Being the chocolate lover I am, when a new chocolate product hits my desk, it gets my attention. When a Good Cacao sample made its way to me, it got more than my attention, it got me thinking.
The eye-catching, compostable vegetable parchment packaging holds a bar of single-origin, fair-trade Ecuadorian dark chocolate dusted with either coconut flakes or lemon zest. Yes, the chocolate is delicious—not too sweet but not bitter with a splash of coconut or lemon ginger. But back to the point—the ingredients. In addition to superfoods like maca, lucuma and cupuacu, is a slew of branded ingredients—perhaps the most I’ve ever seen in any one food product. And I didn’t have to squint to find them listed in the ingredients panel, the ingredient logos were part of the product’s messaging. Ingredient logos including Life’s DHA, AstaREAL, GanedenBC30 and Wellmune were prominently displayed.
Was I seeing the future of functional foods? With functional foods and beverages increasingly under the consumer microscope for “pixie dust” levels and questionable sources, these branded ingredient logos could be the antidote.
I asked my colleague Hank Schultz, managing editor for Functional Ingredients magazine, if these branded ingredients stood for quality and efficacious doses. “Simply being branded doesn’t mean the product has vigorous research behind it or is present in finished products in efficacious doses—but often it does,” he says. “A company is not usually going to go to the trouble of patenting, trademarking and branding a product if it doesn’t have solid research.” Further, he says that a branded ingredient supplier will usually work with the manufacturer and make sure the ingredient is used in correct doses and provide educational resources.
It seems to me like branded ingredients are an area where our industry can gain consumer confidence in functional foods and dietary supplements. The onus is on these suppliers to ensure their ingredients have rigorous supporting research and that manufacturers are using them in efficacious doses. If not, branded ingredients will lose any credibility and the foothold they are just beginning to achieve in the marketplace.
Will suppliers stand up to the challenge?