Foods today are as notable for their absent ingredients and attributes as they are for those that are present. "Gluten-free," "dairy-free," "non-GMO," "meatless" and "cage free" are just a few of the most common and trendy buzzwords featured on a number of today’s food and beverage products. And, the food industry is all too willing to accommodate, according to a new report published by market research publisher Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.

The report, “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid, 2nd Edition,” outlines how many consumers are avoiding certain foods and food ingredients for several reasons. Packaged Facts identified five key constituencies— allergies and intolerances; health and well-being; humanitarian concerns; environmental concerns; and religious concerns—that provide the context for why consumers choose to avoid certain foods and ingredients. Each constituency has a leading concern in regard to food avoidance, although individual consumers may have more than one set of concerns.

"Although consumers on the cutting edge of food and nutrition trends may see the food industry as moving at an iceberg-like pace when it comes to making changes, in fact, the industry is remarkably sensitive to shifts in consumer demands," says David Sprinkle, research director.

In terms of food and ingredient avoidances, the industry have moved to accept and promote the concept of sugar-free, fat-free, low carbohydrates, gluten-free, no artificial coloring or other ingredients; cage-free eggs; and no antibiotic use in raising animals and poultry.

Naturally, food and beverage companies would rather not spend time and money on new food formulations or on new packaging if they don’t have to. But, when the food and beverage industry realizes that change is inevitable, it typically embraces the "new" with a spirit that makes it seem as if the changes were its idea in the first place. Indeed, once the food industry embraces a change, it is responsible for that change moving from the cutting edge to the mass market. 

The decision by several large companies to add GMO ingredient information to their labels is a good example of food companies seeking to avoid change, but that the step was not really necessary from a health point of view—a stance that has since been validated by the National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C. Although they disagreed with the demand, they took the position that they were out to please their customers. But, make no mistake, food marketers are also keeping their eyes open to distinguish between a real change and something that is simply a fad, notes Sprinkle.

This report also looks at the current state of food and ingredient avoidance in the United States, and covers consumer attitudes and action. It also reviews some of the specific ingredients that consumers avoid because of a variety of health and wellness reasons, as well as some food production processes and packaging materials that many consumers choose to avoid. In addition, the report looks at recent efforts by government and industry to deal with consumer "free-from" demands in such areas as the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients, the humane treatment of animals and the use of antibiotics for non-medical purposes.