KANSAS CITY — When it comes to shelf life, consumer trends have presented challenges to food manufacturers. The “clean label” movement has reined in the use of certain chemical-sounding preservatives. Now, the ability to sell product online may influence shelf life as well. The longer a product stays fresh, the more likely it could be sold online.
Enzymes and extracts from natural sources such as green tea and rosemary may be used to keep products fresh.
Online grocery sales in the United States will have a compound annual growth rate of 27% to reach $41.7 billion by 2022, according to a 2017 report from Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.
“Online grocery sales still represent a relatively small portion of overall food and beverage sales in the U.S., and marketers have a long runway for growth,” the report said.
Nielsen, New York, released its own report in 2017 called “What’s Next in E-Commerce, Understanding the Omnichannel Consumer.” The number of Americans buying groceries online, currently at 23%, could more than triple in less than 10 years, according to Nielsen.
“Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods was an important signal to the market: E-commerce is fundamentally changing the retail landscape,” the report said. “The future of retail will be built on a digital foundation.”
Top barriers to online purchasing globally were consumers wanting to examine product (69%), freshness concern (64%) and quality concern (62%).
“Today’s consumers have a multitude of options to purchase groceries and food products, including both fresh perishable and frozen baked goods through online services like Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron,” said Christopher Limmex, technical sales support manager — enzymes for Kerry and based in Beloit, Wis. “We even see regional or specialty brands, like King’s Hawaiian, develop their own online store.
“However, with the greater variability of distribution channels and shipping methods, shelf life stability becomes even more important. Online distribution of frozen products allows for brands to reach a wider consumer base with a greater assortment of products. Kerry works with our customers to develop shelf life solutions utilizing enzymes that suit the specific needs of their products and distribution strategies.”
Online ordering and shipping allow consumers to purchase finished goods from their favorite bakeries, donut shops, pizzerias and burritos shops — all from other states, said Marie Thomas, vice-president — innovations, baking ingredients, for AB Mauri North America, St. Louis.
“Closer to home, as local home grocery delivery becomes more commonplace, consumers can easily order and have delivered the bread, bun, rolls, cakes, donuts, pies and other baked goods that they would normally drop into their carts inside the store,” she said.
Products sold online need an extended shelf life to accommodate distribution times, the time of year, temperature, and shipping and handling tolerance, said Kathy Sargent, market director, bakery, for Corbion and based in Lenexa, Kas.
“While products must remain soft, they require resilience to prevent crushing,” she said. “Oftentimes, the baked item may sit along an ice pack to keep other meal items stable. Without enzyme modification, these cold conditions would stale baked goods quickly, dissatisfying the consumer that expects a premium solution.”
Clean label has remained a force as well. When asked how they defined a healthy food, 15% gave “free from artificial ingredients, preservatives or additives” as their No. 1 concern in the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2017 Food and Health Survey. Another 36% gave that answer as either their No. 2 or No. 3 concern.
Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, has a list of unacceptable ingredients for its products. The ingredients include artificial preservatives, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone). More Whole Foods Market items should appear online since Amazon finalized its acquisition of the company in late 2017.
A Harris online poll of 1,006 people age 18 and over in the United States found that while 57% said price is most important when choosing a product, 25% said the ingredient label is most important, according to a Nov. 15 webinar from Kemin Industries, Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, that was hosted by Baking & Snack, a sister publication of Food Business News. The poll also found 31% said they always read the ingredient label.