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We look ahead to the trends expected to shape product development and innovation over the next 12 months.
Under pressure to turn the tide on waning consumer interest and slowing sales, the plant-based market looks set to rise to the challenge.
Demand for clean label is fuelling a new wave of concepts, where taste, texture and recognisable ingredients are all part of the brand story. This shift in focus means developers must now find new technical solutions to replace established ingredients that have fallen out of favour.
Emerging technologies are also opening up exciting future possibilities. Recent US FDA approval of lab grown meat takes these products one step closer to becoming a commercial reality within the next few years. While precision fermentation continues to gain traction – and investment – as a potential source of alternative protein for our ever-expanding global population.
The cost-of-living crisis means producers must reframe innovation to create value for the consumer. But this isn’t simply a cost cutting exercise.
First of all, bear in mind that that perception of value doesn’t always start and end with the cheapest option. For something truly unique and delicious, consumers may see the ‘value’ in splashing out. Think special occasions, innovative flavour combinations and lifestyle or diet-led choices.
Secondly, value is equally important to consumers as nutrition – both came out on top in a recent global Mintel study – so ticking both boxes in one product will maximise consumer appeal and loyalty. It’s a challenging balancing act and demands astute formulation decisions.
Lastly, don’t forget consumers are increasingly savvy and well informed when it comes to their favourite products. So although manufacturers may want to mitigate rising costs with quick-fix ingredient swaps, they need to exercise caution. Reformulation should always be approached with care and the correct tools to guarantee success.
Adaptogenic and nootropic ingredients are finally making their presence felt in the ever-popular health and wellness space. Associated with cognitive-enhancing and mood-moderating benefits, these natural substances are proving increasingly popular with innovators looking for exciting ingredients to attract consumers.
Products positioned to relieve stress and improve focus are ideally suited to busy consumers keen to mitigate the pressures of modern-day life. But there is even greater potential. Millennials and Gen-X gamers are emerging as a niche but growing audience, attracted by the promise of improved alertness and cognitive performance.
We’re starting to see the emergence of recycled water as a new addition to the wider upcycling trend.
It may not be the first thing you think of, but awareness of water usage – and waste – during the food manufacturing process is growing. Almond milk has certainly come under fire for being water resource heavy compared to other dairy alternatives. Elsewhere, the impact of water scarcity on the supply of some food commodities, such as rice, is also increasingly evident.
So, in many ways it’s not surprising that reusing water from production streams is becoming an important part of sustainability strategies. A beverage made using recycled water from fruit concentrate production for example, is not only more sustainable but benefits from a unique eco-friendly selling point too.
Demand for ‘healthy indulgence’ will continue to rise as consumers take a more mindful approach to treating occasions.
This trend speaks to the ‘self-care’ movement, where younger consumers want to allow themselves conscious moments of indulgence to support their mental health. They may reach for foods that were previously off limits or nostalgic treats to comfort them in times of difficulty, trouble or stress.
Developers can maximise this opportunity by creating products that combine the best of both worlds. Using health focused ingredients with functional benefits, for example, or moderating portion size for snackability signals ‘permissible indulgence’ to this audience. To truly connect, however, these products should be clearly positioned as guilt-free.
TikTok can shape, make and break trends in a flash. Often sparking huge interest in a new ingredient, recipe or food hack, its influence over social media feeds can’t be overstated. Some of these micro trends are over in a flash, while others have a lasting impact and even lead to new product launches.
What can we take from this dynamic? To capture and hold the attention of Gen X, new products need to be vibrant, exciting and instantly shareable. That doesn’t mean jumping on every micro trend that goes viral. Move too soon and it may not stand the test of time. The ones to watch are those that generate a cult following.
Ultimately, successful innovation in 2023 and beyond will be built around four core platforms; environmental impact, health benefits, taste & appeal and cost.
New product development (NPD) and existing product development (EPD) strategies need to consider every aspect to achieve any kind of market longevity.
There is no failsafe secret formula. But the sweet spot lies somewhere in the centre of it all.
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