Predicting key food trends for 2011, head of research Lu Ann Williams told FoodNavigator.com that value remains “vital in this age of austerity”, since although EU consumer buying habits had not changed dramatically over the last 12 months, “what is certainly happening is that the middle is being squeezed. We have seen this for several years but it is accelerating.
“Consumers trust the products at hard discounters, the quality is good and it's a great solution for the basic products they consume every day.
“With the money they save, they will buy Nespresso coffee, create premium meals at home using high-end ingredients and thus get the best of both worlds.”
This has already fed into numerous EU products for home chefs, Williams added, with sushi-making kits, cooking foam, balsamic vinegar in squeezy bottles and specialty salts; meanwhile regional food ingredients are being sold in more mainstream stores.
Processed food is ‘out’
Conversely, Williams insists consumers are tired of additive-rich food with an unduly long shelf life. “Processed food is under pressure. The message is out and consumers are starting to get it. Sugar, salt and fat levels are too high and the industry is responding. As for positioning,‘natural’ claims are used much more in the US and ‘no additives/preservatives’ in Europe.”
While processed food is in the doldrums, Williams predicts that more firms will ‘sell’ the technology behind what we eat in 2011, a trend she observes on Coca-Cola’s Spanish pack diagrams detailing the health benefits realised by its patented WholePress system – which presses both the orange's juice and skin for Todo Naranja juice.
Another example is French product Eckes Granini's Ulti Fruit juice, which has a label stating ‘squeezed every day, cold stabilized with high pressure’. Said Williams: “This is a clear promotion of the benefits of the technology. We'll see many more examples in future and consumers will start to get it. No additives or heat are needed because technology makes it possible.”
With the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) climate in mind, Williams also expects greater use of ‘proven’ as a functional foods marketing buzzword in 2011, and says its use has doubled on new product packaging since 2008.
“The relatively few companies that have successfully navigated the EFSA health claims maze will be keen to highlight their ingredients from this perspective, to encourage a previously sceptical consumer to try out a new functional food product.
“Plant sterols are probably the 'proven' hero for now. They made it through the EFSA process easily in the first round and we now see advertising promoting the 30 years of research behind them.”
A linked trend to look out for over the next few years is personalised nutrition, which Williams identifies as “an increasingly important vehicle for global giants”, as illustrated by the Nestlé’s recent food-pharma tie-ups, Unilever’s venture with Dutch research firm TNO and PepsiCo’s nutrition strategy via its global nutrition group.