- Nearly 40% of Americans say it's easier to obtain the nutrients they need in the morning via liquid rather than solid foods, which has given rise to more convenient breakfast options, particularly nutritional and performance drinks, according to a recent Mintel report.
- The report found that flavor is more important to consumers who buy meal replacement drinks than protein and fiber content, which opens the category to increased competition from tea, juice, and energy drinks.
- If consumers continue to transition to more on-the-go, liquid-based diets, this provides challenges for manufacturers to promote social and cultural brand experiences.
A focus on flavor in the meal replacement segment opens up the "food" category to unlikely manufacturers, like Coca-Cola.
Through its Venturing and Emerging Brands category, Coca-Cola has explored non-soda products, such as cold-pressed juices, energy drinks, and milk. With the right ingredients and flavor profiles, these products could be positioned as meal replacements. Coca-Cola could better compete with PepsiCo.
Liquid meal replacements offer opportunities for manufacturers that face challenges integrating convenience elsewhere in portfolios. Hormel recently announced it would discontinue its Spam Snacks line following a brief six-month run.
However, the company could still capitalize on convenience by positioning its 2014 Muscle Milk acquisition (Cytosport Holdings) as a strong contender in the meal replacement drinks category. It's that kind of flexibility and agility that manufacturers will need to keep up with fast-changing consumer trends.
Protein and fiber are major ingredient trends that manufacturers embraced, but even those trends don't surpass the importance of flavor. As manufacturers consider adding liquid meal replacements to portfolios, if flavor becomes secondary to health benefits, the product won't perform well.