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How food companies are innovating to beat the financial crisis

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 13-Nov-2012

Innovation strategies have changed, says de Reynal
Innovation strategies have changed, says de Reynal

The financial crisis has also led to a consumer crisis of confidence – but nearly nine out of ten French shoppers see the economic slump as an opportunity to revise consumption habits, according to Nutrimarketing’s Sophie de Reynal.

Speaking at last month’s SIAL show in Paris, de Reynal said that food manufacturers and ingredient firms were less innovative in the first years of the financial crisis, but they are now looking to use innovative new products and ideas to deal with a less secure economy and to appeal to frugal consumers.

“This year has been a better year for innovation,” she said. “But 59% of French consumers are still buying cheaper products. Price is still the biggest driver for purchases.”

The ways in which companies are innovating have changed. In 2007, product launches touting healthy ingredients were up 16.3% in France compared to the previous year. In 2011, they were down 2%.

Meanwhile, ingredient companies have come forward with ingredients to help manufacturers switch out costly commodities, such as egg, milk and natural flavourings like vanilla.

De Reynal said that in 2008, about 58% of French food manufacturers had modified proportions of ingredients in an effort to cut costs, while 46% had tried to use less expensive ingredients.

However, despite a general desire among consumers to save money, shoppers are also willing to pay more if they perceive a real benefit, with digestive health claims leading the way.

“Health claims bring many opportunities for the food industry and are getting a lot of attention as a way to have a real conversation about health,” she said.

Citing Ethycity survey data, de Reynal said that 88% of French consumers see the financial crisis as a chance to revise their way of life and consumption, and 79% say they are ready to increase the sustainability of their purchases.

This has meant that recycled and recyclable packaging and ‘back to basics’ products have come to the fore over the past couple of years, along with traditional and local foods, and those that trumpet the origins of ingredients and recipes.

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