The concept of simplicity in the food industry has become a mainstream consumer demand, according to market analysts at Mintel – and manufacturers need to find ways to address it.
Speaking at the recent IFT expo in Chicago, directors of consumer packaged goods trend insight David Jago and Lynn Dornblaser outlined how this trend is developing, saying that it is about more than just sending a message to consumers.
“We have noted for example that the average number of ingredients used in a product in the US has actually dropped,” Jago said.
According to Mintel figures, there has been a decline in the average number of ingredients in 56 percent of the food and beverage categories covered by the organization, in 56 percent of the markets it covers.
Jago said that until recently, most of the products that were marketed as ‘simple’ came from smaller companies, but larger companies are now taking on the trend, with introductions including Simply Heinz tomato ketchup, Pillsbury’s Simply chocolate chip cookie dough, and Häagen-Dazs’ Five ice cream, which lists its five ingredients front-of-pack.
Brand extension challenge
However, there are barriers to developing such products as successful brand extensions. In particular, manufacturers could find it difficult to position products as simple without implying that an existing product line is inferior in some way.
Manufacturers need to ask themselves whether offering such a product could harm their core business, Jago said, and whether the consumer base for a new product is different enough.
Lynn Dornblaser said: “Simplicity as a message and a product is here to stay…But it is very difficult to get across why regular versions of products are still good.”
High fructose corn syrup
Dornblaser added that the move away from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is also continuing, as 42 percent of US consumers say they believe HFCS promotes obesity, and 31 percent say they usually look for drinks that do not contain the sweetener.
She said: “We don’t have a graph showing how many new products flag ‘no HFCS’ front-of-pack, because it’s still a very small number, but I see that changing.”
However, the tone with which manufacturers are communicating the simplicity message has changed.
“There has been a shift from ‘junk free’ to one hundred percent natural, all natural, 70 percent organic,” Dornblaser said. “It is all about positives rather than negatives.”
Consumers are attracted to ideas such as ‘simple’, ‘natural’, ‘wholesome’, ‘inherent goodness’, ‘additive-free’ and ‘balanced nutrition’, the market researchers said.
Nevertheless, manufacturers should pay attention to those products that have had less success in the sector. Dornblaser said Mintel staff had had difficulty finding Pepsi Natural in Chicago stores prior to IFT. She said that the product seemed to be disappearing from shelves, and hypothesized: “It could be that natural consumers may not be cola drinkers – or even Pepsi drinkers. There is a big price premium…However, Pepsi Raw is working well in the UK.”