Product innovators play it safe in recession

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture
Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture

Related tags: Leatherhead food research, New product development

Innovation is the lifeblood of Britain’s food and drink industry. But, as we all know, many new products fail for a variety of reasons.

To address this, the bigger players have introduced some science into new product development (NPD), using ‘stage gate’ techniques to weed out the 'dogs’ before launching products that bomb.

But even so, during the global downturn, it has been noticeable that many companies particularly the big brands have been risk averse and have concentrated on brand extensions rather than truly cutting edge innovation.

This was borne out by Food Manufacture’s ‘state-of-industry’ poll of readers published in July, which showed that 72% of respondents believed their retail customers were more focused on price than ground-breaking NPD.

More recently, a presentation by Chris Brockman, Mintel’s senior global food and drink analyst at Leatherhead Food Research’s Food Innovation Day came to a similar conclusion. Big firms were often playing it safe, he said, concentrating on areas such as “clean innovation” products containing ingredients that consumers don't associate with ‘nasties’ and limited editions, rather than launching brand new products.

Health and wellness, natural products and convenience continue to be the key trends, said Brockman, plus emerging trends such as ‘east meets west’, products aimed at ageing populations – and one of the fastest-growing trends – ‘free-from’. Ethical sourcing and the environment also continue to play an important role for some consumers, he added.

Brockman also expected functional foods to grow over the next few years, focusing on ingredients such as protein, fibre and essential minerals.

Related topics: NPD

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