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IFT FIRST Recap: Food Trends 2023

The Sugaright Sales Team took the opportunity to engage with customers and the industry at the IFT FIRST FOOD EXPO last week in Chicago. The event was certainly a reminder that virtual meetings have their place, but it was rewarding to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to share ideas, to offer market updates and to jointly consider what the future may bring.

Cane Sugar Still Rules

Though there is no shortage of ingredients offered to replace sugar, the trend now is more toward sugar reduction via blends of alternative natural sweeteners such as tagatose, allulose and monk fruit syrup. The good news for the cane and beet sugar industry is that none of them are as tasty as sucrose, mostly due to that (nasty) lingering aftertaste. Artificial sweeteners were nowhere to be found.

Mintel’s Major Food Trend of 2023: Unguilty Pleasures

With so much stress and uncertainty in the world, consumers just want to feel good. And consumers are doing just that with lots of cheese, nostalgia products and increased consumption of foods that are “hot and sweet”.

Similar, but slightly different, is the consumer preference for comfort food which creates opportunities for brand expansion. Cinnamon Toast Frosting and Blueberry Muffin flavored Kit Kats

Value-Oriented Nutrition

Food has to do more than just offer calories. Innovative companies are adding ingredients to improve brain and heart health for the entire spectrum of consumers; from highly active athletes concerned about hydration to aging boomers looking to improve mental acuity.

Value-Oriented Convenience: Make it Easy, but Make it Delicious

Affordable convenience is the preferred option for those who want to go out after COVID shut-downs but can’t quite afford the price tag. Co-branding eat at home options with the names of popular restaurants lets us pretend we are “eating out” at the kitchen table.

Value-Oriented Sustainability

Sustainability has transformed from a "premium nice-to-have" to a significant factor impacting people's health and wallets. According to SPINS, 80% of young adult consumers (18-34) are willing to pay up for sustainable products.

SPINS also spoke about the proliferation of sustainability labels from common ones such as USDA Organic, to emerging ones such as Reef Safe, Certified Regenerative Organic, and Upcycled. The most common label remains Non-GMO Project Verified which they claim is on $43.9 billion of consumer products.

Mintel offered the following observations and guidance communicating ethics and sustainability.

  • Consumers care about the environment, but they want companies to take ownership of meeting sustainability goals.

  • Be careful passing these responsibilities on to the consumer, especially in the form of higher prices. For example, “upcycled” products lost their glow when consumers questioned why should they pay MORE for products made from the “waste” stream?

  • Carbon neutral is just one way to convey care, and consumers may begin asking tough questions about this claim: 60% of US consumers would prefer for companies to reduce their own carbon emissions rather than use carbon offsetting programs.

The positive note of IFT First was the continued commitment and creativity of the industry to offer consumers high quality food at good value in the midst of constant change.

As the leading supplier of liquid sucrose to the US market, we are proud to have changed the way the industry thinks about sugar.

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