Bay area-based Mattson - which has worked with industry heavyweights such as Pepsico and Starbucks as well as smaller disruptive brands (Blue Bottle Coffee, Annie’s, Happy Family, Argo Tea Cafés, and Organic Girl) – seeks to identify “lifestyle trends that have the power to influence food and beverage purchases, behavior, beliefs and innovation…” says president and chief innovation officer Barb Stuckey.
1. Cannabis Craze
“Increasingly, marijuana is seen as a functional food, with purported health benefits far outnumbering what consumers can get from kale, turmeric, or kombucha,” claims Stuckey .
“With a new generation growing up in states where cannabis is legal (currently about 20% of the U.S. population), new products are rapidly entering the market. Yet, the biggest challenges in launching cannabis edibles remain monumental because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. This makes scaling a cannabis-based food or beverage difficult, if not cost-prohibitive.”
Despite the challenges, however, “there is no question cannabis will influence the food and beverage industry, because it already has,” adds Stuckey, highlight recent innovations from Kiva Confections, Lucky Edibles, and Kikoko Tea.
2. Losing Booze
Per-capita alcohol consumption is declining in the US, a trend in part driven by Millennials, who have a “desire to be more present and mindful in their lives, both of which are difficult when you’re drunk,” claims Stuckey. On a more practical level, meanwhile, “drinking is expensive,” she points out. “With uncertainty about their future, Millennials are less willing and able to spend hard-earned dollars on alcohol.”
Leading booze brands, meanwhile, are investing in cannabis, she observes.
“Constellation Brands recently announced a $200 million investment in a marijuana grower, with plans to develop cannabis drinks. Rebel Coast Winery has launched its premium Sauvignon Blanc, calling it the "world's first legal cannabis-infused, alcohol-removed wine." And the former CMO of Anheuser-Busch InBev just anointed weed the new craft beer.”
3. Keyboard Convenience
While more consumers are shopping the perimeter and spurning the center of the store, “we think it has staying power,” particularly as more consumers shop online, says Stuckey.
“Why wouldn’t a time-strapped household with two working parents and multiple kids trade an inconvenient trip to the store for keyboard convenience? Product innovation for e-commerce is its own animal, and we help our clients enable keyboard convenience so consumers can keep shopping the center aisles... virtually.
“The ultimate benefit is that you don’t have to test your product ad nauseam. It’s easy and cheap to launch into the channel, even through behemoth Amazon. No slotting, no huge inventory investment, no buyer meetings. It’s the best way to get consumer insights: from real consumers paying real money for real products.”
4. Taking Food Personally
Taking cues from eastern medicine, consumers are increasingly looking to companies to help them follow unique, personalized, diets that are “more targeted than gluten-free, paleo, and vegan,” says Stuckey.
“And, as we continue to learn about how the microbiome affects health, we predict an increasing focus on food's impact on our emotional and mental health, as well. It's coming: food for mood. This is where probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements will take the leap from gastrointestinal relief, regularity and immunity benefits, to our brain. Soon we’ll be eating to stave off depression, aid in sleep, and enhance overall mood.”
5. Fast Fresh Farming (Indoors!)
No longer so easy to dismiss as a hipster fad, farming indoors is now “happening in great numbers at both the residential and industrial level,” says Stuckey.
“Startup AVA is an indoor garden system that operates like Keurig. Consumers insert seed and nutrient pods into the AVA Byte appliance, add water, and software does the rest…
“On a commercial scale, Urban Organics uses aquaponics... The water in which the vegetables grow is also home to fish, like arctic char, who naturally fertilize the produce, making for a closed loop inside an urban warehouse in Minnesota.
“Cubic Farms sells a complete hydroponic farming “system” housed in a 40 foot shipping container… and AeroFarms grows and markets Dream Greens lettuces in vertical farms and can be installed just about anywhere.”
6. Meal Kit Migration
Meal kits are attractive, but come with too much commitment, cost and waste, says Stuckey, who predicts the concept will evolve as more partnerships between retailers, CPG brands and meal kit brands emerge.
“We also think there’s a huge opportunity for chain restaurants to reinvigorate mature brands (TGIFridays, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, etc) by creating their own meal kits, sold to lunch patrons for making later that night. Why casual dining brands haven’t done this has baffled me for years.”
7. Intrinsic Nutrition
Mostly, consumers want to eat foods that are inherently nutrient dense, says Stuckey. “So intrinsic fiber comes from beans or whole grains, not supplementation…
“The next wave of innovation will be intrinsic healthy fats, protein, fiber, and other essentials from nutrient-dense foods like soy, meat, cheese, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. We know this, because we’re working on these new products now, for launch in the near future.”
She adds: “Another way to arrive at intrinsic nutrient benefits is fermentation. This is why we’re bullish on kombucha and other probiotic beverages, fermented vegetables such as pickles and kimchee, and fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir.”
8. The Fabulous Flexitarian
Flexitarians - those actively trying to eat less beef, chicken, pork and dairy, plus those on a “mostly vegetarian” diet, make up about one-third of the population, claims Stuckey.
“Vegetarians and vegans only make up about 5-7% of the population and that number has remained fairly flat. It’s flexitarians that are driving the growth in plant-based foods.”
9. Produce Power!
Today’s produce snacking “goes way beyond baby carrots and ranch,” says Stuckey, who highlights some recent innovations including ReadyPac’s Ready Snax: pre-packed trios such as tortilla chips, natural cheese, and salsa, or fruit, cheddar, and flatbread; Mucci Farms’ snack-size Cutecumbers; and SunDrops’ grape tomatoes, packaged and marketed for kids.
10. Non-Food Brands Branch Out
Eating Well has partnered with Bellisio to launch a line of frozen foods, while Patagonia used to sell only clothing, notes Stuckey. “Today they offer brand loyalists a line of mission-driven provisions that range from buffalo jerky to soup to smoked salmon. The question is, “What non-food brand will appear next in your cart?”
Mattson’s 2018 plate:
Look out for more adaptogens, grain/bean/nut and other non-wheat flours, hops, schizandra, fermentation, plus persimmons, beets, raw meats beyond ceviche/tartare/poke, shakshuka (North African style poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce), and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes).
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