- Manufacturers are releasing more products to meet the needs of flexitarians -- consumers actively reducing their meat intake -- which was one of the many trends seen at this year's Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo.
- Clean labels remain a powerful force in product development, processing and marketing. Alongside clean labels, healthy but indulgent snacks have surged in demand, and free-from foods have evolved from industry trend to industry reality as consumers readily embrace and demand foods free of allergens, such as gluten, wheat and dairy.
- Manufacturers are increasingly positioning their products as "local" and "authentic" with a homegrown angle. Small companies continue to dominate on-trend product launches, while the sports nutrition market diversifies in flavors and ingredients to appeal to a wider mainstream market.
Flexitarians are a growing market, with about 38% of Americans saying they eat meatless meals once a week or more, according to Innova Market Insights. This consumer base is much broader than vegetarians and vegans, but these consumers share a demand for more meatless meal and snack options.
Alternative proteins have risen to meet increased demand for meatless products, and these proteins are becoming more sophisticated and trendier over time, Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova, said during an IFT presentation.
Larger manufacturers are embracing some of these fast-growing trends, such as clean labels and free-from foods. This has ranged from releasing organic varieties under their own legacy brands to acquiring major producers in the segment, such as Danone's recently announced takeover of WhiteWave or Mondelez's acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods last year.
Clean labels are becoming more of an expectation, even though the term's meaning eludes many consumers. As Congress awaits the president's approval of a national GMO labeling standard, 14% of new food and beverage products launched in the U.S. are making non-GMO claims, an increase over just 2% in 2011.
"Natural" processing methods, such as high-pressure processing, are also contributing to the growth of cold-pressed juices, which posted a CAGR of 64% from 2011 to 2015. Along with those juices is a rise in juice drinks containing one or more vegetables. Similar growth has occured in products like chilled RTD soup, such as the Züpa Noma brand, the first from Sonoma Brands' incubator, or Tio Gazpacho, which General Mills' 301 Inc. led an investment round for earlier this year.
Locally sourced products and authenticity are increasingly popular marketing tools, with origin claims found on almost four times as many new global product launches in 2015 compared to 2011. Use of the descriptors "local" and "authentic" increased 23% and 13% respectively in that time period.
Aside from terminology, brands have made an effort to engage with consumers on a more personal level. Kashi's recent brand overhaul features editorial-style packaging that tells the stories of people important to the brand. Manufacturers are trying to deliver more information about ingredient sourcing and the people behind the brand to help consumers feel more connected to the brand and product they're buying.