Food trends, packaging claims, economic outlook
With that headline, I’ve set a high bar, so I’m just going to dive in and give you a download on some of the latest marketing insights that crossed my desk.
If the news coming out of Chicago from the IFT FIRST annual meeting & expo is any indication, demand for plant-based foods remains strong. Almost every booth touted some plant-based ingredient, application, or service. Plant-based is a trend – not a fad – here to stay driven by myriad concerns about health (personal and planetary), climate change and animal welfare.
Plant-based products are not simply meat replacements. Dairy, eggs, seafood, bakery, snacks – plant-based options are moving into every food and beverage segment. These products are meant to appeal to mainstream consumers rather than only vegetarians or vegans.
We’ve all seen figures that plant-based meat sales are flat, if not declining a little. Trial was strong, but products were found wanting. According to food strategy consultant, Arlin Wasserman, during a recent panel discussion, people got tired of products that all taste the same every time – the shine wore off. To re-engage consumers, brands can offer recipes and more neutrally flavored products.
Clean labeling in plant-based foods is becoming more of a concern as well. Future product development in the space will need to prioritize ingredient selection. Plant-based foods are no longer going to get a pass. The same motivating factors for mainstream food and beverages extend into plant-based foods – ingredients that are recognizable, well understood and not highly processed.
As the novelty of plant-based products wears off, consumers are becoming more demanding of the products. Nutritional parity is another area that needs to be addressed. Are plant-based products, providing the same nutritional profile as their animal-based counterparts? Post-pandemic consumers are more focused than previously on maintaining their overall health and wellbeing. This includes eating nutrient-rich foods.
On the same industry panel, IRI vice president of content and thought leadership, Joan Driggs commented that manufacturers should use packaging as a platform to get their consumer messaging out rather than relying solely on websites to talk about sustainability and sourcing. These are issues important, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials.
Key packaging claims – increased most since 2019
- Plant based
- Sugar free
- No added sugar
- Ethical – Environmentally friendly
- Ethical – Recycling
- Ethical – Animal
- Ethical – Charity
Source: Mintel GNPD
According to Mintel new product guru Lynn Dornblaser, consumers, especially younger ones, look for functional and environmental benefits from the food and beverages they eat.
Economic pressures on innovation
When economic figures were released earlier this month, inflation was at 9.1%, the highest level reported in 40 years. Food price inflation is even higher. How might this effect food product development?
The obvious answer is value or economy. We’re already seeing shrinkflation of food and beverages at retail. Yet despite this, Mintel reports that grocery shopping habits are not likely to change much with only 29% of U.S. consumers saying they expect to shop at lower-cost retailers and a further 20% signaling a shift to less expensive products, e.g., private label. It’s important to note, these figures vary by income levels. Economic pressures are being felt more acutely among lower-earning households.
Consumers are still preparing 80% of their meals at home. To me, this seems like an opportunity. Value may prove to be important, but health and convenience will remain in the forefront. People may have learned to cook during the pandemic, but they still appreciate a hand in making flavorful, nutritious meals quickly.
Innovate with fruit
Here’s my quick pitch for using fruit ingredients in your product development.
- Nutritious – check
- No sugar added – check
- Flavorful – check
- Plant based – check
- Environmentally friendly – check
- Label friendly – check
If you’d like the added benefits of using fruit in your formulation, we can help. Tree Top’s fruit products offer a wide range of benefits beyond the check list above and include some of the following advantages.
- Flavor Enhancement
- Improved humectancy
- Control water activity
- Increased yield
- Fat reduction
- Extended shelf-life for baked goods
- Microbial inhibitor