NEW YORK — Rather than remain loyal to a particular brand, today’s consumers may be more open to trying a variety of products to meet their needs, said Alan Wilson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of McCormick & Company, Inc. As a leading flavor supplier across the global food industry, the Sparks, Md.-based company has seen seismic shifts in the marketplace created by a fragmentation in consumer interests.
“So, at different times, consumers are concerned about everything from gluten-free to organic to healthy to low-salt, and they are kind of spread across, and that is true both in Q.S.R., in casual dining as well as in packaged foods,” Mr. Wilson said during a May 30 presentation at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. “And so what people are trying to do is find a way to meet that demand, and more and more what we see are consumers are looking for variety and they are not necessarily thinking of the long-established brands as they do that. So, they are open to trying a whole lot of different kinds of products.”
Concerns about nutrition guide much of today’s product development across the industry, but McCormick said taste remains the top driver for purchasing decisions.
“In terms of the food trends, certainly gluten-free, protein is another that is really driving, but it does all kind of come back to flavor,” Mr. Wilson said. “If stuff doesn’t taste good, consumers aren’t going to buy it. And so while we see consumers will say they have a high interest in healthy and low-salt, if they don’t like the flavor of it, they aren’t going to necessarily buy it. So, while the industry has done a good job of reducing salt and fat and sugar in products, consumers are still buying a lot of the stuff that they have said they would rather have other options.”
Growing demand for global flavors has sparked recent innovation at McCormick, which said 44% of all U.S. flavor occasions involve cuisine-specific or ethnic fare. Products launched in the first half of the year include Hispanic seasoning blends and Indian Essentials seasoning packets, along with gluten-free recipe mixes and a new Lawry’s oven fry mix designed for a quick weekday dinner. Beyond McCormick’s core platforms, the company also has introduced new items under its Zatarain’s and Thai Kitchen brands.
“From a consumer’s value lens, our recent innovation spans every price point from premium to value and with a lot in between…” Mr. Wilson said. “Once we have a great idea, we take it to new markets. Past examples include grinders, Grill Mates and slow cooker seasonings. However, these introductions occurred over a multi-year period. Going forward, you are going to see more rapid roll-outs of our latest ideas like flavor shots and our gluten-free recipe mixes.”