We asked experts at Mintel, Euromonitor, Rabobank and Trailblazer Foods to tease out some trends or events that caught their eye in 2014, and explore how they might evolve in 2015...
1. Nick Fereday, executive director, senior analyst, food & consumer trends, RABOBANK INTERNATIONAL:
IGNORE THE FOOD BABE AT YOUR PERIL What the rich and trendsetters wear, eat and conspicuously consume today, the masses will consume tomorrow… In food, some of these tastemakers and advocates of change are often folk who to put it mildly, are not really on the same page as large swathes of the food industry [Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Vani Hari a.k.a. the food babe]. However … they cannot be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant because their advocacy is having an impact on consumer behavior.”
WAIT, THERE ARE CALORIES IN WINE? In our view, calorie counts [on menus] will raise awareness and go some way to curb the excesses of calorie laden menu options. We also welcome the learning opportunity that calorie counts present in dispelling the common misconception, highlighted by the ingenious work of Dr. Wansink at Cornell University, that natural or organic foods are by definition, lower in calories than their regular counterparts.
AN ‘ASTONISHING TURNAROUND’: READY-TO-EAT POPCORN Tired brands and off-trend categories should take inspiration from the astonishing turnaround in the fortunes of popcorn. What was once considered unhealthy and junk food has been transformed into Millennial friendly, cool and healthy. Equally important it reminds us of what we call The Iron Law of Consumption: convenience trumps everything, even fresh. But the major popcorn players have been caught napping. Within the explosive RTE popcorn market, it is the small innovative companies that have the growing brands and are doing most of the running.
2. Lynn Dornblaser, director, innovation & insight, MINTEL:
GET CONNECTED Consumers are embracing technology from mobile apps to devices like Fitbit that help them track their health and wellness, and there is a huge opportunity for CPG companies to help make this process easier, and to connect with these apps both literally and figuratively.
TRANSPARENCY AND CLEAN LABELS We’re seeing a continuing trend for transparency. Sometimes this is about traceability or sustainability but also extends to clean labels. For example, you don’t always have to reformulate products to take 'problematic' ingredients out. It might be enough to try to demystify them for consumers. My favorite example is the ingredients list of a chocolate bar [Nestlé Milkybar] that explains that soy lecithin is an emulsifier that's 'made from soya beans & holds the ingredients together'.
PRIVATE LABEL The percentage of total new products introduced each year that are private label is going up and we are seeing more innovative ‘unique-to-the-market’ products. But our research shows that many consumers don’t actually realize that Simple Truth is a Kroger brand, or that Archer Farms is a Target brand, whereas everyone knows that Great Value is Walmart, so there are opportunities to build loyalty further by making this connection [between the private label ranges and the retailer] clearer.
Click HERE to see Dornblaser’s comments on what we can learn from label claims on new product launches over the past six years.
3. Matthew Hudak, research analyst, EUROMONITOR INTERNATIONAL:
NON-GMO, ALL-NATURAL, GLUTEN-FREE Non-GMO, all-natural and gluten-free are still resonating pretty well and a lot of companies are trying to get all three claims on pack…
THE REAL DEAL When consumers do want to indulge, they want the real deal, so the trend towards ‘real sugar’ plays into that. It’s all part of the desire for greater transparency.
SMALL BATCH I think we will probably see more products with the word ‘craft’ and ‘small batch’ on them, from soda to jerky.
4. Rob Miller, CEO, TRAILBLAZER FOODS:*
RETAILERS ARE VIEWING PRIVATE LABEL AS A STRATEGIC WEAPON Private label used to mean a cheap version of a national brand. Now we’re seeing some really innovative products that have no national brand equivalent, and some of the premium private label ranges are vastly superior in quality as retailers see them as a way to differentiate themselves. Retailers are viewing private label as a strategic weapon now. They are hiring some very good people and bringing in marketing people that really treat the private label products like national brands. We’re also going to see a lot more activity in better for you private label products.
NUTS FOR COCONUTS? Right now, if it contains coconut, it sells. The baking market [bagged sweetened coconut] is pretty mature, but there’s a lot of growth in unsweetened coconut. More people are also cooking with coconut oil. We’ve just picked up a big chunk of business in coconut flour, coconut sugar and coconut milk.
*Oregon-based Trailblazer Foods is a leading private label supplier of preserves and jellies, table syrups, coconut, drink mixes, Italian syrups, pie fillings and glazes; sauces, marinades, glazes with customers including Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and Costco and leading foodservice companies.