Being in media, I spend much time tracking industry trends. Daily news arrives from sources such as e-newsletters, press releases, consumer periodicals (Wall Street Journal to Newsweek), conference attendance and personal conversations. Now back in the office after attending AACC, WWFE, FIE, SSW and two of our own conferences (R&D Applications Seminar—Chicago and the New Products Conference), I’ll offer a few comments that could be categorized as “tips on trends.”

In one presentation, the consultants HSC observed, “Italy is the global leader in probiotics.” Several ingredient suppliers I met at Food Ingredients Europe relayed that, in general, Americans tend to be some two to four years behind Europeans and five to even eight years behind the Japanese regarding nutritional product trends. On the other hand, while activities in foreign lands are a source of ideas, the American experience means trends will not always migrate here. If only things were that simple!

HSC also noted that just when you thought you have heard everything possible about omega fatty acids, a “new” one—the omega-3 form of DPA or docosapentaenoic acid (22:5, n-3)—is appearing in the marketplace. The various types of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are increasingly tied to their own specific health benefits. For example, one supplier of ALA omega-3s, commonly found in flax and walnuts, told me of frustrations due to the industry’s focus on the lack of support for ALA’s cardiovascular benefit. Meanwhile, ALA’s anti-inflammatory benefits are being ignored.

In the area of industry “slang,” it has been opined that the term “cosmeceuticals” includes both topical and ingested nutrients for beauty, while “nutricosmetics” means internally consumed components only. Interesting terminology was introduced to me by a broker from the personal care industry, which differentiates between “functional ingredients” that are in a formula for actual benefits vs. “label ingredients” that are there solely so the manufacturer could claim their presence. This, too, occurs in the food industry, although regulations provide occasional restraints.

Interest grows in the herbal sweetener stevia, for which Coca-Cola is reported to hold dozens of patents. Stevia is only approved for dietary supplement use in the U.S. (which includes supplement-labeled beverages), but can be used in foods in international markets. Stevia’s quality varies due to the part of the plant used, growing conditions, etc. However, one foreign supplier of sucralose felt the most promising new botanical sweetener was not stevia, but lo han kuo fruit extract. I love this industry.