Innova Market Insights sees 10 emerging trends that the market researcher believes will impact new product activity in 2011, based on key trends and developments over the past year.

The researcher’s track record is good. In fact, in previous years, it was successful at honing in on upcoming trends such as “Go Natural” and “Sustainability Rise” for 2008, “Trading Up and Down” for 2009 and “Sense of Simplicity” for 2010, all of which have become major winners, as it predicted.

Next year, the market research firm Innova Market Insights says that consumers who are growing tired of being increasingly disassociated from the food they eat will really turn against processed products full of complicated additives and feature overly-long shelf lives. This is helping to launch more natural, organic and no-additives/preservatives products, which has been rising dramatically over the past two years.

Offering real value is another big trend. The food industry has been rather immune to the economic downturn in some ways, but consumers are still set on seeking real value for money propositions, not just for low-cost or budget items, but for products with perceived additional benefits and indulgence.

Use of the word “proven” has grown dramatically on new products since 2008, with numbers doubling over that period. Personalized nutrition also is becoming an increasingly important vehicle for global giants, as illustrated by the creation of Nestlé Health Science SA and Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in September to “target new opportunities between food and pharma;” Unilever’s creation of a novel partnership with Dutch research outfit TNO to explore links between diet and health; and PepsiCo’s announcement of a significant new nutrition strategy via its Global Nutrition Group.

A return to softer claims also is apparent, but now includes concerns about the impact of the tough EFSA health claims scrutiny now rife in the European food industry. A cloud of uncertainty hovering over health claims has resulted in a fall in numbers of food and drink products launched on an “active health” [food plus] platform, despite growth in “passive health” [food minus] launches. Innova Market Insights tracked 1,960 new products with an active health positioning in the first half of 2010, down from nearly 2,200 in the same period in 2009, while numbers with a passive health claim rose from less than 8,750 to 10,350.

Getting “connected” to brands is moving forward dramatically with the rise of social media platforms and more creative marketing campaigns to increase consumer engagement.

A culinary expansion also is resulting, largely from consumers eating out less, but instead spoiling themselves with a true indulgence at home. The rising interest in quality home cooking and a return to more traditional kitchen skills also have resulted from this trend.

A new relaxation paradigm recognizes the need to minimize stress and encourage relaxation as a counter to the meteoric rise of energy drinks during the first part of the 21st century. While the energy trend isn’t going anywhere, a counter trend also is emerging, focusing particularly on creative relaxation beverages. Tea also is taking on a relaxation mantle in some instances, with the number of tea launches rising strongly in the year to September and about 5% of them featuring the word “relax.”

In addition, fruit and vegetables are seeing a revival, which is apparent as manufacturers go back to basics and focus more on the inherent health benefits available. Packaged fruit snacks, fruit smoothies and juice and water blends are all seeing considerable activity, with one of the most interesting launches in late 2010 featuring the Spanish introduction of Toro Naranja (Whole Orange), a Minute Maid (Coca-Cola) orange juice created by pressing the entire orange, including the peel, thus offering double the antioxidant content of the standard product.

As the sustainability trend continues to its momentum, whether for environmental or humanitarian reasons, manufacturers are increasingly answering calls for more sustainable practices to benefit both humans (fair trade, etc.) and animals (e.g. free-range). 

Selling the technology may be used as an alternative approach to cutting back on processing, if manufacturers can clearly explain the benefits that an alternative technology can provide to consumers, whether in terms of flavor, shelf life or presentation. The challenge is to explain complex technologies in a manner that the average consumer can easily understand.

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