The concept of “wellness” differs from consumer to consumer, but at the heart of it, the idea is to make choices that lead to a holistically healthier life. A big way people aim to achieve this is through the food and beverage choices they make. Products that carry healthful ingredients and flavors are being favored. Many studies reveal that botanicals can transfer a “health-halo” to the products in which they are present. For example, tea is a category that’s so high in its use of botanicals, it has a natural health connotation attached to it.
Where Demand Stems From
Though the depth of COVID-19’s impact is yet to be fully recognized in the marketplace, health, clean ingredients, and taste will only become more influential. We are already starting to notice increased requests for ingredients that offer a functional benefit along with flavor. Our robust portfolio of extracts helps us offer not only clean flavor but some functional benefits along with it. “Clean label” is another fundamental demand from consumers that goes hand-in-hand with one’s pursuit of health.
Clean label is a general perception that comprises many factors. Elements ranging from strict organic certification to claims of the basic “all-natural” help people perceive something as clean label. However, consumers are expecting stricter measures and transparency from brands as they become increasingly conscious and aware of what they consume. In North America, between the years 2013 and 2017, there was a 51% increase in the number of new products launched with organic claims, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.
Products that focus on hydration—flavored waters, seltzers, teas, etc.—offer a natural fit for botanicals and herbs. But they are most popular now in mixers and distilled non-alcoholic beverages that appear complex and intriguing enough for the modern consumer with a sophisticated palate. Some of these products are replacing consumers’ usual beverage of choice. Flavors such as hibiscus, chai, ginger, and lavender are cult favorites that one can spot almost too easily in many products on the grocery shelves. The products replacing alcohol for some consumers almost primarily rely on herbs and botanicals to bring in some alcoholic type flavors into them—think about the juniper flavors that lend a gin-esque flavor to a product.
The popularity of elderflower, rosemary, thyme, etc., have also been soaring especially in the tonic water space. The best way to achieve a great profile along with some label-friendly claims would be to add extracts in place of some flavors. This opens up opportunities to offer a very clean product along with potential provenance claims or functional benefits.
Sensient’s research has shown us that provenance claims help nudge a consumer to buy a certain product over their less romantic counterparts. For example, portraying “Sicilian Lemon” is better than “Lemon,” or “Tahitian Vanilla” sounds better on a label than “Vanilla,” intriguing younger consumers to try it. Connoisseur consumers today love to know more about where their food is sourced from and any special stories associated with their products.
Bringing the Products to Life
While taste is what would get consumers to buy a product repeatedly, visual appearance impacts consumer purchase initially. Adding the right color depending on the product helps in making part of the purchase decision for a consumer. It is imperative that we understand how the different elements of the product play together in creating the impact one would expect from it.
Some products with botanicals or herbs come with inherent issues that need masking. However, we also need to ensure that the full effect of the botanicals come through as well. Adding complementary flavors to the botanical extracts help enhance their profile. The type of extraction process determines the strength of the end profile. At Sensient, we have decades of experience extracting different types of botanicals, herbs and spices using nine different extraction methods; some techniques help retain the functional benefits of the starting botanicals.
When using ethanol-based extracts in seltzers, the alcohol in the extracts needs to be accounted for in the final beverage. The challenge is understanding this. To fix it, we need to reduce the ethanol in the final formula according to ethanol load from the ethanol-based extract.
Some functional extracts will not impart a lot of flavor, so using other extracts like lime, tangerine, and orange with the functional extract can help impart the flavors consumers expect. The end result is a flavorful, colorful product with functional benefits that appeal to consumers.
The future of the clean label movement seems to be focused on transparency; and the use of technology can help consumers educate themselves in this area. There are a number for sources that tell you whether an ingredient is clean label friendly or not. Improvements around “block chain” technology also help the industry in tracking supply chain and managing the safety standards. Sensient is a firm believer in the highest food safety standards regardless of the intervention from national governing bodies. Our CertaSure program is one such initiative that ensures transparency, traceability, and assurance on our products to be free of adulterants or harmful substances in the food colors world. We continue to push ourselves on the already rigorous standards we have for ourselves in applying similar measures to our entire extract portfolio as well.
Sensient Technologies is a trusted partner for food and beverage manufacturers and prides itself on understanding drivers of consumer satisfaction. Its operating philosophy is inspired by an integrated portfolio of natural flavors, colors, and taste modulation technologies, focus on customer satisfaction, and depth of knowledge and expertise in a range of food and beverage applications. The company’s Taste Modulation technologies and natural extracts enable brands to offer clean label, healthful solutions around low sugar, low salt, high protein, with a singular mindset on uncompromised taste. For more information: www.sensientflavorsandfragrances.com.