The fermentation industry is on the cusp of a renaissance. Engaged consumers are seeking functional food and drink with health benefits. And fermented products provide the nutritional value and unique flavors today’s consumers crave.

Staff at The Fermentation Association attended Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. this month. Expo West is the world’s largest organic and natural healthy products event, and we spent four days with 88,000 other attendees listening to industry experts in education sessions and meeting fermented food and beverage brands on the show floor.

Here are six takeaways from Expo West for the fermentation industry:

 

  1. Natural Products are King. Natural food and beverages grew 6.6 percent in 2018, for a total of $152 billion in sales, according to info from the Nutrition Business Journal. The category is growing so much that organic supply is lagging behind consumer demand. Meanwhile, for the first time in history, the conventional food and beverage category began to shrink last year.
  2. Major Focus on Gut and Microbiome Health. Once terms only used by scientists, prebiotics and probiotics are at the forefront of consumer’s grocery list. Digestive health is critical for modern consumers, as more nutritionists focus on the gastrointestinal tract’s critical immune system support. Consumers want food and drinks that nourish their microbiome. Sales numbers show people are moving away from purchasing pills and supplements to aid their gut; they’re instead looking for prebiotics and probiotics in actual food.
  3. Ancient Foods are Experiencing a Revival. The future of food is in practices of the past. From turmeric, ashwagandha, ghee and fermentation, the foods of our ancestors are back on our plates. These old-world cooking styles and ingredients are standing the test of time and coming back in modern cuisine.
  4. Industry is Selling to Educated Consumers. Today’s consumers know more about the food they eat than ever before. Consumers are studying ingredient lists, seeking product sources and researching brands. Clean food and clean labels are not a trend; they’re a movement. People are becoming more aware of the dangers of eating processed food. They want nutritious ingredients from ethical brands. The functional health benefits of fermented products are piquing consumer interest.
  5. Snacking Trumps Mealtime. Snacking today is a $1.2 trillion-dollar industry. The modern consumer is busy, and convenience food readily accessible in a grab-and-go format is a grocery store staple. Snacking in 2019 is not filling up on a soda and a bag of fried chips. Consumers want healthy, fresh snacks, especially refrigerated snacks in the produce aisle. This is great news for fermented brands. Grabbing a bottle of kombucha or kefir and a bag of snacking pickles or miso soup fits into the convenient dining lifestyle.
  6. Brands Need More Plant-Based Products. A major shift in food philosophy, more consumers are buying plant-based products – whether or not they’re vegetarian or vegan. Plant-based options are becoming tastier and readily available. Brands are experimenting with fermenting vegetables for plant-based cheeses, spreads, sauces and drinks.

It’s an exciting time for fermented food and beverage producers. The aromatic, tangy flavors and healthy, live bacteria in fermented products are qualities propelling fermentation to become one of the most popular food categories.

 

The new “it” clean food label: Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification. The main ingredient in weed killer, glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in the world. A probable human carcinogen, Forbes estimates it’s about to become a household name consumers will cut out of their food. Though glyphosate is banned in organic crops, it still drifts into the organic food supply, especially in anything oat-based. The new label is awarded by 3rd-party The Detox Project, who regularly tests brands for glyphosates. Costing $1,472 per year, the certification was first granted to Foodstirs, the organic baking company launched by actress Sarah Michelle Gellar and Galit Laibow.

Read more (Forbes) (Photo by: Foodstirs)

“Use By” Dates Becoming Uniform

“Use By” dates are becoming uniform, with nine in 10 grocery store products now printing consumer-friendly labels. By 2020, all products will carry the more simplified date. The industrywide initiative aims to stop confusion over product expiration dates by standardizing wording on all products. The 10 date-label categories are now paired down to two – “Best If Used By” or “Use By.” Surveys found “when in doubt, throw it out” causes massive food waste in America, partly because of unclear food labeling. Over 90 percent of Americans throw out food because of a misunderstood label. Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food a year, a third of the U.S. food supply.

Read more (Supermarket News)

The U.S. Association of Cider Makers is creating a universal dryness scale, a number that can be put on labels to designate whether the cider is dry, semi-dry, semisweet or sweet. As ciders experience a revival in the U.S., the No. 1 issue is customers assuming all ciders are too sweet. Many feel this was the downfall of the popular Riesling wine movement of the late 2000s/early 2010s. The scale could be applied to all fermented beverages, where dryness factors could be tested in a lab.

Read more (Washington Post)

Ever wondered how the government defines “healthy” on American food labels? The FDA is taking comments until today on their nutrition innovation strategy. The FDA plans to modernize what goes on an American food label, like should plant-based dairy alternatives be called milk? And how should new food technology that reduces sodium or fat content be labeled?

Read more (FDA) (Photo: Foodies Feed)

The FDA “Certified Organic” label is a double-edged sword for many food producers. The coveted certification is great marketing to consumers, but it’s a regulation nightmare to obtain. Bread bakers who use these smaller, local ag businesses for their ingredients must sell non-organic bread. Because of it, notes Milling & Baking News, the industry is dominated by big-name producers.

Read more (Baking & Snack)