The market researcher classified a number of terms under the ‘natural’ banner, including ‘no additives/preservatives’, ‘organic’, and ‘wholegrain’ – as well as ‘natural’ itself.
On a global basis 23 per cent of all new products launched in 2008 made natural claims, a search of Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) has shown. Moreover the UK is seen as leading the natural boom, with 36 per cent of new launches flagging up natural credentials.
Conversely, products making ‘plus’ claims (such as added vitamins and mineral) appeared on just 5 per cent of new products in 2008, 20 per cent less than the previous year.
And new products with ‘minus claims’ (such as lower fat or calories) look to have stagnated. Around 18 per cent of new products made such claims – the same proportion as in 2007.
Mintel is interpreting this as a gear-change in perceptions of healthy eating.
“In the past, low-fat and low-calorie were the hallmarks of good nutrition and dieting, but today that lifestyle seems passé,” said David Jago, an expert in new products at Mintel. “On top of this, fortified products are falling out of favour.”
The fall-off in launches of products that make ‘plus’ claims could be explained by the regulatory environment. The new health claims regulation, as well as on-going debate about maximum vitamin and mineral levels, could mean manufacturers are unwilling to invest in such products until it is clearer that their products will be able to have market longevity.
However manufacturers have been at pains to show they are on-board with healthy eating drives; the Food and Drink Federation in the UK says that £11.5 bn worth of products have been launched as 'lower in' fat, sugar and salt; in 2007 at least £15 bn worth of products sold in the UK had less fat, sugar and salt than they did in 2004.
Jago explains the shift as “food manufacturers realise that natural and pure have become healthy eating ideals, as people look for holistic, genuine nutrition they can trust”.
Health on a budget
According to Jago, the findings on natural claims are a sign of the times:
“With economic struggles driving people toward a simpler way of life, we expect that food and drink manufacturers will continue to prize natural, wholesome benefits well into 2009.”
Better than convenience
The search also revealed that natural is way ahead of other much-talked about claims, such as ‘convenience’ and ‘ethical and environmental’. These appeared on just 12 per cent and 5 per cent of new products respectively.
David Jago, an expert in new products at Mintel, said: “Although convenience and the environment are popular talking points today, these benefits did not receive anywhere near the same level of attention as ‘natural’ claims did.”