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French study: Food to have fewer ingredients in future

In the future, food will be more simple, have fewer ingredients, and be closer to homemade style, as consumers increasingly demand to know exactly what they are eating, a new French report has said.

The latest Food Vision report from consultancy Protéines XTC - which advises large food manufacturer groups - has predicted some key food trends for the coming years.

Protéines XTC director Xavier Terlet said: “We have a trend today towards what we might call ‘food sobriety’, rather than having an interminable list of ingredients that we barely understand - because no-one has any idea what Xanthan gum is - and all the other things that might worry us.”

In less than five years, the list of ingredients on food items has dropped by 20%, Mr Terlet said, especially when it comes to items such as additives and colorants.

For example, at the most recent Salon de l’Agriculture, the brand Brocéliande showed a ham that was free of additives or preservatives, but which was “grey” rather than the usual pink colour, as a result.

As Mr Terlet explained: “A consumer who understands that this product is grey because it does not contain any nitrates, may find it more interesting than a pink ham.”

Taste still important

Yet, the report also found that consumers are also looking for food items to be tasty and pleasurable, as well as simple and healthy.

Mr Terlet said: “For a long time, we have associated vegetables with health. [But] today, the most successful products are those that also offer pleasure.

"Look at the yoghurt aisle. Today, there are products made with soya, nuts...all of these products riff on flavour, because consumers are not looking for health [only] in the yoghurt aisle, but to find themselves something tasty.”

Innovation insights

Consumers are always weighing up these different factors when it comes to making a food choice, the report said, with new, innovative products trying to stand out for different reasons.

One such trend is for “meatless meat” products, Mr Terlet said, which may be interesting from a dietary or innovation point of view, but may not fare as well due to their ingredients or marketing.

Mr Terlet explained: “For example, Beyond Burger: it has the colour of steak, the flavour of steak, the texture of steak, but it is a completely plant-based product. I tasted it, and I was fooled by this product. But it is fake meat.”

He added that despite its novelty, the product had a long list of ingredients that consumers may not recognise, such as pea and rice protein, and stabilisers; and was also relatively expensive.

Ultimately, the report concluded that consumers are becoming more demanding when it comes to understanding their food, with factors such as ingredients, simplicity, natural ingredients, taste, enjoyment and cost all competing more than ever when it comes to shoppers making a choice.

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