Inflation has increased North Americans’ focus on their grocery budgets
High costs of living in the US and Canada make escapism and versatility key in 2023. Economic recovery will bring interest in value-added and resourceful products.
In the next 12 months, as inflation continues to complicate purchases and rumors of recession swirl, North American consumers will be looking for treats, easy meal recommendations and streamlined communication.
Naturally healthy pet food in demand
Pet owners focus heavily on the healthfulness of the foods they feed their pets. In the UK, 60% of pet food buyers decide whether or not to purchase pet food based on how healthy it is. It makes commercial sense to focus on health, too; 79% of US pet food buyers think that it is worth paying more for healthier pet food.
BFY products shine in dried fruit category
Brands that capitalize on simple, wholesome snacking will stand out to consumers looking for alternatives to products with long ingredients lists and nutrition labels that include added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.
According to Mintel’s TURF analysis, over half of US adults could be reached by a cereal portfolio with products that provide functional ingredients and benefits, including mix-ins/toppings and portable formats. Manufacturers should consider how products across their portfolio can work together to deliver on a range of consumer need states and priorities, ultimately creating a product lineup that is rooted in holistic convenience.
The fiber gap is a key opportunity
The ‘fiber gap’ is a genuine nutritional issue that the food industry can help consumers to close. As gut microbiome science advances, opportunities for gut microbiome-nurturing fiber will increase. The positive role that fiber can play in delivering foods with healthier nutrition profiles should be explored.
Consumers crave quality and exciting flavors and formats, even when it costs them more
In North America, flavor remains a key ice cream attribute. Better-for-you options need to follow ‘clean label’ guidelines. Other leading concepts of interest (small formats, RTD milkshakes, ice cream pouches) point to the opportunity for frozen treats to continue earning a place in snacking occasions outside of dessert.
Flavor innovation is a constant consideration for the Food and Drink industry:
- “What is the next big flavor?”
- “What are consumers going to like?”
However, flavor innovation must be approached from a broad prospective. The understanding of consumer need states can lead to interesting, exciting and unique launches that can celebrate new flavors on their own merit or in combination with other important product attributes: health, indulgence, a broad range of sensory qualities and even their sustainability credentials…
In North America, snack bars are a popular choice among parents, with 83% of parents buying snack bars, compared with 57% for non-parents. Pressed for time and encumbered with many obligations, they seek bars that meet a range of family needs and preferences, including convenient, nourishing and fun options for their kids. Indeed, concerns about the healthfulness of their children’s diets are strong and influence product selection. In general, consumers consider health attributes important for bars, particularly the amount of protein, sugar, calories and fiber. Parents and non-parents are broadly similar in how they perceive these attributes as important, although parents are notably more likely to be more concerned about protein source…
Taste and cost, top priorities in most food and drink purchases, are the most important factors in center-store purchases as well, each cited by roughly six in 10 grocery shoppers. In addition to these cost-of-entry priorities, center-store shoppers also place weight on factors often closely associated with products in shelf-stable categories and the freezer case – in particular, convenience, easy prep and trusted brands…
While consumers often have a favorite breakfast cereal, trying new cereals and experimenting with flavors forms a significant part of being a cereal consumer. This is a category in which experimentation plays a key part of the purchasing process. 25% of adults in the US are motivated to try a new cereal if it has a unique flavor.While breakfast remains the most popular occasion to eat cereals, the rise of snacking culture can take breakfast cereals into new directions. As part of this, new and exciting flavors can pique consumers’ interest and make cereals a more appetizing and credible option for different parts of the day…
Pet owners express interest in a wide variety of functional benefits, reflecting their motivation to ensure their pets’ health and longevity and consistent with the increasing prevalence of functional health claims on pet food packaging.
Gut health claims have begun to appear in the category and have the potential to become a unifying theme in pet food marketing, effectively serving as an umbrella claim for a range of functional health benefits that pet food purchasers consider highly desirable. For instance, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Gut Health Meal Enhancement for Dogs is part of a broader line of pet food toppers promising a variety of specific functional health benefits.
Pet owners express interest in seeing more of a variety of treats and toppers, ranging from treats that address specific health benefits to more indulgent products, such as toppers, to enhance flavor or holiday themed treats. A common denominator, however, is all-natural. Nearly half of pet owners say they would like to see more natural meat treats…
88% of pet owners in the U.S. say it is important to take preventative measures to protect a pet’s health. Pet food and treat brands are responding to this interest in preventative health by launching products that feature multiple health benefits.
Topper incidence is on the rise and room to continue growing. Both dog and cat treats enjoy high purchase incidence, suggesting that the key to further growth lies in increasing treating frequency. Purchase incidence for toppers is far lower but rising. A key task for marketers is to build awareness of toppers and the benefits they offer, such as palatability or added nutrition
While the all-naturals claim is an important purchase driver for pet owners, other clean-label ingredient claims have garnered a bigger focus in launch activity over the past year…
The immune support claim has become of paramount importance to consumers due to fears of the virus, and brands have responded by creating new products featuring vitamins/ingredients including vitamins C and D, and zinc. High interest in immune support products will remain throughout and after the pandemic as consumers seek products that help prevent illness. Nutrition is important, but consumers expect products to feature clean labels and deliver on taste as well. Products that provide convenient immune support such as juice shots will increase in popularity. Gut health and immune support claims will emerge as consumers take a holistic approach to supporting their immune system.
Plant-based proteins are trending both in the restaurant industry and retail as consumers seek to improve their overall health and the health of the planet. The incidence of all plant-based proteins on menus has increased (Q1 2017-Q1 2020), but meat substitutes have experienced strong overall growth. Plant-based foods benefit from a health halo that encourages adults across the dietary spectrum to add them to their meals. While it is important for brands to highlight the health benefits of the plant-based ingredients in their products, good taste remains crucial for success.
Even before COVID-19, consumers were on the quest for not only long-term health, but holistic wellness of both the body and mind. Mintel Global Trend Driver Wellbeing finds that nearly three quarters of consumers are willing to make short-term sacrifices to achieve those goals. Functionality is one of the most important trends within the food and drink industry, and consumer desire for functional benefits will persist during and after the pandemic. Fruit is a natural fit.
Healthy cereal can provide value in its versatility in the COVID-19 moment by serving as not only a breakfast but also a nutritious snack. This positioning will especially resonate during a recession when consumers are tightening the budget and purchasing products with the most versatility across meal and snack occasions. According to Breakfast Foods: Including the Impact of COVID-19, US, September 2020, 25% of breakfast eaters agree that it’s boring to eat the same thing every day and edging into the BFY snack occasion can give variety-seeking consumers license to have on hand a broader array of cereals to rotate in their mornings and use throughout the day.
Sugar reduction: balancing health, naturalness, and taste
Sugar reduction is no longer limited to diet/light ranges. However, reformulating products to remove and replace sugar is not always the route to take. There is a role for both natural and artificial sweeteners in future new product development. The approach that producers take to sugar reduction should vary by category and occasion. Producers must work hard to build a positive image for sweetening solutions with consumers…
People’s interest in natural, organic and non-processed foods continues to rise, as many seek reassurance from manufacturers due to a lack of trust in the regulatory systems. As such, ‘clean energy’ formulations which are trusted, familiar and derived from natural sources of energy are likely to be appealing.
Considering the impact of health in increased bar consumption, we’ve featured three bar launches (between February 2019 and January 2020) that scored the highest for health according to Mintel Purchase Intelligence. A common thread across the bars is the utilization of fruit. While the bar market remains chocolate and peanut butter heavy, opportunity exists to expand excitement and the perception of health through fruit-flavored launches.
There is exciting innovation in treats and age-specific foods for pets as well as potential for sustainable products. Functional claims are become increasingly common on pet food and treat packaging from digestive health to mood foods. While younger pet owners want to see more products with natural and organic ingredients.
While the majority of consumers shop for a combination of mainstream and natural/organic foods and beverages, the segment that exclusively seeks natural and organic remains small. Interest in organic products continues to resonate with certain demographics, specifically younger adults and parents, over others.
Immunity boosting products are gaining plenty of attention across food categories. Mentions of postbiotics on US social media sites have seen a 91% monthly increase over the last year.
Consumers are more aware and knowledgeable about the importance of healthy eating for immunity protection. They are now looking at food, drink and supplement products that offer holistic aging and preventative solutions, from the beginning to later years of life.
Functional and gut health claims are driving innovation in dairy alternatives, and there is scope to better promote the ecological benefits of a plant-based diet. For meat and eggs, consumers concerns about climate change and health are driving innovation, although it’s imperative not to overlook the importance of protein content in recipes. This month’s newsletter focuses on plant-based foods where you’ll find the latest market trends and key opportunities in this booming category.
Snack bar brands are upping their health appeal by offering a variety of functional health benefits. The omnipresence of snacking in consumers’ lives has led to various food and drink categories vying for the snack occasion. Snack bars can set themselves apart from the competition through the promotion of functionality, especially as consumers, particularly men, are more likely than average to eat snack bars for a functional benefit (e.g., improved health and performance). Our July newsletter focuses on the snack/cereal/energy bar category where you’ll find key opportunities and what’s trending in this category.
Flavor is the number one purchase driver for ice cream. In fact, 47% of US frozen treat buyers tend to stick to the same flavors when buying ice cream. While consumers’ favorite flavors may drive choice, offering innovative flavors can trigger an impulse buy.
On-the-go and snackable cereals becomes popular in North America:
Snack at Home – 43% of cereal consumers in the US eat cereal as a snack
More Portable – 40% of cereal consumers in the US think cereals should be more portable
On-the-Go – 17% of cereal consumers in the US have cereal as a snack away from home.
Snack bar brands offer consumers a range of formats
Launching new formats has been at the forefront of manufacturers development strategies recently to fit in with the lives of busy consumers who want more convenient snack options. Snack bars extending beyond the traditional bar format have been well received, thanks to growing demand for greater portion control and smaller indulgences.
75% of US snack bar users eat snack bars as a snack.
Consumers are looking to manufacturers and retailers to make transparency and traceability of products clearer. There is a growing consumer awareness of artificial additives and preservatives used in food, and in particular the demonization of certain ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is leading sweet bakery consumers to question the ingredients that go into their cakes.
Pet owners are looking for natural, grain-free and ‘real’ meat in pet food. 40% of adult pet owners in the US check the ingredient list when purchasing new pet food or treats. 36% agree strongly that it is important to feed my pet the highest quality food, and 18% would be interested in human grade pet food.
Yogurt is seen as a good snack. Snacking and breakfast are both key occasions for yogurt consumption; 47% of US consumers saying spoonable yogurt is good as a snack. Check out what products made the top ten spoonable yogurt products based on highest purchase intent scores.
Innovation heats up in coffee-flavored beverage concentrates and mixes. The lucrative segment is seeing a raft of interesting format developments influenced by wider coffee shop trends. According to Mintel’s NPD activity in North America, coffee is one of the top five flavor profiles in the category.
Natural claims account for 45% of spreads launches in North America in the 12 months to April 2018 – higher than that seen in other regions. Natural claims in North America especially focus on GMO-free (24% vs 5% globally), no additives/preservatives (21% vs 18%) and organic (14% vs 16%).