The other nine themes which will make an impact next year will be sustainability, convenience, flavour solutions, free-from foods, demand for natural, affordable luxuries, quality linked to location, the over-55 age group and softer claims, predicted the independent research organisation.
Laura Kempster, Leatherhead’s senior market analyst, said: “2012 looks set to be one in which on-going trends will be stretched to their full potential, particularly as consumer concerns about health and wellness have prevailed and continue to be high on the agenda.
“Coupled with this, the uncertain economic future continues to affect both industry and consumers with a ‘tightening of belts’ attitude still very much affecting spending and investment.”
Salt, fat and sugar
Health and wellness has had an “over-arching influence” on the developments of the food and beverage industry in recent years. “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,” said Leatherhead. This ranges from ‘one of your five-a-day’ to more niche areas such as the inclusion of functional ingredients.
Sustainability, identified as a key trend last year, is likely to be an influential trend for many years to come as firms “work hard to streamline their practices and supply chains into more ethically-sound operations”.
Evidence of this trend will be seen in packaging-reduction initiatives, ever-more ethical sourcing policies and reduction of food miles.
The convenience trend will fuel the development of new ‘ready meal’ concepts in the form of meal kits and premium offerings will ensure that choice and quality of prepared meals are like never before.
Lower levels of salt, fat and/or sugar will highlight the need for more flavourful solutions. “Combinations of herbs, spices and other strong flavours will provide a flavourful backdrop to many products,” said the research group. Think of ingredient combinations such as lemongrass, garlic and ginger or the use of seaweed as a salt enhancer. Furthermore, consumers are looking for more adventurous and ‘premium’ flavour combinations, for example the use of lavender in dark chocolate.
The trend towards free-from foods will be driven by the apparently growing number of consumers who do not have a diagnosed food allergy but believe their health improves with the omission of certain foodstuffs, such as wheat/gluten, from their diet. “Therein lies an opportunity for both mainstream manufacturers to highlight additional product benefits as well as allowing the traditional free-from brands to break the niche mould within which they’ve traditionally operated.”
Although the hype around the natural trend has subsided, its effects continue. The larger multinationals are weighing up the cost/benefit of switching to natural components including food colours and flavours. But firms should consider the sustainability of supply as well as the longevity of consumer demand in their particular product area, said Leatherhead.
Value for money
Affordable luxuries will be an important trend despite the lack of confidence in markets and austerity measures. “Unrelenting pressure on household budgets will see retailers continue to flex their ‘value for money’ credentials; thus manufacturers will persist in their efforts to seek cost-effective solutions,” said Leatherhead.
Consumers will become even more aware of where their foods are produced and sourced. This will drive demand towards locally-produced and sourced fresh food including meat and vegetables.
Food and beverages tailored to the over-55 age group will also offer opportunities to manufacturers next year. “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,” said Leatherhead. Examples include: glucosamine for joint health and omega-3 products.
Softer claims will also feature next year. Manufacturers are likely to persist with seeking out a softer approach to deliver key messages to their consumers. That includes the characteristics of colour, imagery and phraseology.
Leatherhead 2012 trends
- Health and wellness
- Flavour solutions
- Free-from foods
- Affordable luxuries
- Quality linked to location,
- The over 55 age group
- Softer claims