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Food and drink product launches plummet in 2009

By Guy Montague-Jones , 27-Jan-2010

Companies shied away from launches in 2009 as the number of new food and drink products to hit US shelves dropped 30 percent, according to Mintel.

Food and drink may be essential whatever the economic situation but in 2009 the recession was deep enough to dissuade many companies from putting new products on the market.

Biggest decline

The 30 percent decline recorded by the Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD) is the biggest decline the tracking system has ever recorded in the food and drink sector.

“In the last decade, Mintel GNPD has only tracked occasional, small declines in new product introductions for the US market, never a decline as strong as this,” said Mintel analyst Lynn Dornblaser.

Some categories that had been growing well before the recession have taken a step back.

Notably, the proportion of new food and drink products to carry an all-natural claim fell from 15 to 13 percent, while organic labels dropped from 12 to 10 percent of launches.

Dornblaser attributed this drop in launches to the price gap between natural / organic products and their traditional counterparts.

Growth areas

Despite the overall decline in launch numbers there were some corners of the market that did excel in 2009.

Ethical and environmental claims increased from 9 per cent of all product launches in 2008 to 17 per cent last year. Much of this increase was attributable to the growing popularity of green packaging, as this claim tripled from 3 to 9 percent of launches.

Side dishes were another robust area of the food and drink market. It was one of the few categories that saw an increase last year with 16 percent more launches than in 2008.

Mintel said this strong performance was most likely due to more people eating in and the introduction of products that offer greater convenience, like vegetable steam bags.

Most predictably perhaps there was a sharp increase in the number of launches underlining value. Mintel said the number of economy launches increased 72 per cent from 2008 and 2009.