How nutrition can address the food and beverage industry’s biggest challenges in 2017

Last week Food Dive published a list of the 6 biggest challenges for the food and beverage industry in 2017. Here, we take a look at where nutrition can support your business in facing five of these challenges.

The original Food Dive article is here 9 food and beverage experts identify the industry's biggest challenges in 2017


Food Dive Challenge 1: Reducing sugar without sacrificing flavour and maintaining clean labels

This challenge is most specific to the US where changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel now require the declaration of added sugars. However, regardless of your nutrition labelling requirements, we all know sugar is a hot topic and something consumers what to know more about (1).

Nutrition can support in addressing sugar and clean label concerns

You don’t need to wait for regulations to provide the information that consumers are looking for and seeking to understand.  These five steps are a simple way to understand how you can address sugar and clean labelling concerns.

1.    Type of sugars

The first step is to identify where the sugar in your product is coming from.

Are the sugars in your product naturally intrinsic to your ingredients such as, dairy or fruit? Or are they added?

If all the sugar in your product is intrinsic that is, naturally present in your ingredients skip down to step 5, to see how you can communicate this.

2.    Function of added sugar

If you have added sugar in your product, what function is it performing:

  • Does it have a technological function such as leavening, fermenting or preserving?
  • Is it solely for taste?
  • If the function is solely for taste, ask yourself, would consumers expect sugar to be added to this product (for example, if they’re were to make this at home would they add sugar)?

3.    Amount of added sugar

Now you know where the sugars in your product are coming from and what its function is the next step is to ask yourself:

  • What is the minimum amount needed to achieve the flavour or function?
  • Do you have any unnecessary added sugar?
  • If consumers wouldn’t expect it in your product, do you really need to add it?

Using your answers from step three and four you can identify if there is a need or opportunity for reduction or removal of added sugars in your product.

4.    Declaring sugars

Regardless of the amount and function of added sugars in your product there is still an opportunity to address clean labelling concerns. A component of clean labelling is about how ingredient information is presented to consumers. In the case of added sugars, these can come in multiple forms from easily recognizable sugar or honey to less consumer-friendly terms such as dextrose or maltose. Look at the ingredients listing for your product:

  • How are the added sugars listed in your ingredients list?
  • Are different sugars listed multiple times?
  • Is there a simpler more consumer friendly way to communicate this?

Obviously, it goes without saying that ingredient lists must always comply with relevant regulations but within this, reviewing your ingredients lists could be an effective strategy to address both clean labelling and sugar concerns.

5.    Communicating the sugar content

In many cases sugars are in a product for a legitimate reason and must be described in the ingredients list in a particular way. In this case, transparency is a valuable approach to address consumer concerns around sugars and clean labels. Its simple, be upfront with your consumers. Tell them why it is in your product and what its function is. This isn’t about marketing your product but purely providing useful information to inform decisions. At the end of the day, consumers want transparency and are willing to reward those companies who meet that need (2).


Using these five simple steps you can better understand the sugars in your product. As a result, your business can make informed decisions about how best to address the challenge of reducing sugar without sacrificing flavour and maintaining clean labels.


Food Dive Challenge 2: Differentiation in an oversaturated marketplace

“Trends such as better-for-you and organic/natural are no longer nascent newfangled concepts and the playing field has become littered with competitors. Given how competitive shelf space is at the major retailers and the fact that it is now more difficult for smaller market entrants to catch their larger competitors off guard in these categories, it is becoming increasingly more challenging for these upstarts to gain a foothold.”

 - Anthony Valentino, deputy editor at Mergermarket

Food Dive

Nutrition is an opportunity to differentiate your product

This is my favourite of the six challenges. Why? Because its my personal belief that every product has a unique nutrition or health feature or benefit that can become its competitive advantage. We know that consumers’ health and nutrition needs are diverse, individual and fluid. This means that there are so many opportunities to meet a true consumer need - from dietary preferences, food values and nutrition requirements to meal specific needs. The key here is to go deeper than just “better for you” or “healthy”. Understand the true nutrition features of your product and communicate them to the consumers who are looking for this benefit. Make it relevant and tangible – a difference they can understand and feel. This will differentiate your product from the rest.


Food Dive challenge 3: Integrating convenience into products across the board

This challenge addresses the increase in snacking or more frequent meals and more meals on-the-go.

Nutrition is a key factor in convenience

Nutrition fits in well with this challenge as often the concept of convenience in food is centred on the availability of healthy snacks or healthy meals on-the-go.

Basically, if you can make a snack or meal on-the-go product more nutritious or more aligned with your consumer’s health needs you are making it more convenient.

To help meet this need consider:

  • What are my consumers seeking in this eating occasion?
  • What nutrition features would a traditional healthy meal provide at this eating occasion (e.g. think fibre and calcium for breakfast, vegetables at dinner etc.)?
  • Is there a nutrition or health gap that could be addressed in a snacking opportunity (for example we know consumers are not eating enough vegetables so a convenient way to get a serve of vegetables in snacking product could address this nutrition gap)?

As a bonus, addressing the challenge of convenience while still offering a healthy option will set you apart from the crowd here (tick - challenge number 2 and 3).


Food Dive challenge 4: Adhering to changing consumer demands

“Consumers are seeking foods that align with their values and they aren’t willing to compromise on taste, price or convenience. The challenge for manufacturers moving forward will be to create healthy, eco-friendly and humanely produced foods that deliver on taste and are cost-competitive. … .”

— Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute

Food Dive

Nutrition offers insights and strategies to meet consumer demands

Nutrition is obviously a key component of the consumer demand for healthy foods. Using nutrition science as your evidence base can provide insights into the key factors within different consumer health demands and identify the various strategies to deliver on this demand. This enables you to approach your desired outcome from all angles - foods, ingredients, cooking methods and nutrients ensuring you are aware of all the options to meet your consumers desired health outcome. Using an evidence-based approach makes sure you are working from a solid foundation providing longevity and flexibility as desires change.


Food Dive challenge 5: Adapting to recent and impending policy changes

“In the public policy arena, the food industry will continue its ideological tug-of-war with policymakers who believe discriminatory taxes, bans, restrictions and mandatory labeling schemes -- rather than consumer-driven marketplace changes -- are the pathway to positive public health outcomes. Globally, food companies will be challenged by the proliferation of the World Health Organization’s food and nutrition policy recommendations for member states.”

— Sean McBride, DSM Strategic Communications

Food Dive

Nutrition identifies the risk of any policy changes

Nutrition helps you to adapt to potential policy changes by providing insight into the likely classification or your products, implications and strategies to address areas of concern. Nutrient profiling, classifying or ranking foods based on their nutrition content, is often the key compliance measure in policy’s. Nutrient profiling tools can help you too assess the risk of potential policy changes, provide awareness of the likely classifications and identify any areas of concern. Knowing the facts about how your product could be classified is key to being ready for any policy changes.


The sixth challenge identified in the Food Dive article is: Food safety, FSMA regulations and increased recalls. This focuses on food safety and in particular the regulatory changes in the US and as its not strictly nutrition related I’ve left it out of this piece.


How will you address these challenges in 2017?

Whether its sugar, differentiation, convenience, consumer demands or policy change challenges that you’re facing in 2017 nutrition is uniquely placed to provide your solution.


Facing these challenges and want to understand more about how nutrition can help?

Drop us a line and we can arrange a free consultation



  1. Mellentin, J. (2015). 10 key trends in food, nutrition and health 2016. London: New Nutrition Business.
  2. Label Insight (2016) STUDY: Ninety-four Percent of Consumers say Food Product Transparency From Brands and Manufacturers is Important, Impacts Purchase [Online]  23 August 2016