SHIFT20: Keto taps into personalization and “lifestyle” demands
14 Jul 2020 --- Conforming to a “lifestyle choice” is increasingly popular with consumers as traditional dieting falls by the wayside. A ketogenic way of eating – emphasizing fat and protein while avoiding carbs – is one of the latest manifestations of this as it addresses consumer demands for a personalized approach. This is detailed in a keto trend presentation held as part of The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)’s virtual meeting and food expo, dubbed SHIFT20. NutritionInsight speaks with presenters, including Innova Market Insights and Ingredion, about the future of keto and the R&D challenges in this space.
“No one these days wants to be on a diet, but we all want to manage our weight for our health. Everyone is on a lifestyle. [In contrast to Atkins and the South Beach diet], keto isn’t really a diet; it’s more of a lifestyle. With keto, you’re either on it or off it – you can’t be halfway in or out. Ever since Steve Jobs started wearing the black turtleneck, we all think we can have a brand – it’s all part of your identity,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.
This emphasis on creating a lifestyle brand ties in with the mass personalization from everything from entertainment to the way we eat. Over 65 percent of consumers aged 18 to 45 specifically shop for products to meet their individual needs and tastes, according to a 2018 Innova Consumer Lifestyle and Attitudes Survey. While younger consumers feel more strongly about this, nearly 60 percent of those aged 46 and above still express this as a priority.
While keto is a manifestation of this desire for personalization, conversely, it is also undergoing its own changes to become even more individually tailored. Williams points to the example of 902 Fit, which provides personalized keto plans to give customers an “optimized approach” to the diet. While personalization has been a hot topic for over a decade now, new F&B launches with a keto claim grew 239 percent from 2018 to 2019, in comparison to 53 percent for plant-based and 13 percent for protein-rich.
Reflecting on the evolution of the trend throughout 2020, Williams notes that initial interest was high in line with New Year’s resolutions. However, COVID-19 had a major impact, leading to interest declining in March. However, there is renewed momentum as consumers look to shake off lockdown weight.
Industry rises to the challenge
With launches in the keto space picking up so quickly, industry has been busy with developing novel R&D techniques. Marshall Weston, Senior Food Scientist at Ingredion Incorporated, details that the keto-friendly diet and its strict nutrition guidelines are extremely challenging for product developers. The reduced sugar can have an impact on sweetness and texture, while enhanced protein content is often also desirable.
“As a scientist for an ingredient company, I see so many new product concepts, and we also hold many internal brainstorming sessions to develop prototypes within this space. I think the area that has the biggest growth potential would be baked goods. There are some products out there that are keto-friendly, but this space has a plethora of opportunities to incorporate the high fat, low carb nutritional profile,” he details.
Weston also expresses surprise that there have not been more product launches within cookies, breads and muffins for example. “There is always room for improvement on these very complicated formulas, but I do think the industry has come a long way in formulating a stable product. Whether it’s a beverage, sauce, frozen dessert or baked good, product developers have a huge task ahead of them if they want to develop something that is stable for a long period of time and tastes good to the consumer,” he adds.
Also participating in the presentation was AAK, which detailed the role of the level and the type of fats in keto foods. While the ratio of fat to carbohydrate was originally believed to be the only important factor, recent research spotlights medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – dubbed a “hero” ingredient by Williams. Notably, MCTs yield more ketones per calorie and permit the formulation of a more palatable, less atherogenic diet because ketosis is achieved at a lower ratio of fat to protein and carbohydrate. Other important fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
The future of keto
Looking ahead, Williams of Innova says keto will eventually be reshaped into another trend. However, in addition to the rise of personalization, successful keto launches will likely be those that tap into demands for convenience. “When you travel for business, it’s difficult to eat fruit and vegetables because there aren’t so many grab-and-go options, although there are more than there used to be. This is why now you can buy boiled eggs everywhere – these convenience foods are making it easier to follow these diets.”
“When I first heard about the keto diet in the marketplace several years ago, I will be the first to admit that I thought it was going to be more of a fad diet that would quickly dissipate like many others. However, as the marketplace has evolved over the past year or so to include so many keto-friendly products and recipes online, I believe that it is a sustainable consumer shift that is so much more mainstream compared to other diets. As a product developer, the number of keto-friendly call outs on labels and new product development in this space has been really fun to watch and formulate around,” adds Weston.
Outside of keto, Williams also flags the major potential for targeted prebiotics and probiotics as the next major trends in weight management. She notes that while the science around gut bacteria is still developing, a sophisticated approach could be used in the future. She floats the concept of a sugar stick format of personalized probiotics, which could be taken at different times of the day and address various needs.
Other highlights of SHIFT20 include an emphasis on plant-based proteins, as well as sugar reduction. Industry has also been weighing in on the highs and lows of going virtual.
By Katherine Durrell
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