NEW ORLEANS — Fears over food safety and food shortages are among top drivers in new product development, according to Innova Market Insights, market research firm based in Duiven, The Netherlands.
A rise in home cooking, emerging superfood ingredients, and clean label concerns also are leading trends in food and beverage innovation.
“We’ve found with consumer surveys that they’re more concerned about pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and G.M.O.s, than the use of additives and preservatives, although clean label as a whole is very important to consumers,” said Joanna Clifton, a market analyst with Innova, during the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo held June 21-24 in New Orleans. “Hormone-free, G.M.O.-free and similar claims have shown significant growth.”
Innova collected consumer insights and tracked global product introductions to identify the top ten industry trends in 2014.
Waste not, want not
Amid looming food shortages, the topic of food loss and waste has become a top-of-mind issue for manufacturers. A third of all food produced globally is lost during harvesting, processing and distribution or wasted in production or in retail and food service, according to Innova.
“Even more concerning, you could feed 870 million hungry people if just 25% of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved,” Ms. Clifton said.
Among wasted and lost food, fruits and vegetables account for 45%, followed by cereals at 30%, fish and seafood and 30%, and dairy products at 20%.
“Packaging innovation is going to be key in waste reduction,” Ms. Clifton said. “For example, there are a lot more single households than there ever used to be, and there are packaging solutions tailored for changing consumption patterns and smaller households with single-serve packs for less waste.”
“You can trust us”
Food safety scares and scandals have shaken shoppers’ trust. Two-thirds of U.S. consumers prefer to buy food if its origin is known, and 29% find local claims to be very or extremely important when making a purchasing decision.
“Consumer confidence in food industry is down somewhat,” Ms. Clifton said. “Companies really have their work cut out in regaining consumer trust, and ingredient origin is going to be increasingly used as a marketing tool.”
Origin claims on global product launches increased by 80% last year, up from 48% in 2012, and further growth is anticipated. Vegetables led origin claims in 2013, followed by fruit, meat products and cheese.
The economic downtown has spurred a shift toward more home cooking, with a preference for quick and convenient fixes. With 85% of global consumers indicating rising prices affect which groceries they buy, sales of budget cooking ingredients, such as cheaper cuts of meat and canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, are expected to boom.
“Obviously hard economic times have continued for a lot of consumers since 2008 until now, so they’re looking for respite and pleasure that doesn’t cost excessive amounts of money in the form of food and beverage,” Ms. Clifton said. “There has been a shift toward more home cooking and food bringing family and friends together.”
To appeal to the cash-conscious consumer, supermarkets have rebranded private label products with sophisticated packaging and flavor selections.
Bakery products represented 12% of global launches with an economy positioning in 2013, followed by dairy (11%), ready meals (10%), meat, fish and eggs (9%), and sauces and seasonings (9%).
“It’s a small fix to give consumers a little more value for money with their own brands, but they’ve done this without neglecting their premium lines,” Ms. Clifton noted.
While value products represented 2% of global launches in 2013, indulgent and premium items accounted for 6%.
Look out for the small guys
Small-scale innovation is showing big potential, as major global players increasingly look to startup brands for acquisition opportunities or inspiration in new product development.
“Small innovators are really inspiring the larger manufacturers with their trends, flavors and product concepts,” Ms. Clifton said. “Craft-inspired new product development is growing.”
Global launches with hand-crafted or similar claims rose 60% in 2013 from 2012. For example, amid declining U.S. beer sales, craft brewers saw growth, and ingredients associated with “craft snacks” developed by smaller companies have climbed. The use of ancient grains in new snack products increased by 41% between 2012 to 2013, followed by pulses (29%), nuts and seeds (28%), and vegetable products (23%).
“The small guys are really impacting future trends in a way they weren’t before,” Ms. Clifton said. “New ingredients, concepts, preparations for more health benefits are emerging from this synergy between the big guys and the smaller ones.”
Health is holistic
A growing health consciousness has taken hold in America, with nearly a third of U.S. consumers saying they are knowledgeable about health and nutrition, though half report having no major health issues.
“There has been a changing approach to functional foods, and some big manufacturers are looking to all areas of alternative health to provide a more holistic approach to nutritious food and beverage solutions,” Ms. Clifton said.
Feeding the trend are products promoting traditional medicine alternatives, such as Yogi Tea with an Ayurveda positioning and Traditional Medicinals Wellness Teas inspired by traditional Chinese medicine.
“Vitamins and minerals, which do have approved claims, will continue to be strong focus,” Ms. Clifton added.
Superfood claims continue to soar, led by products with organic positioning. Also prominent are products marketed as allergen- or gluten-free, with no additives or preservatives, or containing antioxidants.
“There has been a big revival of heirloom vegetables, like artichokes, parsnips, and of ancient grains, like chia seed, freekeh,” Ms. Clifton said. “Maqui berry from South America is the latest superfruit that we’re tracking a large increase in…. Altogether these are products that were once considered unfashionable and now the height of food fashion, included in an ever-increasing range of products.”
Snacks lead the pack for superfood claims, as such ingredients as kale and chia seeds become available in more convenient formats.
“No need to go to the health store to find them,” she said. “You can go to your supermarket and buy Special K if you want cereal with chia seeds in it.”
The rise of the hybrid
“New product development is obviously pushing boundaries with entirely new concepts globally,” Ms. Clifton said. “Well-known brands are venturing into previously un-imagined categories, and it’s bringing new flavors, new textures, new delivery methods.”
Hybrid innovation offers a potential solution for consumers who want two options in one. Zola Coconut Water Espresso, for example, combines the benefits of hydration and energizing caffeine. Other category crossovers include Lipton strawberry cupcake-flavored green tea and Blue Diamond coffee-flavored almonds.
The protein horizon
Protein continues to gain muscle across a wide variety of food and beverages. Benefitting from the boom in particular is the dairy category, with Greek yogurt as a driver.
“Huge opportunities from this trend and a wide variety of target markets; there’s the aging global population in need of additional protein because of problems of Sarcopenia, there is more male-specific marketing emerging,” she said. “Of course, men love their protein bars and protein sport drinks, but yogurt is being marketed toward men, which is traditionally a more feminine product.”
New marketing efforts also position protein as a tool in weight management with satiety claims, especially when combined with fiber, Ms. Clifton noted.
Thirty per cent of U.S. consumers choose foods because they are high in protein and are willing to pay 5% more for products that have added protein.
“Whether you’re looking for pleasure, performance, nutrition, or you’re a flexitarian, there’s something for everybody,” she said.
New protein product development for bakery items and plant-based protein are expected to gain strength.
New stealth strategies
Facing regulatory and consumer pressure, manufacturers are dialing down salt, sugar and saturated fat in products.
No-sugar-added claims have surged in global product launches by 59% in 2013, and no-trans-fat claims showed strong growth in bread, baked foods, cookies, crackers and savory snacks.
But not every company is disclosing its nutrition tweaks. Companies such as Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz have reduced sodium or sugar in such products as barbecue sauce and ketchup without revealing the reformulations, Ms. Clifton said.
“A low sodium product is often associated with less flavor,” she said. “So, it’s what we call stealth reduction.”
“The free-from food movement is obviously booming,” Ms. Clifton said. “Consumers believe free-from is healthier, and it’s driving huge growth, but they expect more options.”
Free-from innovation continues to expand over a diverse range of products with a focus on improved taste. Dairy alternative launches increased by 36% last year, led by almond milk, which accounts for more than 55% of the U.S. plant-milk industry market. Also making a splash is coconut milk, which grew 36% in product introductions from 2012 to 2013.
“There are lots of different alternatives for people with different dietary intolerances,” she said. “There’s a mass market appeal of dairy-free, so really it can appeal to all, not just those with allergies or intolerances. Further flavor innovation can provide even more momentum.”