- Mintel has leveraged its global new products database to predict four food and drink trends that could catch fire this summer, including vegan barbecue, low-calorie ice cream, bold chips and sparkling water.
- Thirty-three percent of U.S. consumers — and 37% of millennials — plan to buy more plant-based foods in 2018, Mintel reports. This shifting behavior, coupled with an increase in specialty plant-based products, could make it easier to offer vegan options at the family picnic. “Although barbecue selection has become more diverse with the addition of fish and cheese in recent years, vegan barbecue might not have been a consideration for a meat-eater — until now,” Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst for Mintel, told Food Business News.
- Mintel predicts Halo Top ice cream’s popularity in 2017 will carry over to this summer, with more food brands expected to offer their own versions of healthier frozen treats. The study also found 36% of consumers would buy more chips if there were bolder or more exotic flavors, so one could expect to see food companies follow Kellogg, which launched Pringles Loud last year, with chip flavors such as spicy queso, salsa fiesta and fiery chili lime. As for beverages, Jenny Zegler, associate director of food and drink for Mintel, told Food Business News that there is a trend for more creative sparkling water flavors. Innovation in this segment is reaching new heights, she said.
Supermarkets are likely to sell plenty of burgers, baked beans and Bud Light this summer, but Mintel’s survey shows shoppers are also ready to mix up their menus for the season. The anticipated popularity of plant-based protein options, bold or new flavors and healthier desserts and drinks for summer parties and celebrations reflects growing consumer interest in these categories.
The move to meat alternatives has been picking up traction in recent months. Beyond Meat, known for its successful plant-based burger products, recently launched Beyond Sausage which is made with pea protein isolate, coconut oil and sunflower oil. The vegetarian product is designed to mimic the flavor, texture and shape of pork sausage without the hormones, nitrates, soy and gluten.
It will be interesting to see if rival plant-based manufacturers roll out similar products that are ready for the grill. Sales of plant-based foods grew 8.1% during the past year, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute. Nielsen estimated that plant-based meats accounted for 2.1% of sales in refrigerated and frozen meat products sold at retail.
In particular, Mintel mentions barbecue jackfruit as an up-and-coming product for buyers looking to eat less meat. For example, The Jackfruit Company, which sells ready-made meals or flavored jackfruit products that can be used in home recipes, is making it easier for curious consumers to add the Southeast Asian fruit to their diet. Big Food would do well to offer options that take the guess work out of preparing new or unusual food products.
As for the chip category, it seems companies are constantly on the lookout for eye-catching new flavors. But it's hard to come up with the next Cool Ranch. Still, younger consumers are drawn to novelty flavors, pushing some brands to launch flavor contests that allow their customers to pitch their ideas for new varieties. Last summer, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division ran a "Do Us a Flavor" contest, which awarded the winner a $1 million grand prize and launched Lay's Crispy Taco, Lay's Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lay's Wavy Fried Green Tomato varieties. Not only are initiatives like these a great way to generate ideas and learn more about customers, but they can also drive social media engagement.
In addition, as the population becomes more diverse, food companies would do well to offer more ethnic spices or flavors in the chip aisle. One could expect more snack makers to follow PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, which released a range of international flavors for its Lay’s potato chips brand that included Brazilian Picanha and Chinese Szechuan Chicken.
Mintel's prediction of sparkling water's summer popularity isn't surprising, either. The category has skyrocketed as consumers turn away from sugary drinks and reach for popular carbonated waters like La Croix and bubly instead. Still, to maximize this interest and drive sales, companies could roll out varieties flavored with summery fruits or even herbs. Low-calorie ice cream makers would be wise to do the same, as competition is heating up among healthier players in the frozen dessert space.