Food for the heart (Part 2): Consumer trends and innovations

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19 Oct 2017 --- Food for heart health is a key trend in nutrition NPD, with many companies exploring ways in which to protect consumers against cardiovascular issues. Today, in the second part of a special report, NutritionInsight examines which consumer trends are driving innovation in the world of heart health products and what these innovations are.

Following the hearts of consumers
Gordon Hardie, Managing Director, Food & Ingredients, Bunge Limited, sees six trends that are reshaping consumer food choices and driving innovation:

  • Health and wellness – “In health and wellness, we see consumers believing good food is fundamental to good health and longevity.”
  • Transparency – “Transparency is becoming a real driver of change in our industry. Consumers want to understand the story behind the food they eat and the companies that provide it.”
  • Less processing – “Less processing represents the growing desire among consumers to eat foods that are closer to their natural state with as much as of their natural goodness maintained as possible.”
  • Flavor discovery – “Flavor discovery is about exploring and experiencing new flavors and tastes from all over the world.”
  • Snacking – “Snacking is another major trend driving changes in consumer behavior. Increasingly, consumers are ‘grazing’ in-between meals and even replacing traditional meals with snacks.”
  • Eating out of home – “Eating out of home is exploding globally as incomes rise, time demands increase, and people everywhere become increasingly mobile.”

Elsewhere, consumers continue to seek the most natural alternatives possible, according to Gunilla Traberg, Director of Nordic Accounts & EU Marketing with NattoPharma: “If they can get their nutrients from food, they will, but when it is a difficult nutrient to obtain from diet alone, supplementation is a viable alternative.”

To that end, Traberg emphasizes that NattoPharma has just launched MenaQ7 Full Spectrum K2. A “first of its kind on the market,” Traberg notes that Full Spectrum is the result of a proprietary technological breakthrough, creating a vitamin K2 that provides menaquinones (MK) 6, 7, 8 and 9, a range of isomers vital for cardiovascular health.

“The important epidemiological studies – the Rotterdam and Prospect studies – that led NattoPharma to our ground-breaking human clinical research used fermented cheese as the source of vitamin K2, which led us to create MenaQ7 Full Spectrum,” Traberg adds.

Traberg notes that researchers closely linked to these epidemiological studies say: “Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays and unequivocal role in the activation of Gla-proteins. Although all K-vitamins have the same function, they differ in bioavailability and bioactivity. The Rotterdam and Prospect studies have shown that food-derived vitamin K (such as from cheeses) improves long-term cardiovascular health outcomes because it more specifically delivers the long-chain menaquinones MK-6, 7, 8 and 9.”

While fermented cheeses are the best dietary source of menaquinones in the West, most will not be able to consume enough to obtain optimal amounts of Vitamin K2, nor is cheese a practical source for extracting menaquinones from a supply perspective, Traberg notes.

“To that end, NattoPharma has once again broken the mold and offers to the market a raw material that delivers the range of menaquinones found in foods,” Traberg concludes.

Innovations to win hearts and minds
For Bunge, driving growth through innovation is key to the value-creation strategies of its customers, according to Hardie: “We partner with leading food-processing and foodservice companies to deliver oils and grains ingredients that help them accelerate new product development and raise the value of their product categories.”

“Our innovation and core development work is focused on translating category insights into higher-value products that meet the changing needs of consumers,” Hardie says.

Through Bunge’s global innovation network, it works with customers on product solutions that improve taste, lower total ingredient costs and add functionality, Hardie says. In recent years, Hardie adds that it has brought to market lower saturated fat shortenings; virgin, expeller-pressed and high oleic oils; and ancient grain and non-GMO grain ingredients.

Bunge’s R&D platforms are proprietary, but Hardie notes that it is actively pursuing innovations across its portfolio of oil- and grain-based products in line with industry trends.

“With the acquisitions, we have completed over the last few years, including Walter Rau Neusser, Lindemann, Ana Gida and Whole Harvest, and our pending acquisitions of Minsa and Loders Croklaan, we are deepening our expertise in B2B specialty and semi-specialty ingredients and expanding our innovation capabilities,” says Hardie.

NattoPharma continues to promote the “first and only vitamin K2 to deliver to deliver a gamut of menaquinone isomers,” MenaQ7 Full Spectrum, as an innovative product.

MenaQ7 Full Spectrum is naturally fermented using chickpea protein, offering an all-trans vitamin K2 that is free from gluten, soy and all known allergens, and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, Traberg notes.

Maria Pavlidou, Head of Marketing Communications EMEA, DSM Nutritional Products, Human Nutrition & Health, points to DSM’s broad portfolio of innovative nutrients for heart health. These include its OatWell oat beta-glucan.

“Well-known for its heart health benefits, the natural soluble fiber oat beta-glucan has been awarded positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Commission authorized an Article 14.1 health claim for cholesterol reduction and the associated reduced risk of developing heart disease,” says Pavlidou.

Multiple clinical studies show that 3g of beta-glucan per day lowers cardiovascular disease risk by as much as 20 percent, Pavlidou notes.

“Although oat beta-glucan can be found in oats, it can be a challenge to obtain an adequate amount via natural sources,” Pavlidou adds. “More and more manufacturers are incorporating OatWell into prepared foods as a convenient way for people to obtain their daily intake of beta-glucan.”

Heart health remains a fascinating and vital space in the food industry. With healthy aging and “silver consumers” on many companies’ minds, this will surely continue as innovations and delivery methods continue to progress.

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