Just as businesses around the world have been forced to do more with less in a tough economy, many consumers believe less is more when it comes to the products they buy.
According to David Jago, director of innovation & insight, Mintel International, who recently presented at the Health Ingredients Europe conference in Madrid, Spain, consumers continue to focus on natural nutrition. “About 40% of all foods and beverages carry some sort of natural claim,” he noted. “This reflects where the industry has been focusing its efforts.”
In terms of new product introductions by category, from 2005-2009, 17% of non-alcoholic beverages, 11% of bakery, 11% of sauces and seasonings, 10% of snacks and 8% of dairy made “natural” claims, according to Mintel’s Global New Product Database. Interestingly, there has been a 350% growth in chocolate/confectionery with natural claims.
However, “natural” has become such a broad, ubiquitous term that it doesn’t necessarily offer a point of differentiation or a competitive advantage over other products on the market anymore. Marketing of “natural” products could also face regulatory challenges in the future, according to Mr. Jago. But consumers are still attracted to “clean labels” where they are familiar with the ingredients, as fewer ingredients indicate inherently good, fresh, wholesome, balanced nutrition. “Natural” will also be essential to marketing foods and beverages to children.
“Natural” and “additive-free” have become part of the consumer’s health and wellness vocabulary, Mr. Jago added. Consumers want transparency—they want to understand what they are eating and they are suspicious of the unknown. “We haven’t done a good job as an industry explaining what additives do and why they’re there.”
For example, high fructose corn syrup has drawn so much fire, with many consumers believing it contributes to obesity, that the Corn Refiners Association, which represents firms that make the ingredient, petitioned FDA to rename it “corn sugar.” Look for natural sweeteners like stevia and lo han guo to gain more traction in the future.
Capitalizing on consumers' nostalgia for simplicity, Pepsi Throwback raked in about $41 million in sales in just more than a year on the market. The product features the company’s old formula, which contains sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, as well as the old packaging design. Clearly, simplicity registers with consumers in more ways than one. Pretty simple stuff, right?