Meeting the demand for preservative, additive free foods

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food preservation

Consumer demand for natural foods or products without synthetic or
chemical preservatives has led European processors to pile into the
market with a wave of new offerings, according to research produced
by Mintel.

Consumers have shown a tendency to demand healthier food. They want fresh and minimally processed foods without synthetic chemical preservatives. To address the need manufacturers are exploring newfood processing and preservation methods, especially in the area of chilled foods, which make up a high percentage of the new product offerings on the market since the start of 2004.

To exploit the demand for minimally processed foods without synthetic chemical preservatives, manufacturers are exploring other preservation methods such as high pressure processing, ohmic heating,pulsed electric field, irradiation, bright light and aseptic processing.

In addition to the processing methods producers have had to come up with unique methods of flavouring and thickening their products. For example Les Entrées de la Mer in France released a chilled fish flavoured patties product in June this year, billed as having no additives or preservatives.

It is made up of white fish, fresh cream, salmon, oilseed rape oil, scallop, surimi, wheatflour, white wine, milk proteins, egg white, salt, vermouth, and marine algae. For thickeners the productuses carrageenan, obtained from red seaweed, and carob seed flour as a thickeners and natural paprika extracts for colouring.

In the first half of 2005, food processors released a total of 564 products in Europe labelled as either without preservatives or additives or billed as "all natural", compared to 438released over the same period last year, according to statistics compiled using Mintel's GlobalNew Products Database​.

This is a growth rate of 28 per cent. However the trend seems to have peaked in the last half of 2004, during which 598 such products were released. The trend numbers might be misleading. Someproducts were double or triple counted as they were released under different names in various European countries.

The vast majority of the product releases were in the no preservative or no additive sub-category, with some also being labelled as organic. Many of the "All natural" products were madeup of one ingredient, such as cheeses, meats or vegetables.

Within the overall grouping, chilled foods made up 36 per cent of the total in the first half of 2005, and 39 per cent in the same period of 2004. Chilled foods made up 32 per cent of the newreleases in the category during the last half of 2004.

Mintel's database records what processors state on the labels of the food products. Europe is considered as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary,Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

The UK is the leading country in Europe for the release of foods labelled as all natural or without preservatives or additives. In the UK, processors and retailers released 752 products since thestart of 2004, described with either of the descriptions, and in some cases both.

Germany is next, with 418 products, followed by Spain with 308, Italy with 304, France with 236, and the Netherlands with 167. Except for the UK, the data mainly shows a peak in the last six monthsof 2004, followed by a decline in the first half of this year.

In total there were 3176 products released in European countries covered by the Mintel database, compared to 4,868 in North America. There were 2,705 releases in the Asia Pacific region over the 18month period, and 1023 in Latin America.

Within the global total, foods claiming to be "all natural" rose from 1752 releases in the first half of 2004, to 2382 in the last half, falling to 1807 in the first half of 2005.Meanwhile processors released 2,270 foods claiming to be without additives or preservatives in the first half of 2004, another 3,314 in the second half of the year, and 2,609 releases in the first sixmonths of 2005.

Meanwhile the demand for organic food continues to be met with an increasing number of products. There were 1,367 products released as organic in the first half of 2004, rising to 1,400 in thesecond half and again to 1,718 in the first half of 2005.

The statistics excluded drinks, beverages, confectionary, gum and pet foods. The "all natural" claim is usually taken to mean the ingredients in the product have not be altered byprocessing methods, or that nothing has been included in or added to the food that would not normally be expected to be there. The product may all stated it is "made from naturalingredients"​.

However many food advocacy groups say the term is misleading as some processors include additives that may have been changed by processing, either by concentrating them or altering them in someway. MSG is a common target of the criticism.

The product data for this article was supplied by Mintel's Global New Products Database​.

Related topics: Market Trends, Food Safety & Quality

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