Trends in the Food Industry | Leveraging Innovation to Keep Up With Consumer Demand
Insights from the SIAL Montreal 2009 Conference, April 2009
It is difficult to predict the future of the food industry due to the economic downturn but the trends exhibited at the recent SIAL Montreal 2009 Food Conference in April indicate that, despite the recession, innovation in technology has played a major role in the food industry. Convenience food seems to be popular but innovation is the key to success of any new or existing product. Probiotics have been gaining popularity and in the future various food products such as cakes, biscuits, bread, ice cream, sweets and drinks will have probiotics included in them. "Beauty from within" is another sector of beauty foods that will be more visible in the food aisles as more joint ventures develop between the food industry and the cosmetics industry. And the vision of "mood food" is finally becoming a reality.
According to a group discussion at SIAL MONTREAL 2009, consumer trends suggest that people are asking for more choices in food, with less ingredients but better taste and quality. The research indicates that consumers are trending towards:
- Health & wellness
- Sophistication (regional fusion)
Innovation in portion sizes and packaging were main themes for meeting convenience and quality demands while probiotics continue to gain in popularity for health conscious consumers. Developments in regional fusion, which combine new and exotic tastes and textures and meet consumers’ demand for a higher level of sophistication in foods were evident at the conference. And there were many examples of foods that offer both pleasure and power to meet the demands of our busy lives today.
Convenience & Quality:
Despite the economic tough times, consumers still want a convenient, quick, fresh, healthy, tasty and sophisticated food experience—they just want it at a lower price. Consumer demand includes ease in purchasing, cleaning and preparation, good nutritional value, flavor and food value. They want food which can be prepared quickly but do not want to compromise on quality. They are looking for fresh foods that provide health benefits, as they equate "fresh" to better quality, taste and nutrition. Therefore, they are diverting more towards fresh fruit and vegetables by shopping at fresh, local produce markets in or near their neighborhoods.
The recession has also led to the trend toward more in-home entertaining, brown bag lunches (for example: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey and cheese sandwiches) and cooking restaurant style foods at home to which they can add their own personal touch. These in-home entertaining, less-expensive, convenient and nutritious meals include classic brands like Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese and Hormel's Spam canned meat and Nestlé‘s STOUFFER'S® Lasagna with Meat & Sauce for family size dinners. Moreover, dried beans, rice, pasta and white flour are also hot items as more Americans are now making foods from scratch.
Health & Wellness:
Currently, this is one of the major consumer trends in the food industry. Consumers continue to seek multiple ways to enhance their health to prevent diseases, and to promote healthy aging by paying more attention to what they are eating and how it benefits their health. Today consumers are more concerned about their weight, cardio-health, digestive-health and immunity than ever before. Since health is a major concern of consumers, manufacturers are finding new ways to incorporate natural and innovative ingredients into food products for health benefits. As a result probiotics, prebiotics and functional foods are flooding the market. The consumer demand for "all natural" is also met by YogActive Cereal with probiotic for adults and juniors as it has no preservatives and no artificial color or flavor. Another example is the Activia Yogurt drink on-the-go by Dannon which provides probiotics in a yogurt drink that is healthy and pleasurable.
Sophistication (Regional fusion):
The media also has played a role here, as it has made this world a smaller place and as a result people have become more knowledgeable about other cultures and different foods. The variety of ethnic cuisines and exotic drinks such as Asian and Mediterranean, and the regional fusion in foods makes it more sophisticated in nature. A variety of regional foods offer a wide range of tastes and flavors that are authentic and unique. Hence, there is a regional trend emerging in consumer behaviors which has led to more sophisticated fusion in foods such as texmex honey, curry with lemon grass noodles, chocolate with strawberry and kiwi flavor, etc. People are more aware of food from other countries and can access them easily in the grocery stores.
Consumers are also looking at the exotic foods, drinks and miracle fruits to get pleasure from them, as they taste different and also provide great health benefits. Exotic or super fruits were a dream in the past but are now a reality as they can easily be found in a local market. Working couples who are short on time and young Gen Y adults are seeking energy, power and performance from these foods, thus engaging in energy drinks and functional foods. A very good example here is the newly innovated drink called Activate TM a functional drink with a unique custom-designed cap that keeps vitamins and other ingredients fresh and only delivers them into the water with a twist of a cap when consumed. This provides fun, pleasure and energy.
Innovation Examples Which Reflect Consumer Trends:
(Products demonstrated in April at SIAL MONTREAL 2009 Montreal, Canada)
Boisson Slow Cow
The trends and innovations at SIAL MONTREAL 2009 revealed an interesting concept by introducing a new drink called “Slow Cow” which brings a soothing effect in contrast to the energy drinks already overloading the market. This innovation reflects pleasure and fun as it provides a very calming and refreshing effect.
A new and exciting way to make hot chocolate was demonstrated at the Food Expo in Montreal in April 2009. It is a Belgian-made ganache cube attached to a stick designed to be immersed and stirred in steaming hot milk. The chocolate melts and dissolves into the hot milk and provides a quick-and-easy cup of hot chocolate. It is available in semi sweet, milk chocolate and hazel nut flavors. This product reflects sophistication in food innovation.
Dried cranberries with Omega-3
Unlike the conventionally dried cranberries found on the market today, these dried cranberries with their great, sweet taste are tender, soft, and juicy with the addition of omega-3. The enrichment in omega-3 type from the ALA oil seed provide health benefits as well as pleasure. This can be easily used as a tasty snack or added to salad or as a topping for desserts. This demonstrates convenience and a healthy product.
Culi-HONEY Oriental, Saffron & Texmex
It was interesting to find honey in flavors such as Oriental, Saffron and Texmex. Global innovation has broadened the range of consumer demand and in order to meet that demand, companies are infusing their products with wide range of spices. The honey-base in this product helps to improve both salty and sweet dishes; grilled meals, ready meals, meats, pasta, as well as desserts; ice cream, cakes, pastries and other dairy desserts. These products can be found in supermarkets, are easy to handle and appeal to a variety of senses. This is a perfect example of fusion in food which reflects sophistication.
Pure Maple Syrup and Fruit
Another great innovation is “the pure maple and fruit fusion” which combines the great flavors, high antioxidants and high nutritional value of pure maple sugar and pure fruit powder. It is important to note here that there are no added preservatives, additives, colors or flavors. This provides sophistication and health benefits.
Ready-to-bake, frozen galette dough, made with pure butter is another new innovation. The frozen galette is individually wrapped between two parchment papers and ready to go from the freezer to the oven. It has two particularly innovative features – first in that the dough is baked in the microwave and second that it is malleable. Galettine, once baked, can be molded into different shapes as desired by the consumer and can be used for various elaborate desserts, introducing consumers to new experiences. This is a convenient, easy to handle, fun and sophisticated product.
YogActive Cereal with Yogurt Probiotics
Since health is a major concern of consumers, manufacturers are finding ways to incorporate new, natural and innovative ingredients into food products for health benefits. The YogActive Cereal brand has gone a step further and developed a cereal with probiotics for juniors as well. YogActive meets the needs of the whole family by providing a healthy, tasty and nutritious cereal. The consumer demand for “all natural” is also met by YogActive as it has no preservatives and no artificial color or flavor. It also has top quality ingredients such as real fruit, crunch flakes and probiotic yogurt pearls. Many years of research and development has been invested into this innovative product. The brand logo of the Y with a dot has evolved to represent a healthy slim figure, as well as a healthy product with sophistication.
Other recent food innovations in North America:
- Domino sugar has introduced a line of carbon free-certified pure sugar.
- Frito-Lay has introduced Giant Cheetos snacks, which are about the size of a golf ball and have the same taste as the traditional Cheetos. According to Ann Mukherjee, the group vice-president for marketing at Frito-Lay "As we looked at product development for the Cheetos brand, we really wanted to find a way to bring “fun” to the consumer in a unique way that went beyond just a conventional marketing message, and what better way to do that than through the actual product."
- Nestlé has introduced Lil' Drums which are the original Nestlé Drumstick cone re-invented in a small snack size. The new product comes in flavors such as chocolate fudge brownie, cookie dough, vanilla with chocolaty swirls and chocolaty with chocolaty swirls. This provides convenience and pleasure to the consumer.
- Johnsonville Sausage, L.L.C. has introduced a hand-held sandwich; a sausage in a warm roll. These sandwiches come in varieties such as spicy sunrise, sweet and smoky, smoked bratwurst, south-western style and smoky cheddar sausage. According to Sara Babb, the senior brand manager, "Johnsonville hand-held sausage sandwiches satisfy the craving of an increasing number of customers who seek something extremely flavorful that can be eaten in the car, at the office, between classes –virtually any occasion that requires a quick and tasty meal solution." This clearly describes a quick and convenient food product.
- Natural sweeteners such as Stevia and agave nectar will continue to be used in foods and beverages. Since approval by the FDA, Coca-cola and Pepsi have already incorporated them into their beverages.
- Beauty Foods such as Nestlé's Glowelle Beauty Drink is touted to delay aging by hydrating the skin from the inside and out. Also new innéov Solaire with Skin Probiotic developed through a Nestlé-L'Oréal joint venture for cosmetic nutritional supplements or “nutricosmetics”. These products reflect sophistication and health benefits.
- Activate Drinks: Los Angeles-based Activate has launched a line of functional beverages. The unique feature of this drink is a custom-designed cap that keeps vitamins and other healthful ingredients fresh until consumption. It is naturally sweetened with Stevia, and has only 5 calories per bottle. It has no preservatives and surprising flavor and fresh ingredients are delivered with a twist of a cap.
- Fusion foods continue to develop; it is observed that in 2009 more food products will be fused with flavors such as alcohol, tea, coffee and fruits.
"Mood Food" is an important future trend in the food industry; the ingredients will reflect the moods or emotions of consumers, ranging from calm to angry. The stressful pace of life takes a toll and what we eat affects our brain chemistry and its function. For example, carbohydrates trigger the release of serotonin, a hormone that relaxes and makes one feel happy and sleepy. On the other hand, proteins (meat/fish), produce an alert and more focused effect. Also, whey protein has been shown to decrease anxiety and frustration.
Next generation foods will be custom designed to meet the needs and the desires of an individual consumer. The food will be engineered to exaggerate its mood-changing power. A consumer will be able to formulate their own food according to their mood. Consumers are looking for foods that will wake them up in the morning, foods that will keep them more alert and productive during the day and foods that will help them get more sleep at night.
As consumers become wiser, older, more educated and culturally more diverse than ever before, they will continue to drive innovation in the food industry.
Copyright © 2009 Nerac, Inc. All rights reserved.
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