Top Ten Trends in the Global Food Industry

Innova Market Insights identified ten top trends in the global food industry at IFT’s annual meeting and food expo, which was summarized in Food Product Design. Here’s a look at the trends, especially from a product R&D point of view:

1. Pure is the new natural.

dannon pureThe term “natural” has come under attack, particularly because consumers and the industry have different definitions of what “natural” really means. As a result, the term “natural” on package labels may be falling out of favor.Now it appears that “purity” is more popular.  Claims of  “pure” on the label have doubled from 2008 to 2009, a third more were added in 2010 and “considerably more” in 2011. Innova suggests that use of stevia helps contribute to a food’s “pure” image.

2. Green is a given.

Showing how you care of the environment has become mandatory, but the way “green” is communicated varies. Corporate social responsibility is playing an increasingly important role. Innova cites more “waste” or byproduct materials developed into nutritious and functional ingredients. Another tier of this trend is the use of “ethical” claims, such as eco-friendly, biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, carbon footprint, fair trade, animal friendly, free-range, and general sustainable claims.

3. Location, location, location

Increasingly, people want to know where their food comes from.   Manufacturers are touting authenticity, attempting to build intrigue with a sense of place and showing transparency regarding ingredient origin. The trend includes an increased interest in traditional and regional foods from around the world, and the dialing down of ethnic cuisine to regional specifics, such as Copper River salmon and California almonds.

4. Premium stands out

Even with today’s tough global economy, premium foods remain attractive—they’re affordable indulgences. Innova says consumers often shop at the extremes of the market, seeking-out big discounts at one end and ultra-premium products at the other.

5. Seniors get some attention

With our aging global population, expect to see an increase in products that help seniors age gracefully. Innova says some keywords and concepts used in products for this market include easy to open, easy to digest, reduced acid, for strong bones, specifically formulated, nutritionally balanced, improved health, easy to read labels, and lightweight packaging.  The “easy to swallow” attribute is popular because  22% of 50+ year olds suffer from dysphagia. Foods need to be “easy to eat,” with the right consistency. High protein content (fortified with whey protein) is also important to help prevent sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle mass. Flexibility of product use is also important, such as a food that can be eaten either as a snack or dessert.

6. Forty is the new twenty5168930691_013879a94b_b

Boomers are helping define the art of aging gracefully, yet research indicates that consumers need to get into that nutritional mindset before senior status kicks in to truly age well. This expands the scope of products that have some type of “anti-aging” positioning. Maintaining vision is a key priority, and products with eye-health benefits are on the rise, up from 71 in 2008 to 138 in 2011 say Innova. Other key nutrients for this group, per Innova, include resveratrol, omega-3s, CoQ10, gingko biloba, L-carnitine and those found in green tea.

7. Grounded in science

When the increase in products making some type of nutrition claim, expect to see  greater use of “scientifically proven” claims on packaging, such as the connection between vitamin C and immune health. Yet the claims that are not officially approved by FDA will require judicious wording to avoid regulatory scrutiny. Therefore, label and marketing support for functional ingredients that are not approved for specific claims will  rely on explanations of their key nutritional properties, such as ingredients that are “rich in antioxidants,” says Innova (although the antioxidant claim has been heavily scrutinized recently).

8. Regulators force a rethink

Any time there are  changes in food policy or regulatory activities, there are shifts in the food industry. For instance, when labeling of trans fats in the Nutrition Facts became mandatory, the industry was a flurry of reformulation and new products were designed to avoid trans fats. And this wasn’t just a U.S. issue, it affected R&D around the world. The industry saw 566 new global product launches with “No trans fats” on the label in 2005; by 2011, that number was 5,021.  So what’s next?  Some municipalities have proposed “fat taxes” that would include foods high in saturated fat, as well as products like soft drinks.  Innova says manufacturers are trying to stay ahead of the curve, keeping product nutritional profiles front and center when beginning product R&D, or when reformulating. They cite examples like oven-roasted chips, products touting use of less salt, and highlighting use of specific oils, like sunflower oil, often with specific claims outlining the fatty-acid makeup (such as unsaturated fats vs. saturated).

9. Unmeasureable niches

Innova suggests that smaller manufacturers have an improved ability to compete in today’s market as it strives to meet more specific dietary needs of consumers, opening niches that bigger players might be hesitant to approach. Some consumer segments have also developed pronounced tastes and desires for specific, niche products. Social media can play a role here in reaching targeted groups of consumers.

10. Boom for protein

2760450189_194a6ff305_bProtein continues to be top of mind for consumers, and Innova says specific types of protein are seeing strong demand, sometimes tied to the relative sustainability of the source. For instance, global product launches for foods with potato protein have grown from 8 in 2008 to 41 in 2011. Many of the protein-enhanced products are touted for weight management, while others promote the benefits of plant protein.

hemp image courtesy of foodsalive on flickr

cereal image courtesy of david_jones on flickr

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