8 factors that could predict “the next big thing” in the food & beverage industry

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

8 factors to predict the next big thing in the food, beverage industry

Related tags: Consumer, Marketing

Pressure to launch new products that meet consumers’ rapidly shifting interest in natural and organic foods and beverages from conventional products is reducing the time manufacturers have to distinguish between short-term fads and long-term trends with staying power, according to an industry expert. 

“Ten years ago, the growth progression … of a natural product introduced into the marketplace might take five to six years to go from introduction in the natural and independent retailers up to mass and wholesale levels. But today, that timeline is compressed to potentially one or two years,”​ said Eric Pierce, director of strategy and insights at New Hope Natural Media, the host of Natural Products Expo West.

He explained at Expo West March 7 that this truncated timeline places at a disadvantage manufacturers that want to get in on a trend before it takes off in the mass market because they have “less and less time”​ to observe and evaluate the trend before deciding to invest time and money.

Manufacturers can better evaluate and forecast the “tipping point”​ of an emerging trend or innovation from the natural channel to the mass market and maximize their return on investment by considering eight forces that pull and push against trends, Pierce said. They include:

1. Market attractiveness – ​How often a new food, drink or ingredient is consumed at one level influences its potential. The more frequent the consumption, such as multiple day parts, and the larger the potential consumer base the more quickly a product will tip, he said. When evaluating market attractiveness, firms also should consider sales velocity, market growth rate to date and the projected three-year market size in the U.S., he added.

2. Cultural demand – ​Slightly less important than market attractiveness, cultural demand places an emerging product in context with other consumer trends. The more macro and micro trends that the product taps into, the more likely it will succeed, Pierce said.

3. Consumer attitudes – ​To identify how much and when a product will gain momentum, firms should consider consumers’ purchase intent in the next 12 months, to what degree consumers need to modify their behavior to adopt the product and what is the product’s or trend’s experiential benefit level and immediacy of its affect, Pierce said. He added these also influence the product’s potential to be adopted by others beyond the initial users in the next 12 months.

4. Innovation activity – ​To evaluate the overall future innovation opportunity for a trend, firms should consider the breadth of categories these products are in and the number and rate of new product launches.

5. Media buzz – ​How often a trend shows up in social and traditional media conversations is another telling sign of its potential. The sentiment of the buzz, whether it is positive or negative, also is important. Few or negative hits in the media can hold back a trend, while multiple, positive stories and mentions can propel it forward, Pierce said.

6. Supply chain assessment – ​Before investing in a trend, firms must establish a reliable supply chain that can withstand scaling up. This includes establishing supplier diversification, the scalability of raw ingredients and the availability of the supply at the quality needed. For example, The Chia Co. spent significant time establishing connections with farmers to ensure sufficient quality supply before it scaled up marketing in the U.S. (Read more about The Chia Co.’s successful rise HERE​.) 

7. Scientific research – ​The more scientific studies and the higher the degree of consensus across the studies that support a trend, the more likely the trend will succeed.

8. Regulatory landscape – ​The clarity of regulations surrounding the trend and potential marketing of the products also influences its success and can help firms project the amount of risk they would assume if they entered the market.

Firms can access data to assess these criteria from industry experts, market trend information analysts, such as IRI Worldwide, Packaged Facts and IBISWorld, sales monitoring companies, such as Nielsen and Euromonitor, and industry consultants. For a one-stop approach, New Hope has combined information from all these sources into a new database that models each factor to help firms more easily spot emerging trends, Pierce said. 

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