More than ever, product developers want to know what affects consumers’ preferences, what the competition is doing, and how they can formulate food and beverage products that address taste, cost, and convenience. To help food formulators focus in on the global trends worth watching in 2015, Innova Market Insights, Duiven, the Netherlands (www.innovadatabase.com), released its Top 10 Trends for 2015 list during a webcast in November 2014.
Leading the pack of trends is clean label, or as Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova calls it, clear label. Over the past few years, Innova has recorded an increase in claims like natural, no additives, no preservatives, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors. “I think what’s happened now is that some of these claims have been so overused they’ve lost some of their potency,” explains Williams. “Just making a claim like this is not enough anymore; consumers want to know more. So instead of it just being clean label, it’s what we’re calling clear label.” Indeed, Innova market analysts have noted messaging that explains the source of ingredients, lists allergens, or details nutrition information displayed prominently on the front of the packaging. “This is part of transparency becoming apparent in new product development,” says Williams.
The growing desire for transparency is due in part to the Millennial generation. Marketing to Millennials is another trend noted by Innova. “One of the things that influences Millennials is stories,” states Williams, who further explains that this is part transparency, part being able to connect with the brand by being able to understand something about it. It is important that manufacturers develop product marketing plans that appeal to Millennials; with about one-third of consumers in the Millennial generation, there is a lot of purchasing power that Millennials wield. Williams points out examples like Iglo Gourmet Wild Salmon, which includes a description of the company’s sourcing and sustainability efforts, and Fish Tales Meindert’s Plaice Fillets, which provides a personal story and photos of the fisherman and invites consumers to connect with the company on social media. Even large multinational companies like Coca-Cola and Starbucks are using social media to engage Millennials in their brands’ stories.
Two other trends that consumers can expect to see, according to Innova, are more products to make it convenient to cook like a chef at home and an increase in private label launches. In what Innova is calling “convenience for foodies, ” food formulators are developing products like sauces and seasonings to help consumers prepare authentic dishes easily, and stores are carrying a wider variety of rice and other grains to help consumers add variety to meals. New private label product launches continue to increase and evolve in the United States and Western Europe. While private label products generally emphasize cost and value, more and more highlight variety and quality, which is often communicated on the packaging. Private label products get better every year, explains Williams, and this will continue to put pressure on other food manufacturers and retailers.
Shifting to trends that pertain to specific food products and ingredients, Innova notes how snacks are moving into all eating occasions and how foods that were once not considered snacks are being positioned as snacking opportunities, how fruit and fruit-derived ingredients are increasingly used as sweeteners, and how food marketers are emphasizing a product’s texture by putting terms like crisp, crunchy, and rich on the front of packaging. Consumers will continue to see products fortified with protein that also include the source of protein stated on the packaging. Williams adds that emerging proteins like microalgae and insects are ones to watch. There is plenty of research being conducted on microalgae as a food ingredient, and products made with insect protein are already on the market, albeit in very small numbers and promoted to niche markets.
The growing concern over obesity has made many consumers aware of the healthful benefits of certain fats and carbohydrates. With butter back in vogue, there is an opportunity to talk about the different types of fats and what is in food products, says Williams. More consumers are choosing butter, and more butter claims like “made with real butter” are being made on products, according to Innova’s research. There is also discussion of naturally occurring sugar versus added sugars and artificial sweeteners, all leading to a trend Innova calls “good fats, good carbs."
To round out the 10 important trends for 2015, Williams points out that manufacturers should take a fresh look at frozen by positioning frozen fruits and vegetables as alternatives to fresh. It is also a great way to offer portionable options, provide convenience, and reduce waste, she observes.
Senior Associate Editor