Jon Peters, President of Beneo Inc, said there was a “growing consumer awareness” around healthy eating in Latin America, particularly weight management.
“Although this is developing at a slower pace than other markets outside of LATAM, Beneo continues to see customers moving towards healthier food formulations, especially in the areas of sugar reduction and digestive health,” Peters told NutraIngredients-LATAM.
In Mexico and Brazil, for example, 'weight management' and 'avoiding diabetes' were cited as the number one drivers behind wanting to reduce sugar consumption, according to Beneo's 2017consumer research.
Propelling this, Peters said, were a number of government-mandated sugar reduction programs and subsequent product innovations in various markets.
The gut microbiome
Data from Beneo's 2018 Global Trend Study on Health Food Ingredients indicated that just over half (51%) of consumers in Argentina were also 'extremely' or 'very' concerned about digestive issues and earlier prebiotic research showed 52% of consumers in Mexico to be 'extremely' or 'very' interested in the gut microbiome.
Peters said: “Consumers are starting to have a greater understanding of the link between digestive wellness and overall health, immunity and improved weight management. As a result, they are increasingly linking digestive health with their overall wellbeing, understanding that it can lead to better energy levels and improved moods.”
Prebiotics and other products for digestive health, therefore, along with developments that enable sugar reduction and replacement, were the region's “biggest opportunities”, he said, particularly in the dairy, bakery and beverage sectors.
“In addition, as blood sugar management and its role in weight management begins to be better understood, low glycemic carbohydrates are beginning to present a significant opportunity for food and drink manufacturers in the region.”
However, Peters said the market remained challenging from an economical perspective.
“Forecasting economic growth in many LATAM countries continues to be a challenge, as does the ability by some LATAM consumers to afford healthier foods,” he said.
Despite this, he said Beneo would continue its R&D work at its application center in São Paulo, Brazil to develop new natural and functional recipes that aligned with consumer trends and hoped to grow business in the region over the coming years.