With a growing number of Americans avoiding what seems to be an infinite list of food ingredients, all types of food manufacturers are making free-from package claims whenever possible. Many times, the claim is in regard to the “Big 8” food allergens identified by the US Food and Drug Administration. They are: dairy, egg, fish, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.
Beyond the eight allergens, other free-from claims that shoppers seek include gluten-free and lactose-free, for those with intolerances or sensitivities, as well claims such as no genetically modified organisms and no added hormones, for those with food production convictions. Many consumers look for free-from artificial ingredient claims. Another popular one is free-from added sugars. The list is extensive and continues to grow as consumers explore the relationship between food and health and wellness benefits.
“In pursuit of their quest for long-term quality of life, America’s consumers are shifting their views on dieting and approaches to eating more healthfully,” says Laurie Demerrit, CEO, The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Washington. “Nearly every consumer today has some kind of dieting ideology that they currently practice. Whether vegetarian, paleo, flexitarian or gluten-free, American eating habits are much more nutritionally intentional than in a former era composed largely of short-term crash diets, silver-bullet products and eating to look good.”
More than four in 10 (44 percent) consumers have experimented with some type of diet or eating approach in the past year, according to the market research firm’s Health + Wellness 2017 report. Eleven percent of respondents said they follow a gluten-free diet. The same amount said they were either dairy-free or lactose-free.
“Over half of America’s consumers are avoiding or deliberating reducing specific ingredients in their daily diet,” Demerrit says.
On-Cor Frozen Foods LLC, Aurora, Illinois, recently introduced two new chicken entrées in its Selects line: Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake and Chicken & Vegetable Rice Bake. Both frozen products make the claim of being made with all-white meat chicken with no added antibiotics.
Old World Naturals, Troy, New York, is a fourth-generation family-owned processor and supplier of delicatessen meats. The company is launching a namesake line of packaged meats made in a manner to support the ecosystem. The company says that its 100 percent grass-fed and finished beef is a first step toward supporting regenerative agriculture. In addition to beef products, the line includes 100 percent vegetarian-fed uncured pork and oven-roasted turkey sourced from livestock raised without added antibiotics or hormones.
Applegate, Bridgewater, New Jersey, recently removed carrageenan from its poultry deli meat varieties. Generally recognized as safe as a food ingredient, carrageenan’s use dates back hundreds of years, mostly for its thickening and gelling properties. Being plant derived, it’s allowed in vegan foods. And in the US, it can be included in organic foods, too.
Earlier this year, the US Dept. of Agriculture decided against the recommendation of its own National Organic Standards Board and renewed carrageenan’s status on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List), according to an April 4, 2018, posting in the Federal Register. The ruling means carrageenan, which is not certified organic, may continue to be used in organic food items.
Consumers Union, the Washington-based advocacy division of Consumer Reports, disagreed with the ruling. Many organic consumers feel the same, which is why brands such as Applegate decided to remove the controversial ingredient.
“We’re proud to be a brand that not only listens to consumer feedback, but a brand that takes action on that feedback,” says Nicole Glenn, vice president of marketing at Applegate. “Carrageenan is an ingredient Applegate consumers said they wanted removed from our poultry deli meat, so when we developed a way to replace it and improve the taste of those varieties, it was an easy decision to move forward with a carrageenan-free recipe.”