Among the buzzwords we’ve seen pop up the most in 2019 are “superfoods” and “functional ingredients.” Why? Within the past decade, consumers have grown increasingly health-conscious. They are now much more curious about the ingredients in their foods, and more specifically, what they stand to gain (or lose) from consuming those ingredients.

This, like many trends we’re seeing in the food industry, is being driven by millennials, who have higher expectations for food and food companies. Their food needs to taste amazing, offer some sort of unique experience, look good on their Instagram, and provide them with some sort of health benefit or address a health and wellness concern. Although they don’t necessarily have an aversion to conventional medicine, millennials do tend to prefer to pick up their remedies for everyday health concerns from the grocery store rather than the pharmacy.

So, what are these highly sought-after health benefits? For some, it’s all about prevention. Ingredients that support heart health and eye health are on the rise, as are ingredients that are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about cancer risks, so products that claim directly or indirectly to have properties that can ward off cancer are also on the rise.

For other consumers, consuming functional ingredients and superfoods is more about addressing specific concerns they have now. That’s why more products featuring ingredients that are believed to help relieve pain, aid in achieving better sleep, and reduce stress have seen massive increases in the past few years.

There are also ingredients that are perceived to have multiple benefits — dubbed “superfoods” — that are highly in demand. Millennials are all about convenience, so being able to eat one thing and have it address all of their health concerns at once is very appealing.

Whether or not these ingredients and products actually offer the health benefits that millennials — and consumers in general — perceive them to have is another story. While some food companies choose to add claims to their products that appeal to the health-conscious benefit seekers, others take a more subtle — and safer — approach, offering products that simply showcase ingredients that are receiving buzz for their potential health benefits.


What's buzz-worthy

Although superfoods and functional ingredients are trending across the board, there are some that stand out as having received the most buzz. Many spices, especially turmeric and ginger, have received a lot of attention of late for their potential health benefits, and thus have been more predominantly featured on labels for a variety of products such as dressings, snacks, sauces and beverages.

Seeds such as chia, pumpkin, hemp and flax have also been making a lot of appearances outside of the granola and bar categories. Matcha has been having a moment — for a couple of years now — and has now migrated outside of the beverage space into snacks, dairy and more. The list of trending superfoods and functional ingredients continues to evolve, but one thing’s for sure — the overall trend isn’t going away any time soon.

While it may be more apparent how to add these trending ingredients to snacks, it isn’t necessarily so clear-cut with dairy. Here are three ideas for how your company cound jump on the functional ingredient trend with products that consumers are sure to crave.

1. Think about adding seeds and spices to your yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese products. Talk about a double threat. Seeds offer trendy plant-based protein, while spices in general are gaining superfood status. Blend together chia, pumpkin seeds and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet seasonal mixture that will elevate your dairy products. Or look to a combo of hemp or sesame and a turmeric-forward curry seasoning for a super-trendy, savory flavor profile that could be consumed any time of day.

2. Consider matcha or a spice blend and fruit combination for ice cream. Matcha — finely ground green tea powder — offers sweetness and ethnic flair to anything it flavors. Pair it with ginger or honey, or feature it on its own for a creamy, dreamy ice cream flavor. Another way to add ethnic flair with trending functional ingredients is to take a popular ethnic spice blend and combine it with a fruity flavor. Chinese Five Spice, for example, is on the rise in both foodservice and retail, and features several spices that have been trending because of their perceived health benefits. Pair it with berries for an ice cream or shake flavor that will add some complexity to dairy favorites — exactly what millennials are looking for.

3. Turn your dairy-based beverages into superfood shakes, smoothies, lassis and more. There are so many options for elevating your beverage offerings with trendy superfood ingredients. Consider a blend of kale and apples — both trending for their potential health benefits — as a flavor option for smoothies and shakes. Or add trending spices like cinnamon and cayenne to a chocolate smoothie base to spice up your product offerings. Taking a yogurt-based beverage and adding a masala chai blend, which also features trending spices, will again appeal to consumers who are looking for products featuring specific ingredients with potential health benefits.

Many of the “functional” spices that are currently trending for their potential health benefits would also pair well with cheese, dips and butter. The list goes on and on; the possibilities truly are endless.

As we look forward to 2020, it will be interesting to see how this trend expands. Will more exotic ingredients such as ashwaghanda begin to get more mainstream exposure? What new health benefits, and thus ingredients, will be in demand? Time will tell, but this is surely a trend to watch — and jump on. With health and wellness concerns top of mind, this trend is here to stay.

Flavor trends are always changing and evolving. To stay in the know, follow Fuchs North America’s flavor trend blog.