Mintel, the global leader in market and consumer intelligence, has their crystal ball out revealing consumer food trends in the year ahead.
" These annual predictions represent continuations of current big-picture trends, rather than major changes in the marketplace and what companies are doing ," notes Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel. " Understanding the major trend areas and how they change from year to year is essential for companies to be successful when developing and launching new products ."
After reading the report, here are some tips for food entrepreneurs to focus on opportunities for future growth.
Quiet Reduction : Shhhh… quiet… Don' look now but companies are shifting away from the heavy emphasis on sodium reduction… look at the new Progresso Soup commercials, focusing on taste, more veggies and thee is a lack of a focus on sodium. We want taste!
The next quite reduction will be high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) due to the negative press recently and the plethora of discussion in the blogosphere on how bad high fructose corn syrup is for you as a consumer. I won't take sides since I am not a food scientist… just a retail food marketing expert. The media has been focusing on the death of HFCS so look for labeling to change to alternate sweeteners. Look to the inclusion of the natural sweetener stevia as a sugar alternative since it is derived from the stevia plant and tastes just like sugar. However must people don't know what the natural sweetener stevia is so look for other ways to put stevia onto the consumers plate. The brand Truvia is heavily promoting the product through cute commercials like Just one Bite , and other commercials they call Sweetness Stories , the messaging is simple: Honestly Sweet. Mintel also sees messaging like "naturally sweetened" or "reduced sugar."
Redefining Natural : This is one of THE most overused terms in consumer foods. If I ask 10 people for what they define as natural, I get 10 different answers. Mintel calls this the "natural shakedown". Natural many times focuses on the negatives of what is not natural, usually stated as "no artificial ingredients" The FDA natural definition term is still not clearly defined, even though they have very specific terms on Organic. As "Natural" proliferates I agree with the experts that there will be regulatory Terms that are vague or not well understood will come under fire and we are due to see an intervention since it has been abused over the past 25 years. Brand will likely focus on positive aspects of their natural product makeup.
Sustainability : Sustainability from the environment aspect is slowly creeping into consumer food products. You see it more frequently in the reference to packaging reduction. A good example is Whole Foods 365 line of frozen vegetables with prominent messaging that they use 25% less plastic. Vegan and Vegetarian are also more sustainable according to the experts since it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 lbs of grain based feed to raise 1lb of beef… so that is a lot of energy for that delicious burger or steak. Whole Foods recent press release Whole Foods Rolls New Sustainable Packaging Guidelines shows just how wide this effort is in the chain.
I see the Vegan/Vegetarian trend having less impact here vs. packaging changes which are easily understood by the consumer. The recent trend towards clothing detergent in super concentrated forms shows consumer acceptance of packaging reduction. Mintel gave examples of boxless cereal bars or cereals without the inner bag. I am not sure if the consumer is quite ready for cereal that is not is a bag in a box, but how about cereal that has no box and just a bag?
Blurring Categories: We in the industry have long practiced Category Management, creating well defined categories for the purpose of maximizing gross margins and attempting to more closely target consumers. Brands are starting to see that consumers don't really view products in the same categories as we experts do.
For example we are all familiar with cereal and granola bars. So what do we call the category: cereal and granola bars! However what do many of us use these products for? breakfast on the go. So Walmart changed the category in their stores to… Breakfast On The Go? That is how the consumer views the products so why not make the category name what most of us related to. Walmart takes a wide variety as being in one category or another, rather they look for solutions that meet their needs, and that may be something that straddles multiple categories.
I have written about how categories are blurring. It is a snack or a meal? Fast Food is blurring the line between a meal and a snack . McDonalds noticed that consumers use beverages consumed as snacks, snacks as meals, and meals as snacks with McCafe and Snackwraps.
Some Insights from the research:
- Think about the problem solved by a product first and then determine what category it fits into. You may see several categories so choose the one that fits best or is growing robustly
- Consider sustainable packaging or packaging reduction techniques. Some are easy so consider moving from a box to a bag. Think about shrinking the package a bit or using less materials. Make sure you have compelling messaging on your packaging to let the consumer know what you are doing.
- Be cautious on using Natural as a claim since it is likely regulations will tighten up. Use natural as a positive attribute of your product and reduce what you say about what you are not. Your customers really want to know what you really are.
- If you are considering using Stevia in your product, create easy to understand messaging on the natural way you are sweetening your product. Eventually the consumer will know Stevia, but for now, they don't so get creative with your label.
As always I want to help you get your product out of the kitchen, on to the retail shelf and on to your consumers plate.
All the best!