The Institute of Food Technologists gathered in Anaheim, Calif., from June 6-9 to learn about innovative new food and beverage products launched around the globe. Leading market research company, Mintel, had close to 100 products on display that represented three trend categories of sweeteners, purity and functional foods. Following daily presentations, the products were used in a taste test where attendees tasted the products and voted on their favorites.

"It's always exciting to see the outcome of the taste tests, but with so many unique products this year, we didn't know how they would fare," comments Mintel new product expert, Lynn Dornblaser. "The winners are all great examples for manufacturers to look to as they develop innovative new products."

High-intensity sweeteners took a clean sweep in this category as the taste-test winners all came from non-sugar products. IFT attendees chose Lotte Zero non-sugar chocolate from Japan as their favorite. Coming in second and third were products from the United States, such as Sprite Green, sweetened with Truvia, followed by Breyer’s Double Churn No Sugar Added butter pecan ice cream, sweetened with Splenda.

While high-intensity sweeteners fared well, Dornblaser expects a battle of the sweeteners in the future. Consumer concerns regarding weight and diet will ensure continued growth of high-intensity sweeteners; however, there is a new trend emerging toward the desire to be "all-natural," which will lead people to products featuring good old-fashioned sugar.

It was a tight race in the purity group. Pepsi Natural Premium, made with all-natural ingredients and part of the company's "Refresh Everything" campaign, took first place. In second place was Nestlé Milkybar White Moments, white chocolate in a crispy sugar shell, and there was a tie for third between True North Peanut Clusters and Bissinger's Naturals Pomegranate White Tea Gummy Pandas.

According to Mintel, people have growing concerns about additives, preservatives and artificial colors in their food and therefore have a renewed interest in all-natural and organic options. For success in the future, manufacturers need to put a strong emphasis on the association that simplicity has with goodness and health, as well as provide as much information on package descriptions as possible to show consumers the many health benefits.

Kellogg's FiberPlus Antioxidants chewy bars took first place in the functional category as tasters found the bars delicious and full of flavor while being impressed by their antioxidants, added fiber and vitamins. Cubio Gummies containing collagen and Leclerc Praeventia Almond and Apple bars with prebiotic fiber and antioxidants came in second and third place, respectively.

"Consumers are skeptical about the benefits and efficacy of many functional foods," Dornblaser notes. "Messages are often confusing and complicated, making it hard for consumers to know what products to choose. Ultimately, if something tastes good and has added benefits, it will do well in the marketplace."

More than 14,500 attendees from over 80 different countries made the trek to Orange County for the IFT Expo, as well as more than 800 exhibitors. Mintel hosted three presentations daily.