Simplicity Is The New Sophistication

fiveKeep it simple stupid.  That’s the current rallying cry in the food industry.  Simplicity is a dominant trend  — perhaps it’s an antidote to the complexity and stress of these uncertain times.  Maybe it’s a backlash against the onslaught of pumped up, engineered foods.  There does seem to be a growing  skepticism of complicated formulations and unfamiliar ingredients —  and food companies are taking notice.

Today, people are looking for foods that have been stripped back to basics.  They want unpretentious, unadorned or “natural” foods, which are perceived as more real and authentic. That often comes down to few and familiar ingredients — a trend that Haagen Dazs nailed on the head with Five.  This new ice cream focuses on the small number of ingredients that go into every carton — and it’s all ingredients you’d likely have at home:   milk, cream, sugar and eggs. 

In a recent Marketing Daily article, simplicity was described as the new sophistication.   Margaret Kime, director of innovation for the brand-building consultancy Fletcher Knight, said “brands that celebrate the aesthetic beauty in real ingredients, simple preparation and artful presentation will be aligned with the driving philosophy that good food is eaten fresh and prepared unpretentiously.”  She cited several new products in the beverage category that are redefining simplicity, including all-natural Pepsi Raw and Honest Beverages (“Be Real. Get Honest.”).

But it’s not only about new food products.  One of my favorite cereals is Shredded Wheat.  And this no-nonsense breakfast food is coming on strong to tap into the recession-driven demand for comforting, simple and familiar foods.  And the company is really playing up the anti-innovation factor.  Now it’s hip to be behind the times. 

Post Foods just announced that it will be embarking on a new campaign to highlight that the cereal has remained unchanged since it was first introduced 117 years ago, and still contains only “one simple, honest ingredient – 100 percent natural whole grain wheat. “10037568advertisement-for-shredded-wheat-promoting-it-as-the-national-breakfast-posters

“There’s been a marked change in American values, with a greater desire for honesty, trustworthiness, and security during a time of economic and societal uncertainly,” said Kelley Peters, director of integrated insights and strategy for Post Foods. The company said that its focus on remaining the same for more than a century should come as a “refreshing change…in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.”

This old-fashioned cereal couldn’t be more modern.  Not only does it have the simplicity thing going for it, but it’s also high in fiber — a shortfall nutrient that’s being added  to all sorts of foods and beverages today.   Digestive health is a hot claim, according to Packaged Facts, who predicts that it will rule in 2009.  

Shredded Wheat is also playing the natural card, and “natural” is now the top label claim on new products, according to the market researcher Mintel.  Additionally, as nutrition information moves front-of-pack, more companies will be turning their attention to simplicity and looking to remove artificial colors and flavors.

Sometimes, what’s old is really new again.

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