Upon FoodBev Media’s return from Vitafoods 2022 – which took place from 10-12 May in Geneva, Switzerland – the team reflects on the event’s aim to bring together international nutraceutical suppliers and experts from across the globe.
Set against the sunny backdrop of the Swiss Alps, and famed for being home to the headquarters of Europe’s United Nations, World Trade Centre and Red Cross, Geneva is a hub of world-leading innovation and development. And the choice of location certainly reflected the calibre of companies and their offerings at Vitafoods this year.
From sophisticated start-ups to industry titans, companies small and large continue to blur the lines between pharma and nutrition, smoothing the course as these two worlds collide.
‘Food as medicine’ is a concept with deep roots. But we’ve come a long way from the days of adding lemon to water or mashing botanicals into an unpleasant paste. Today’s offerings are suave and smart, use the latest technologies for the best mode of creation or extraction, and come in multiple vehicles of consumption.
From traditional formats such as gummies, shakes and powders to fast-evolving vessels such as confectionery and bakery, Vitafoods hosted a smörgåsbord of innovation in the nutraceuticals sector this year.
As for the event itself, it was great to see hives of discussion, bustling aisles, live demos and plenty of collaboration taking place: a far cry from the covid-constrained events of 2020/21.
FoodBev was excited to speak with a wide range of companies, though we do wish we’d had the time to get to know a whole lot more! A special thanks to Bioiberica, Prinova, Glanbia, Nektium, Ingredia, Kerry, Lycored, Givaudan, ADM, Ingredion, Laita, Fonterra, and many more who invited us to discuss the latest ingredients and to sample their latest offerings.
So, what were our key take-homes?
Gummies are bigger than ever. They bridge the gap between food and pharma, are less invasive than a pill, and are tastier. Natural flavours and colours will be key to beating the competition here, as well as offering a wide range of health benefits.
A tough pill to swallow
Pills are out, as consumers look to ingest more enjoyable formats that aim to prevent illnesses rather than cure them. In addition to an increase in gummies, plenty of other formats are being tested outside the realm of traditional pill-form medication. Snack bars and bites, chocolate, dissolvable powders and gels…all aim to provide health benefits in an enjoyable manner.
Core health benefits
Immunity, gut health, bone and joint health, energy and sports nutrition remain core health targets for manufacturers. But we also saw some interesting innovations in areas such as women’s health, ‘beauty from within’, help with relaxation//anxiety/stress and even gaming/esports – a fast-growing industry with plenty of space for nutraceutical formulations – which encompasses areas such as cognition and performance, slow-release energy, and healthy snacking.
Health v indulgence
What were once considered two opposing trends, have now become bedfellows. Manufacturers are refining their products to meet both health and indulgence demands from consumers. This spans everything from reduced sugar and salt alternatives, to functional chocolate and bars. We’re still some way off a birthday cake that can help to lose weight or a croissant that enhances brain function, but we’re certainly a step in the right direction.
Taste and texture
Taste and texture remain key challenges for manufacturers. How can they create a low-sugar, low-fat or low-salt product while retaining the same taste and texture? How can functional formulations be added to products while appealing to consumer taste buds? How can plant-based alternatives mimic the mouthfeel of their traditional counterparts? Companies continue to experiment with new ingredients and formats to ensure the two Ts are ticked.
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