There is a growing trend among American consumers, as well as in global markets, toward the avoidance of a host of specific food ingredients and components. The ingredients not found in our foods are scrutinized just as much as the ingredients that are included. The result is an influx of recipes and food products aimed at providing American’s with the gluten-free, non-GMO, sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free, and various other free-from alternatives they seek, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.”
Even iconic family recipes and culinary sacred turkeys—err, sacred cows—that have a longstanding tradition at our dinner tables during special occasions such as Thanksgiving are receiving a free-from overhaul in many homes nationwide.
“America is in the midst of a free-from food movement. Organic, free-range, heritage turkey and other poultry. Gluten-free cornbread dressing. Lactose-free mac and cheese. Desserts and cranberry sauces made from sweeteners with a low risk for GMOs such as cane sugar, agave, and maple syrup. These are all within the realm of what we can now expect to potentially cook or be served during our holiday meals,” says David Sprinkle, Research Director, Packaged Facts.
Survey data published in “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid” reveal that 44 percent of U.S. adults somewhat or strongly agree that food restrictions, food allergies, or foods/ingredients they avoid play an important role in what they eat. There are, of course, consumers who have to avoid certain foods due to allergies and sensitivities or specific health problems, such as celiac disease, diabetes, or lactose intolerance. But then there are those consumers who choose to avoid certain foods and food ingredients. Main motivations behind the trend towards elective food avoidance include:
- Dealing with perceived health problems, e.g., “wheat belly”
- Preventive health and wellness measures, e.g., maintaining proper weight, pre-natal care, avoiding acne, etc.
- Supporting political, social, and/or environmental positions
- Following dietary parameters of a religion
- Peer pressure
Likewise, there are cases in which people aren’t intentional avoiders, but don’t consume certain specific foods or ingredients because they don’t have access to them in the first place. Inuits living in the Arctic region, for example, have limited access to plant-based carbohydrates.
The food avoidance trend can also be viewed in a larger social context of people wanting to simplify their lives, or to have fewer intrusions from outside forces such as big government and big industry. In some instances, this is driven by a nostalgia for less complicated times, either remembered or imagined. In other instances, the desire for simplicity is forward-looking, not focused on re-creating the past as much as on trying to control a future that seems to be heading in the wrong direction.