Special Report on SIAL 2024

by Jo-Ann McArthur

During my conference at SIAL in Montreal last month, I highlighted some trends from our 2024 Nourish Trend Report in action worldwide. I was pleased to see some of these also in action on the SIAL exhibitor floors. (For those who missed it, there were two floors this year—so much to take in!) As a SIAL Innovation award jury member, I saw many exciting new products. Here are some of the highlights of 2024.

Food and Beverage innovations and insights go hand in hand

Change for the sake of change is never productive, nor are wild shots in the dark for the sake of differentiation. The innovations that stick are ones based on insights into how real people actually use products and what gaps exist in the market. These products all hit the nail on the head.

Epic Tofu at SIAL 2024

Epic Tofu, the winner of the Pitch Competition, shows that there are still many areas to explore within traditional plant-based proteins without going full UPF. It’s sold in the freezer section and, if you didn’t know, tofu's texture changes when frozen, giving it a more "meaty" mouthfeel and allowing it to soak up more of the marinade. My favourite flavour was their Shish Taouk.

This Bello water machine was a finalist in the technology category, and I just loved it. It’s stylish and requires minimal counter space while flavouring and filtering your water. I'll be ordering one for my cottage.

Bello water filter at SIAL 2024

While salt has been premiumized over the past decade with multiple types of finishing salts (how many kinds of salt do you have in your kitchen compared to your parents’ when you were growing up?), there has not been the same movement with that other staple condiment. Freeze-dried and fermented Kampot pepper, from .pepper..field (that's not a typo) and sourced from small family farms in Cambodia, could change that.

Here’s a tip for product developers: Innovation doesn’t need to be lofty. It can simply be about using an existing product in a different way. Just as non-alc beer has created a new consumption occasion, SIAL award-winning Dear Goodness creates a new way of looking at and using olive oil. Its range of oils pairs different taste profiles to different dishes. Its packaging stands out as well, a must to catch the consumer’s attention in a crowded category.

Dear Goodness olive oil at SIAL 2024

In the “Why didn’t I think of that?” category, Chuck Hughes’ Mustard Coleslaw condiment is a unique mashup that could become mainstream. I’ll be serving it at my BBQs this summer.

And to finish, here’s a break-through in a bottle! I will finally stop saying I’ve yet to taste a decent non-alcoholic wine. Zero, out of Austria, is the real deal with an attractive $20 price point to match.

Sustainability is no longer niche for consumers

As a consumer insights expert for a major ingredients company recently told us, sustainability is “table stakes at this point” in food and beverage, adding that consumers “expect companies to be… contributing to fixing the problem.” And there were some notable examples on display at SIAL.

The winner of the Innovation Competition was this portable single-use drip coffee in a sustainable format from El Gusto Foods using premium coffee from Costa Rica. The extra “perk” of doing right by the environment makes that morning cup go down even better.

El Gusto sustainable coffee at SIAL 2024

This year’s packaging award winner was a reusable pizza box that is stackable, can adapt to 3 different sizes, and has steam holes to ensure your pie stays in top form. Why isn't there government support for these kinds of initiatives? Recycling is paid for from public funds and only diverts a little from landfills. Surely, programs like Suppli (an Uber Eats partner in Toronto for reusable take-out containers—our office is an official drop-off location!) and TerraCycle-type packaging deserve some support.

And I applaud how Marie-Josée, the co-founder of Prana Foods, owned where they are on their sustainability journey. Sustainability is at the heart of their products, but they recognize that their packaging isn't there yet. As I often say to our clients, it's about progress, not perfection. Be transparent about where you are on your journey, and keep moving forward. Consumers who care will come with you.

Of course, there was so much more to see, far more than I can cover here. But what didn't I see at the show? For starters, protein bars were in short supply. Have we reached peak protein bars with our hybrid working style? Likewise, there was little to see for cold brew, perhaps indicating it's also peaked and mainstreamed out of the innovation stage.

SIAL is a must-see event for anyone in the food business; if you have never been, make plans for the Toronto show next May. I’m already looking forward to being inspired in 2025!

Find the complete list of Innovation Winners here:

SIAL Innovation

And the full list of Pitch Competition Winners is here:

SIAL Start-Up

4092 2024 Trend Report Cover Mockup FR 1

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