gourmet style food. It's also a great opportunity for food manufacturers to gain inspiration from some of the best chefs in SA.
Micro is the miniskirt of the food industry. Micro-breweries, independent coffee roasters and even garage-made wine – these sexy little products are popping up everywhere from weekend food markets to supermarket shelves. If it's small scale, sustainable, eco-friendly and gourmet, it's on trend.
Savvy food bytes
The enormous growth of personally controlled wireless telecommunications from mobile phones, laptops to the rapidly emerging iPad and tablet-based devices means that customers and consumers are gaining more and more control over their decisions.
All food businesses, from the corner coffee shop to the largest manufacturer are likely to need at least one, and possibly many, fulltime management level employees controlling their social media.
By the end of 2011, any food business not monitoring and integrating everything from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Linked-In, YouTube, Wikipedia, their own iPhone/Android app or the dozens of other media channels being introduced, may not be competitive. These are jobs which did not exist yesterday, but will be a major part of every business organization tomorrow.
Weathering the storms
Worldwide weather crises may seriously challenge the world's food supplies. Even now, in 2011, food commodity prices are passing record levels due to weather related factors. Developed countries in temperate climate zones will control the bulk of food production, even as the population in the developing world continues to expand.
The price and scarcity of food will fluctuate more dramatically. New regional alliances will apply intense pressure on the traditional food producing nations, including the new 'food super powers' of China, Brazil, Russia, India, Canada, Euroland and the US, to share their national abundance and agricultural technologies.
Scientists have developed a natural preservative which destroys the bacteria that makes eggs, fish, meat and dairy products go off. The compound, bisin, was discovered at Minnesota University by Dr Dan O'Sullivan, an Irish microbiologist, while he was examining bacteria in the human intestine. The substance, occurring naturally in some types of bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria, is understood to be a preservative which can extend the shelf-life of foods such as cheese for several years. It has also been shown to work on opened bottles of wine. Bisin will not prolong the shelf-life of fresh fruits and vegetables, though. 'It doesn't compromise nutrient quality,' says O'Sullivan. 'We are not adding a chemical, we are adding a natural ingredient. It's aimed at protecting foods from a broad range of bugs that cause diseases.' Products containing bisin are expected to hit shelves in the next three years.