Convenience Foods

Leatherhead’s notable food industry trends for 2012

Consumer concerns about health and wellness, coupled with a continued uncertain economic future, will set the stage for ongoing food and beverage trends to be stretched to their full potential in 2012 as both industry and consumers tighten their belts on spending and investments, according to new market research from Leatherhead Food Research in the UK.

Check out the following 10 food and beverage trends predicted to make an impact in 2012:

Health and wellness: Key priorities for companies include the continued efforts to meet guidelines on the reduction of salt, fat and sugar, as well as the active promotion of health benefits on products ranging from “one of your five a day” to more niche areas as the inclusion of functional ingredients.

Sustainability: There is a continued focus from companies on issues of sustainability and this is likely to be an influential trend for many years to come as companies work to streamline their practices and supply chains into more sustainable operations. This encompasses a whole range of issues, including packaging-reduction initiatives, more ethical sourcing policies, reduction of food miles and more.

Convenience: While we’re engaging with food more than ever, our busy, chaotic lifestyles simply will not allow elaborate home-cooked meals during the work week. The development of new “ready meal” concepts in the form of meal kits and premium offerings also ensure that choice and quality of prepared meals are like never before.

Flavour solutions: Compensating for lower levels of salt, fat and/or sugar will continue to increase the need for more flavourful solutions. Combinations of herbs, spices and other strong flavours will provide a flavourful backdrop to many products. Think of ingredient combinations such as lemongrass, garlic and ginger or the use of seaweed as a salt enhancer. Also look for more adventurous and “premium” flavour combinations like lavender in dark chocolate.

“Free from” foods market: There is a growing number of consumers who do not have a diagnosed food allergy but believe their general health improves with the omission of certain foodstuffs from their diet. This presents an opportunity for both mainstream manufacturers to highlight additional product benefits as well as allowing the traditional “free from” brands to break the niche mold within which they’ve traditionally operated.

Ongoing demand for natural: While the hype around the natural trend has dampened slightly, the effects are ongoing particularly as larger multinationals weigh up the cost/benefit of switching to natural components such as colors and flavours. However, companies need to consider issues such as the sustainability of supply as well as the longevity of consumer demand in their particular product area (e.g. those product categories with inherent natural associations are likely to remain in demand).

Budget-conscious want afordable luxuries: Unrelenting pressure on household budgets will see retailers continue to flex their “value for money” credentials; therefore, manufacturers will continue their efforts to seek cost-effective solutions. Conversely, food is seen as an affordable luxury and, therefore, lucrative opportunities do exist in the form of “staying in” solutions, such as meal kits, and more premium offerings.

Quality linked to location: Consumers are more keenly aware of where their foods are produced and sourced and this will continue to impact the food and beverage market in two ways. First, the demand toward locally produced and locally sourced fresh food, including meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, etc. will continue into 2012. The restaurant industry is seeing activities such as foraging and sourcing of specialty ingredients grow exponentially as chefs seek to differentiate their menus. Second, more exotic ingredients such as Madagascan vanilla also will benefit from an overt provenance message. The clear message is that location helps to give consumers a distinct impression of the product’s quality.

Over 55 and fitter than ever: Longer working lives and a strong interest in maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is leading to the creation of more products tailored to the specific needs and wants of these consumers. Health benefits will be at the forefront of the market and this will be a key area of development for the functional ingredients market in particular.

Softer claims: The ever-changing regulatory environment is having a strong impact in the way manufacturers are positioning their products. For example, EFSA regulations have taken the shine off the functional health market and the cost/benefit tradeoff of substantiated EFSA claims is unlikely to provide a strong competitive edge in most cases. Instead, manufacturers will continue to seek out a softer approach to deliver key messages to their consumers