The latest edition of the World Food Innovation Awards took place in London yesterday at the HRC 2020 show, with the winners (and indeed finalists) right at the forefront of industry innovation.
Broken down into 28 different categories encompassing food, drink, brand and packaging, the awards showcased a plethora of trailblazing products, with food development teams sure to take note of the ambitious directions, alternative formats and present (and future) consumer trends touched on by those recognised.
Here, Food Spark breaks down the USP of those winning food products and how they might lead different categories into new frontiers.
Best artisan food: Olives Et Al’s culinary CBD oil
Despite having only been released in January, Olives Et Al’s range of CBD-infused extra virgin olive oils took top prize in the artisan food category, with the company claiming first to market for their three-strong range.
Named Activate, Elevate and Levitate, each of the trio boasts a different amount of CBD per 20ml serving, with the oil recommended to be poured over salads, fish, meat, roasted vegetables or dipped in bread.
It is poignant that a CBD-centric product won out here, with big news filtering through earlier this month that CBD products could be soon removed from shelves in the UK, with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) informing suppliers that they must prove (by March 2021) that their products are, without question, safe for human consumption.
Brain-boosting nootropics came to the fore last year, but the niche category is still being explored by both manufacturers and consumers alike, with a recent survey from Streetbees revealing that over half of Brits (57%) are concerned about potential unknown side effects of CBD oil.
Despite this, the potential of CBD-infused food products is there to see, with Olives Et Al beating an Aldi cheese duo – their emporium selection artisan cheese assortment and their emporium selection flavoured goat logs - to the crown.
Best children’s product: Piccolo Foods’ cooking range
The children’s category has seen real innovation in recent years, with Piccolo Food’s cooking range beating five other finalists (including For Aisha and their Cambodian fish and coconut curry tray meal) to the award last night.
Made up of nine different products - three different stock cubes, three age-specific pastas and three stir-in sauces – the range taps into recent scratch cooking trends in the UK, with consumers eager to ‘have the final say’ in terms of quantity and ingredients.
The trio of texture-tailored pasta (for seven months, ten months or one year) is particularly interesting, with mouthfeel fast becoming an essential consideration for NPD teams.
Best convenience food innovation: Farm Rich’s Time Outs
Will convenience ever not be a relevant consumer trend? It’s certainly at the top of the agenda for many, with quick meal manufacturers Farm Rich’s Time Outs holding off the likes of The Spice Pioneer’s power pods and Simply Shirley’s jollof paste to take home the best convenience food innovation award.
These Time Outs are snack-sized versions of some of Farm Rich’s most popular offerings, including boneless chicken bites and pepperoni pizza roll-ups, with the four options (which contain up to 21g of protein each) cooked in ‘heat-and-eat’ microwavable boxes.
Best food concept/Best plant-based alternative: Noblegen’s the egg.
Canadian startup Noblegen scooped both the best food concept and plant-based alternative awards with their innovative powered egg product, with ‘the egg’ both vegan friendly and extremely versatile.
“The amazing thing about ‘the egg’, is that we’ve been able to use it in so many different applications,” Adam Noble, CEO and Founder of Noblegen, said earlier this year. “It has successfully replaced eggs in vegan pancakes, stratas, breakfast sandwiches, quiches, and even a chocolate cake.
“No other plant-based egg scramble can also be used to functionally replace chicken eggs in a cake, ‘the egg’ can.”
Noblegen’s winning innovation also contains 6g of plant-based protein per serving, equivalent to that of nature’s egg. It is also significantly lower than a traditional egg in both calories and fat per serving.
It beat four other finalists to the two awards, including Jake and Nayns’ Naansters (filled naans) and Aldi’s exclusive Simply Nature cauliflower crackers.
Best free-from product: Dolfin’s My Sweet Chickpea
Chickpeas have been on Food Spark’s radar for some time now, from chickpea fries to chickpea milkshakes. Dolfin’s chickpeas are roasted and coated in chocolate, with My Sweet Chickpea comprising seven different gluten-free flavours including cappuccino and coconut.
Primed as a ‘super-snack’ that allows for simple, free-from indulgence, My Sweet Chickpea taps into plant-based and heathy eating trends (being both a source of fibre and protein).
Best health/wellness food: Zeno Functional Foods’ SOBAR
A particularly interesting product here and one recently flagged up as an example of a potential new avenue for healthy snack development, the SOBAR, which was launched in the US in December, blocks alcohol absorption by as much as 50%.
Made up of a blend of milk protein and insoluble oat fibre, their patented Alco-Hold ingredient was recently the subject of a clinical trial, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, that found the SOBAR could reduce alcohol absorption more effectively after two alcoholic drinks compared to no food, 210 calories of snack mix and even a full meal of 635 calories.
It held off competition from the likes of MojoMe’s instant collagen broth (which claims to have more nutrients and none of the fat of traditional bone broth) and Activé’s FiberShake.
Best healthy snacking innovation: Norseland’s Amazin Grazin cheese bars with seeds
Released in January as a response to consumer demand for less sugary snacks, Norseland’s cheese bars come in three, ingredient-packed flavours.
These are the smokey chipotle with mild cheddar, chipotle flakes, sweet chilli jam, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; sticky date and honey with mild cheddar, orange blossom honey, chopped dates, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; and berry and cherry with mild cheddar, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Low in sugar and a good source of protein and calcium, Amazin Grazin beat four other finalists including Strong Roots with their spinach bites and Yili Group’s freeze-dried yoghurt bites
Best indulgence product: Coda Signature’s crescendo collection
This six-piece truffle collection is infused with THC (the main psychoactive compound of marijuana).
They are spread over three flavours: white chocolate with fresh lemon and a hint of juniper berries; milk chocolate steeped with Earl Grey tea leaves and sweetened with Colorado honey; and caramel spiked with Maldon salt crystals.
Aldi was another losing finalist here with their exclusive Friendly Farms whipped dairy topping.
Best ingredient innovation: Lori’s Wholesome Pantry’s watermelon seed butter
Noblegen’s the egg lost out to a watermelon seed butter from Lori’s Wholesome Pantry here, with the on-trend spread named best ingredient innovation.
Food Spark discussed the potential of watermelon as an innovative ingredient last month following the release of multiple mainstream meat alternatives that had the fruit as its main ingredient. Alternative butters look to have potential in 2020, with nut butters such as sunflower seed cited by Deliveroo as one of their top delivery ingredient trends for 2020.
Socati’s advanced microencapsulation technology was another losing finalist in this category, with the similar nanoencapsulation forecast to be a leading tech trend this year.
Best natural food or organic product: Alden’s Organic’s midnight cherry chip ice cream
Boasting real organic cherries, Alden’s midnight cherry chip ice cream was one of eight new products launched by America’s best-selling organic ice cream brand in Spring 2019.
“If something says ‘strawberry’, we think it should taste like strawberry not strawberry-ish,” said vice president of marketing and innovation Michelle Hunt, with the cherry edition beating Aldi’s exclusive Simply Nature ancient grains breads, Yili Group’s jinlingguan seine mouiller (organic milk powder) and Nadec’s tamry range (fresh yoghurts) to the top prize.
Best snacking innovation: Bred’s Foods’ ROAR protein desserts
Launched in December, these high protein, low sugar snacking desserts are aimed the health and fitness industry, with the ready-to-eat pots coming in three different flavours – raspberry blondie, double chocolate and ‘Jaffa Break’.
“With consumers incorporating new ways of eating protein snacks into their active lifestyles and sporting pursuits, we wanted to create something simple, convenient and full of flavour,” said Gilli Appleby, ROAR marketing manager.
“We saw this as an opportunity to bring those who enjoy an active lifestyle a high protein, low sugar snack option, as well as a new way to enjoy a sweet treat that complements their diet.”
Permissible indulgence has been a key consumer driver for a good few years now, but it is evolving as part of the ongoing healthy eating boom. Indeed, research from FrieslandCampina Ingredients and consumer insights and market research experts FMCG Gurus published in January highlights just how dynamic and sector-encompassing the healthy eating arena is becoming.
Merging snacking, indulgence, healthy eating, convenience and holistic habits, the research points to “diverse NPD opportunities” within the active nutrition space, with ROAR’s winning range a great example of how far a snack can go.