MIAMI — Meal-assembly services and health-related products top the latest consumer food trends, a new-products expert said at FMI's Advertising/Marketing Executive Forum held here recently.
Since many Americans are starved for time, they are doing more “assembly” cooking — combining a few different ingredients to make a meal, rather than preparing meals from scratch — said Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online, Naples, N.Y., which is owned by Datamonitor.
In addition, nearly 80% of consumers say it is very important to eat dinner with their kids every night, Vierhile said, but many do not do so because they don't have the time. Those trends have led to the proliferation of meal-assembly centers, which enable people to combine ingredients to make a dinner, then bring it home to cook.
“[Supermarkets] are in the natural position to exploit this trend; all they need are the facilities,” Vierhile said.
Americans are also interested in eating more fresh, healthy foods, and this extends beyond the natural and organic trend.
Vierhile predicts shoppers will be doing more “ethical purchasing” in the near future. They will be buying more “Fair Trade,” “Certified Humane” and “better for the environment” foods.
“It is not enough to just come out with a new organic product. The trend is toward sustainable agriculture and better for the environment,” Vierhile said.
For example, Whole Foods Markets, Austin, Texas, recently announced that it will ensure its animal products were raised humanely, and Cargill Inc. recently said it is phasing out metal cages for some of its pigs.
Shoppers' growing interest in eating healthy foods is reflected in several new functional product launches.
Dannon's Activia yogurt, which is high in probiotics that aid in digestion, is a recent launch in the U.S., after it was successful in Asia and Europe. Coca-Cola recently launched Coke Plus, which is enhanced with vitamins and minerals.
In addition, sales of products containing dark chocolate, shown to be high in antioxidants, are taking off [See story, Page 79].
In 2006, 31.5% of all new chocolate product introductions were dark chocolate, double the number of new dark chocolate products launched in 2002.
Products that combine health attributes plus convenience are also selling very well. Two new products — YoGo and Slow Melt Pops — show promise, Vierhile said. National Foods' YoGo is a line of dairy desserts that are sold in snack packs, while Popsicle's new Slow Melt Pops, made with fruit juice, melt more slowly than regular ice pops.
Other consumer trends affecting products in supermarkets, according to Vierhile, include:
Consumers want choice and personalized experiences. This is reflected in CPG manufacturers' recent campaigns that let consumers choose their favorites. For example, shoppers can vote on two new flavors of Doritos. Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream is considering five new flavors and is letting consumers pick their favorites.
In addition, Jones Soda lets consumers create their own personalized label by uploading a photo and text to the company's website. “People want products tailored to their own personal needs,” Vierhile said.
New product packaging is very “clean” and represents comfort to consumers, Vierhile said. For example, Ahold's new private-label “Simply Enjoy” food line features clean labeling and an upscale image, he said.