Curcumin and Omega-3 Top the List for Functional Ingredients Consumers Most Want to Try
It is little wonder that curcumin tops the list of functional ingredients that 69% of American consumers are interested in sampling. The ingredient, which is found in the bright orange spice turmeric, is credited with pain relief for inflammatory disorders such as rheumatism and osteoarthritis, as well as other health benefits like enhancing memory function and alleviating depression.
Turmeric’s list of accolades rocketed it to the top of many consumers’ minds beginning in 2016 when it became a “rising star” in the functional food searches using Google in 2016. That same year, there was a 21% increase of new product launches with turmeric. Not only is curcumin-laced turmeric good for health, but it also offers a clean label option for Big Food looking for color alternatives. Kraft Heinz removed artificial colors from its macaroni and cheese in 2016 and is now using turmeric and other natural sources as a replacement.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen hailing from India and also known as Indian ginseng. These botanicals have carved out a niche in the beverage space, but ashwagandha continues to remain relatively under the radar compared to other adaptogens like mushrooms and maca. Still, although the functional ingredient remains relatively unknown, 61% of surveyed consumers said they would try it.
Protein also received a positive response from 60% of consumers, and that may be due to the fact that, similar to probiotics, the functional ingredient has become more of an expectation than a nice-to-have addition. From plant based protein to protein-forward meal replacement shakes and bars, Americans remain eager to introduce it into their diets. A Nielsen study showed 55% of households claim high protein is a significant factor in purchasing food for their families.
The rise of functional ingredients has not been without stumbling blocks. Turmeric, for example, has been linked to lead contamination and experienced multiple recalls, making it more critical than ever to ensure that your natural colors are clean and safe. A robust heavy metals testing program protects your brand and customers from these risks. Omega-3’s, which are traditionally sourced from fish, are not suitable for those following a plant-based diet. Omega-3’s coming from microalgae sources have faced barriers due to its unique and pungent taste. Protein also is not as clear cut as it would seem. A Nielsen survey found many Americans can’t identify which foods contain high amounts of protein with between 45% and 64% thinking beef, chicken and pork weren’t high-protein sources.
In many cases, people may not care if they understand an ingredient as long as they’re getting the health benefits. And manufacturers know that. Many of these top five ingredients have become buzzwords touted on product labels. It might still benefit companies to inform consumers about these ingredients and their health attributes in order to bolster their transparency halo and maximize sales.