Food pairings 'ripe for innovation' as immunity mega-trend rolls on

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

A turmeric and black pepper combination enhances bioavailability of curcumin absorption in body for health benefits, it's believed. Image: Getty/ThamKC
A turmeric and black pepper combination enhances bioavailability of curcumin absorption in body for health benefits, it's believed. Image: Getty/ThamKC

Related tags Bioavailability Immunity

Exploring unique food pairings offers food brands the chance to tap into consumer desire to improve immunity via functional food, according to a report.

AI data company Spoonshot said it expects growth in examples of ‘food synergies’ to capitalise on an increased desire for health and immunity among consumers. Business interest in food as medicine as a concept has risen 55% over the last year, it revealed.

From hero ingredients to dynamic duos

“There is scope for CPG companies to move to promoting ingredient pairs on pack for their increased benefits rather than focus on a single hero ingredient as has been the norm thus far,” ​the company’s analysis noted. “Research into food synergies could pave the way for some unique combinations that could further the area of functional foods rather than just focus on finding novel ingredients.

“Ingredient combinations that can enhance nutrient bioavailability will emerge alongside the single ingredients focus and pave the way for interesting innovation in the food and business space. As consumers become more interested in nutrition beyond just macronutrients, we expect to see a shift from the single ‘hero ingredients’ call outs to ‘dynamic duos’.”

Food synergy examples include tomatoes and broccoli, which when combined boasts more potent health effects. According to a study published in Cancer Research, prostate​ tumors grew much slower in rats fed both tomato and broccoli powder, compared to rats that ate either broccoli or tomato powder alone, or rats given lycopene as a supplement to their regular diet. Similar trends can be seen in raspberries and chocolate, turmeric and pepper (which enhances curcumin by up to 2000%, said the research), and apples and chocolate. A combination of green tea and black pepper, meanwhile, enhances the bioavailability of epigallocatechin gallate in green tea, the report claimed. EGCG is the most abundantly available catechin in green tea and thought to promote inflammation, promote weight loss and help prevent heart disease.

Expect to see restaurants partnering with nutritionists

The ‘pairing for functional benefit’ trend may even be seen on restaurant menus as the hospitality industry attempts to recover from the effects of the pandemic, the company predicted. What’s more, it added that food synergy is not an entirely new phenomenon. For example, traditional combinations such as Vitamin D fortified milk, tomatoes and olive oil or beans and rice go well together not just for taste but for the fact they enhance nutritional bioavailability.

“We are likely to see restaurants partnering with nutritionists to use synergistic ingredients combinations to create dishes that enhance the bioavailability of nutrients, promoting benefits like immunity, gut health, eye health and so on,”​ said Moonshot’s report, which noted over the last year consumer interest in self-care doubled, while business interest grew by 168%. 

It added synergetic food trends may also offer ways to improve the nutritional profile of meat-free protein as this space booms and will gain in importance as more people embrace specific food habits for health reasons such as plant-based, gluten-free and keto. “Cutting out certain foods from our diet could increase the likelihood of shortfalls or deficiencies of related nutrients. Vegans, for example, are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiencies since they do not eat animal products.”