Matthew Incles, strategic insights manager for the UK-based research firm, said that manufacturers were looking for ways to more accurately satisfy the specific needs and wants of ‘older consumers’.
Significant opportunities lay in developing products to improve escalating health concerns, Incles said, pointing to global population change as a factor underpinning many trends.
“But health is not the only focus, so too is packaging adaptation and segmented communications that appeal but don’t patronize. Leatherhead also thinks the time is right to redefine age,” he said.
“For the most part, ‘older consumers’ are defined as 55 and above, but are then assumed to have the same needs and wants as those aged 75 and upwards – even though that clearly is not the case.”
Consumers feel the pinch
Emerging market growth in 2013 – due to rising- populations, life expectancies, urbanization, economic output and consumer spending – would be offset by sluggish European growth, Incles said.
But related Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development OECD projections for the US were more promising, with economic output growth of 2% per quarter estimated throughout 2013 and rising consumer confidence.
But rising commodity prices meant consumers would still “feel the pinch”, Incles said, before moving on to cover other global issues likely to impact the industry in 2013, including sustainability.
The march towards ‘all things natural’ would continue, he predicted, with consumers buying into an additive free/natural proposition, and manufacturers adopting natural/clean label policies.
Since ‘free from’ foods were the success story of 2012, Incles said Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) expected strong growth to continue in this sector in 2013, with possible movement from niche to main shopping fixtures.
Investment in breakthrough technologies to cut salt, fat and sugar would also continue, Incles said, while additives and ingredients now have “considerable recognition and importance” to consumers.
“Leatherhead believes how consumers perceive certain ingredients will have even greater influence on overall liking of the product than ever before, and ingredients will take more of a center stage.”
Transforming that value proposition
Certain ingredients could transform a product’s value proposition in the consumer’s eyes, Incles said, but also risked damaging it if undesirable ingredients were present.
Meanwhile, ‘governance and regulation’ to encourage positive dietary changes would gain ground in markets where governments prioritized public health issues such as rising obesity, Incles added.
“Expect continued scrutiny of the use of salt, fat and sugar, as well as how ‘healthy’ foods are marketed,” he said.
“For example, December 14 2012 heralded the enforcement of the much anticipated EFSA article 13.1 health claims. Reviews of the PARNUT’s framework in Europe and nutrition facts labeling in the US can also be expected in 2013.”
But Incles said Leatherhead did not believe that the legal enforcement of health claims would have much impact on the growth of functional foods in Europe.
“However, our research shows that consumers want to see proof, verified by independent science, that the product lives up to its promise. Achieving this is more likely to be critical to continued market growth,” he added.