Food innovators battle ‘hypersensitive’ consumers

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

LFR study: a more open-minded and collaborative approach to innovation is emerging
LFR study: a more open-minded and collaborative approach to innovation is emerging

Related tags: New product development, Leatherhead food research

Brand innovators and product developers feel increasingly undermined by growing consumer hypersensitivity to specific “demonised” ingredients, such as sugar, according to a new study from Leatherhead Food Research (LFR).

However, while consumer trust was an ever-more challenging issue, brands were embracing the latest in consumer behavioural techniques to better understand emerging trends and become actively involved in food trends, the study showed.

The fight for relevance in the wake of changing consumer demands was a key theme of the qualitative study – revealed by the research company at its conference, New insights for global growth, last month.

Adding value to a business

Other key themes to emerge from the responses of 27 innovation and new product development professionals were the continuing importance of innovation as a way of adding value to a business, and how a more open-minded, inclusive and collaborative approach to innovation was emerging.

“Interviewees believed that consumer trust in traditional food and beverage companies has been eroded as a result of various scandals,”​ said Emma Gubish, marketing insight manager at LFR and co-author of the report.

“This makes it very difficult for companies to have credible voices on important issues, such as the obesity debate.”

Rate of change in consumer trends

One common thread through the research was how the rate of change in consumer trends had accelerated, Gubish said.

However, it was also acknowledged that actual consumer behaviour did not always match their reported views or attitudes.

“Some interviewees were interested in the latest in behavioural and ethnographic research. Rather than taking what consumers say at face value, these methodologies seek to understand their underlying motivations and drivers of consumer choice,”​ Gubish said.

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