Growth in craft and artisanal foods and beverages is prompting more suppliers to invest in authentic, clean-label ingredients, according to Ingredients Network.
During the past five years, the sector has experienced a 28% global compound annual growth rate, according to Innova Market Insights research cited by the Ingredients Network.
As a result, large food and beverage makers are buying up craft producers or introducing their own premium brands with products sporting label terms such as "handmade" and "hand-cooked" and projecting a wholesome and authentic image.
It’s all about small-batch premium in the food business these days, and the trend is visible across a wide variety of products — snacks, cereals, meats, ready-to-eat meals and more. Beverages have been a particular focus of artisanal products, Ingredients Network noted, with premium spirits, craft beer, cold-brewed coffee and artisan tea brands attracting an increasing number of customers. Increasingly, consumers want foods and beverages that have a more down-to-earth feel rather than feeling mass-produced, and artisanal products fit this bill.
Like most trends in the industry, some may wonder whether this one is sustainable. Given the 28% global CAGR for the past five years, and the fact that more companies are getting behind craft and artisanal products either through M&A or their own internal development, the answer so far appears to be a resounding yes. Hormel Foods, for example, spent $850 million last October to purchase Columbus Manufacturing, a maker of premium craft meats popular in grocery store delis.
Consumers may have their own definitions of "artisan" that they recognize whenever they encounter the quality. According to The School of Artisan Food in the U.K., "artisan" means food produced by non-industrialized methods, typically handed down from previous generations. The tastes and production processes, such as fermentation, develop slowly and naturally, and are not cut short for mass production. These skills are often applied to making bread, cheese, beer, prepared meat and confectionery.
Manufacturers are increasingly incorporating these artisanal and craft ingredients into their products in response to consumer demand for more of a handmade feel, flavor and taste to foods and beverages.
Besides local and smaller craft beers — where the trend has been particularly strong until recently — artisanal ingredients are even showing up in fats and oils such as plant-based liquid margarine from Bunge Loders Croklaan and premium chocolate from Cargill, Ingredients Network reported. According to Mintel, cold-pressed cocoa may follow in the path of cold-pressed coffee and become popular in the U.S., particularly if the finished product is sourced from high-quality cocoa beans and the labels can advertise their artisanal nature, higher cocoa content and minimal processing.
Authenticity is key to the appeal of such items, and chances are a growing number of consumers will be looking for that difference as they scan retail shelves and online offerings. It's not a surprise that food and beverage companies are pushing more artisanal products out to the market to meet this growing demand.