The Centre for Food & Health Studies’ New Nutrition Business has released its annual report of predicted food, nutrition and health trends for the upcoming year. “10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2009” gathers research data over the course of the year and an estimated 350 interviews with industry executives. (Full report available here.)
The 10 trends identified in the report are:
- Digestive health
- Feel the benefit
- Weight management
- Naturally healthy
- Fruit: the future of functional foods
- Kids’ nutrition
- Target the loyal niches
- Packaging and premiumization
This year’s report also added five “Micro-Trends,” that are referenced as “secondary opportunities and challenges which are not essential but useful to understand.” These are:
- Skin and beauty
- Mood food
According to the report, the unpredictable economy re-emphasizes the importance of coupling science with the ingredient and flavor industry as well as effective marketing and education techniques. In fact, New Nutrition Business cites the current economic downturn as a major factor in the future of food, nutrition and health, believing that it could provide a sort “cleansing” process for the industry by “reinforcing” core nutrition trends and principles while likely abolishing “fads.” This notion supports the report's constant emphasis on combining proven science with quality ingredients and effective marketing.
In order for companies to survive, particularly ingredient suppliers/distributors, the report advises stakeholders to focus on the consumer and create concepts that make sense to the mass market. Swedish brand strategist Peter Wennström offers “four factors of success” for companies to consider in today’s market. They are:
- The product must be in a format that matches the consumer's lifestyle.
- The product should offer a benefit that is relevant to them.
- Ingredients should be acceptable to the mass market.
- Any brand must be one consumers can trust.
According to the report, digestive health holds the number one trend spot due to the fact that it is the “single largest area of functional foods markets in Europe, Japan and South America”, and may soon dominate the US market as well. The reasons digestive health is such a dominant trend vary, and are heavily interwoven. The “most important” issue is difficult to identify, as they all point back to the theme of balance between science, ingredients and flavor, and marketing and education. However, the primary success of the digestive health factor listed in the report are:
- It is considered a “wellness issue” instead of a “death and disease” issue.
- It is important to everyone, not just a particular segment of the market.
- The products provide results that the consumer is able to feel quickly and easily.
Take for example, Dannon’s Activia yogurt. A market report in 2004 identified the United States as “uninterested” in digestive health products and deemed the category as “difficult to market.” Activia launched in the United States in January 2006, and earned an estimated $130 million in the first year alone with the “Activia two-week challenge” marketing campaign. Dannon was an already trusted brand that utilized marketing tools to promote the science behind the product.
Ingredient formulators will need to watch: probiotics, prebiotics and fiber.
Feel the Benefit
Products able to offer tangible results in a short amount of time are perceived as having more value than other products, a key element of success in the current market. The report cites the dual importance of keeping product “promises” simple and standing behind the product by offering a guarantee or free trial period.
The third trend emphasizes a “fresh opportunity in a mature industry.” Weight management offers the opportunity for mass appeal by focusing on living a healthy lifestyle instead of dieting and weight loss. The products may offer the fringe benefit of weight loss, but the key to success is to focus on lifestyle. The report notes that the trend towards weight loss and dieting in Europe and America is fading, replaced by more consumer- and health-friendly weight management. Weight management covers consumers who prefer to maintain their current weight or those who may only need to lose a small amount of weight. The key to success in this category, according to the report, is for the product to provide satiety. Satiety provides the instant benefits necessary to create loyal consumers.
Protein, whey protein and dairy are listed as the ingredients with the most potential for growth in the weight management category. Waters, juices and nutrition bars that provide satiety are among the key applications.
The report notes energy as a trend with “new market segments awaiting discovery.” Similar to the concept of weight management being more of a lifestyle change than a quick fix, the report references feeling energetic as “one of the most basic self-descriptions of wellness in health psychology.” Consumers associate energy with health, providing the opportunity to expand a category currently dominated by heavily caffeinated, high-sugar beverages.
According to the report, the potential for growth in this category is unlimited, even with an uneven economic climate. The majority of energy drinks are currently marketed primarily towards younger men, thus leaving the door open for an energy drink focusing again on lifestyle instead of a quick fix.
Ingredients for formulators to keep an eye on: guarana, ginseng, green tea, B vitamins, juice, fruits and dairy.
Though the ingredients of a product may seem the most important element of this trend, marketing, packaging and consumer education are vital for success, particularly if the product utilizes a new or “unusual” ingredient.
Wheat, gluten, soy, diary, lactose, additives, preservatives, colors, fruit and probiotics are ingredients formulators will have to keep an eye on with this phenomenon.
Fruit: the Future of Functional Food
Fruit and fruit drinks are listed in this report as “the key driver of the future of functional foods.” The heart of this trend is the ability of the market to communicate the benefits of fruit and to capitalize on it as a beneficial ingredient instead of just a flavor.
Ingredients for formulators to watch: fruits that provide benefits such as energy, inflammation reduction, glucose uptake, sports recovery, digestive health and immunity.
Making Parent’s Lives Easier is Key to the Kids Market
New Nutrition Business lists three identified elements for this trend:
- Something the child will want to eat.
- Free from “bad” ingredients.
- Focused and effective communication.
The potential for mass success of this trend is unlimited, based on the fact that parents worldwide have many of the same concerns regarding their children's health and nutrition. If ingredients and health benefits are communicated to parents in a clear and concise manner and are cost effective, the market potential is extensive.
Ingredients for formulators to watch: all-natural, free-from, vitamins, immunity boosters.
Healthy Snacking for the “Me Generation”
Ninety percent of US consumers snack, notes the report, while only 75% eat breakfast. The potential for the "fourth meal" is clear. Snacking drives new product development, and as with all other categories, healthy snacking must be convenient. In addition, consumers will pay more for products that limit fat and calories. Meanwhile, the public has fractious health strategies, so niche approaches will become increasingly popular. The report concludes: "It is better to be a successful niche brand earning superior profit margins in many markets than to try to be a price-fighting, low-margin mass-market brand in one market."
Packaging and Premiumization
The report concludes by underscoring a strategy of healthy product launches that can build loyalty and repeat purchases. As stated above, niche is the key. "Brands targeted at the most health-conscious niches have thrived even in very price-sensitive markets," the report notes, "even at premium prices, and benefit from loyal buyers. For any brand to achieve a premium price point it must both score very highly on convenience and connect to other key trends."