Greggs customer director Hannah Squirrel said 25% of the bakery chain’s sales now come from its healthy range. Changing dietary needs like vegan, flexitarian and food intolerances are driving food innovation at the brand, with 8.8m views globally across its social media for the launch video of the vegan sausage roll. Another trend she highlighted was a growing expectation that companies would remove additives and offer products with less fat, sugar and salt without compromising on taste.
Walking the show floor, the influence of health was obvious from many of the products showcased, including free-from and the power of plant-based.
On the treat side, Loving Nutrients unveiled Zefir, a marshmallow that is vegetarian, gelatine-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free as well as devoid of artificial colours and sweeteners. Doughlicious launched gluten-free and vegan gourmet cookie dough treats in variants like sprinkles, chocolate chip and chocolate and vanilla. The sprinkles are made with natural flavourings such as turmeric and beetroot, with no additives/preservatives, refined sugars or palm oil.
Healthy snacking bars continued to appear in force. Joining The Savourists, whose savoury snack bars were recently featured on Food Spark, was Nüber Food and its green pepper, lime and chilli veggie bar. Nuber claims it’s the first range of vegetable-based snack bars in the world as it contains 73% dried veg and two of your five a day. It’s also certified low FODMAP and vegan.
Children’s cereal meanwhile got a dose of veg, a trend that has been emerging in adult options. Humble Acre showcased Gogo Roos, a sweet-potato-based cocoa cereal for kids that has recently become available in a 40g recyclable pot format for on-the-go snacking.
Not overlooking the lunch market, Lord Sandwich introduced its Full-Wrap, a gluten-free, whole protein, premium tortilla made from red lentils. It claims the tortilla stays fresh for a longer period and is a healthy alternative to the traditional category as it is made of whole protein.
Gut health hasn’t been left out of the NPD fray. Using kefir in a different format, the Yorlife Kefir Ice Cream comes in sour cherry and jaffa orange. Producer Yorvale said the probiotic ice cream is low in fat and contains all-natural ingredients and billions of gut-friendly cultures.
Artisan snack company Extraordinary Foods had its Pimp My Salad range on show, which included its Hemp Parmesan, which it said was an excellent source of omega-3, protein and minerals, while being suitable for vegan and gluten-free diets. Hemp featured in a number of other products as well, like Wholey Moly’s vegan cookies made with almond, hemp and chia and the Moreish Date Company’s on-the-go snacks of date stuffed with barberry and hemp seeds.
Drilling down into the health side of things, there were a number of low-sugar products on display too.
Offering a multi-functional product was Liteez by Matok V’kal with its patent-pending, plant-based, meringue kiss cookie/sweetener, which can be dissolved in hot drinks or eaten as a sweet treat. Each cookie has only one calorie and is equal in sweetness to half a teaspoon of sugar.
Lots of chocolate was there to sample, but Hullabaloo was bragging about its Nutty Munch chocolate bars, which contain 75% less sugar, instead turning to chicory root fibre and natural erythritol for sweetness. The chocolate bars come in two flavours: Oddberry, a raspberry nougat covered in milk chocolate, and Nuttymunch, a peanut crispy fudge bar enrobed in milk chocolate.
On the foodservice side, Agriculture - Ein Harod was promoting Silan date syrup as a vegan alternative to honey or sweeteners, to be used in the production of yogurt, ice cream, cereals and condiments.
Despite all the health trends, Gail’s managing director, Marta Pogroszewska, said people still want to eat hearty food, nothing that the brand’s hand pies outsell their salads three to one, while the mini hand pies, called borekitas, are one of its bestsellers.
Cakes are also the fastest-growing category at the bakery chain, but it’s still got its eye on health, with six new salads launching for Christmas. It will also be opening five new sites before the end of the year.
Product-wise, We Love Cake was tapping into the trend for fusion foods in the bakery category with its product Brookie – a twist on two classics, a brownie and a cookie.
The one to watch in innovation is hot food-to-go, revealed Matt Cundrick, head of convenience format and FTG at McColl’s Retail Group. “Lots of great new suppliers are breaking into the market, with high-quality fresh products,” he said.
Liz Forte, marketing director at Eurest, sees the same happening in contract catering. She said hand-held hot food-to-go is an up-and-coming area, with workers turning away from traditional plated food.
From robots to artificial intelligence, this is an area that continues to provide intrigue.
Nicola Morris, managing director of corporate services at Sodexo, said the company is trialling an artificial intelligence service where the cashier at the till can scan a tray and work out what you’re eating and how much. It can also provide dietary planning based on your choices. Sodexo also uses Sally the Salad Robot at some sites, which frees up staff to interact with customers.
“I think there will be further tech-led innovation to emphasise brands’ convenience credentials,” said Katherine Prowse, insights manager at MCA Insights. “We have already seen Costa’s pre-ordering trial succeed and be rolled out, and I think we will see more of this and in newer ways.”