Wacky food products are nothing new - take Heinz’ launch in 2000 of green tomato ketchup - but the recent development of flavour-changing chewing gum still leaves the question: which trends will stick?
As part of our special series on Food in the Future FoodNavigator.com asked David Jago, director of trends and innovation at market research firm Mintel, to help us separate out the latest mad launches from the potentially mainstream, and to predict possible trends.
And despite the development last year of Selene's Japanese cheesecake flavoured with charcoal, and Willy Wonka-esque gum that changes flavour due to use of colloidosomes, Jago believes that if we fast-forward 10 years the future for the average meal or snack – in terms of flavours, colours, shapes, nano-technology and packaging – is now.
The future is now?
“In short, expect nothing radical in the next 10 years (the last 10 years hasn’t seen that much change either), or at least nothing radical that lasts and makes a real impact. The food industry is relatively conservative, because consumers are too, ” said Jago.
He stressed that more niche or outlandish ingredients or foods – spring water coloured black with fulvic acid by US firm Blackwater or crisps made entirely of cheese by Kitchen Table Bakers – “will come and go, some will be fad-driven, trendy for a short time,others may have a long-term impact”.
As for current ingredients making headlines: “Stevia as a natural sweetener is likely to be allowed in the EU and used relatively widely, but it’s not likely to completely change the face of the sweeteners landscape," said Jago.
“Its use will be restricted mainly to new lines rather than reformulations of the biggest volume selling diet/light soft drinks. Meanwhile, baobab is (still) hardly used in Europe but has interesting properties.”
Tangible convenience benefits
Where complete foods go, Jago said we may “possibly be eating less meat, or eating meat less often” leading to the launch of dairy alternatives.
Name-checking “odd” recent launches such as fruit-flavoured Pringles and lemon-flavoured Lay’s potato chips, Jago said the ‘sandwich alternative’ that is Sushi Ran's Ricewich (onsale in France and The Netherlands) “is perhaps stretching the on-trend popularity of sushi a bit too far”.
What might be more plausible in the long term, said Jago, is a simple idea with a “tangible convenience-driven benefit”. For instance, Sovena's Portuguese cooking oil (relaunched in September) that reduces frying smells, or a seasoning spray launched by French firm MB Aromes in November 2010, based on essential oils “that deliver natural flavours with minimum calories or additives”.
Foods for ageing populations
Given ageing populations in the EU and elsewhere, Jago said it was surprising there weren’t more foods developed especially for seniors.
“It is admittedly difficult to target older consumers, but there are very few items out there now that are nutritionally geared to seniors and even fewer that are packaged appropriately, easy to open or with legible labelling.”
Of the few examples out there, Jago noted Nestle's Swiss launch of probiotic drink for seniors Resource Senior Activ, which is also fortified with vitamin D, protein and calcium.
Can PepsiCo 'snackify drinks'?
In the beverage arena, Jago expects to see more non-dairy drinks, “whether soy or nut or rice-based”, positioned on a ‘healthy lifestyle’ or "different taste experience" platform, rather than emphasising benefits for those with lactose or other intolerances.
Beverage categories will also become less clear, he said, with Nestle's French Nesfluid healthy drinks range for children and young adults (launched in September 2010) combining whey and trendy coconut water (50% of its composition) along with fruit juices, green tea, minerals and vitamins.
“Nesfluid is neither a hydration drink nor a nutrition drink, it’s both. Sunkist Solar Fusion is a carbonated soft drink, and an energy drink. PepsiCo’s Tropolis in the US is an attempt to ‘snackify drinks’, ” said Jago.