Six Natural Product Innovation Trends You Need to Be Aware of this Year

April 2, 2019

We recently attended a Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network (CBFN) event where consumer insights group SPINS presented Natural Product Trend Predictions for 2019. This year is shaping up to be huge for brands that are willing to innovatively incorporate new ingredients into their products – check out our take on a few of the key trends below.

The Benefits of Bitters

Consumers’ palates are evolving beyond simple flavors like sweet and salty as they start to appreciate bitter flavors in a variety of culinary applications. This trend is being seen in ingredients like cocktail bitters as well as ready-to-drink beverages from Bitter Love and Fruitbelt. While bitters are trending in cocktails for their unique flavor properties, we expect to see more products entering the market touting the medicinal and digestive benefits of bitters to appeal to the increasingly health-conscious consumer.

First Açaí, now Aronia

Speaking of bitters, this might be the year that Aronia berries enter the market in a major way. Native to North America, these sour, bitter and astringent berries are packed with antioxidants, making them the perfect ingredient for ready-to-drink natural drink products and fruit smoothie blends. Aronia’s rise in popularity reminds us of the Açaí berry fad – now that we’ve seen it in beverages, the next likely place for Aronia berries to pop up is in snack foods and desserts.

Protein-Packed Nuts for Plant-Based Diets

The protein- and antioxidant-packed promises of exotic nuts and seeds are increasingly enticing to the health-conscious consumer. For example, the popularity of Barukas, Pili nuts and lotus seeds are getting boosted by dietary movements like Keto and Paleo. In general, the increased interest in plant-based diets over the past several years is reviving interest in nuts as a protein source, opening up an exciting opportunity for consumer demand for exotic nuts.

Kids’ Beverages Getting Less Sweet on Sugar

Beverages marketed towards children are finding innovative ways to capitalize on the health-focused trends that their parents produced, like reduced sugars and the addition of functional ingredients. Brands like Play Tea, Drazil, and Roar Organics are ushering in another beverage trend: caffeine-free herbal teas for kids. The most interesting thing about this trend? Despite their health claims, the packaging for these beverages is not immune to messaging aimed at kids – for example, Roar Organics kids’ drinks feature superhero-centric packaging thanks to a licensing deal with Marvel.

Sesame: Planting Seeds for Sustainability

This ingredient that has been around forever is finding its way into new applications such as ice cream, baked goods, coffee blends and even a plant-based milk from Hope & Sesame. This is also an ingredient to watch as the FDA considers the need to include it in its list of top food allergens. The key takeaway here: as with any ingredient that is facing huge increases in market share for exports, brands will need to make sure their farming practices are responsible and sustainable to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers.

Brewing Up Diet-Friendly Drinks

Alcohol is expected to see yet another year of huge product innovation as consumers seek out alcoholic drinks that appeal to diets that are low-sugar, low-carb, and/or gluten-free. The primary form that this ‘better for you booze’ is going to come in? Hard seltzer; but other breakout products to look for this year are hard kombucha and conveniently-sized cans of wine. With brewing powerhouses like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev already involved in producing several of these trendy products, we’re looking forward to products from the craft brewing scene to pop up as the year goes on.

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