product content and marketing approaches in the face of growing consumer concerns about obesity and other chronic health problems will continue to be one of the biggest issues affecting global food
and beverage makers' product development and marketing strategies in 2011, according to a new, category-spanning CPG trends analysis by Mintel.
This is far from news to U.S. food and
beverage manufacturers and grocery retailers, who are developing their own new front-of-package nutrition-label system for a launch early next year. However, Mintel defines one of its 12 key CPG
trends in terms of decisions about "quiet" versus overt reductions of ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar and sodium, and maintains that the major underlying issue is brands'
need to decide whether to "counter or cater to obesity."
The report notes that brand decisions to shift from covert to overt marketing of formulation changes will continue to depend on the
ingredient and the geographic region.
However, it also notes that 42% of U.S. consumers believe that HFCS in beverages promotes obesity. HFCS-free "is likely to end up as a key labeling
issue, in the same way that trans fat-free has become the norm in some parts of the world," Mintel concludes. In addition to the success of products featuring "no high fructose corn syrup" on their
labels (such as Yoplait's Simply ... Go-Gurt), one factor driving the success of certain "retro" products (another key CPG trend), like Pepsi Retro, is use of sugar instead of HFCS.
another story. While reduced-sodium varieties are much more plentiful, sodium reduction in high-volume, mainstream products largely has been done quietly and in increments over a number of years
because of consumers' assumption that lower-salt products have "compromised taste," and Mintel sees little likelihood that overt sodium-reduction marketing will become more common in the year ahead.
The redefining of "natural" is another key, ongoing trend related to transparency. "All-natural" claims "continue to be ill-defined and under fire, leading to a 'natural shakedown,'" says
Mintel. One example: Ben & Jerry's agreement to phase out its "all-natural" claim on many varieties in response to pressure from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Redefining natural also
includes a growing emphasis on stressing positives -- simple, natural ingredients -- rather than negatives (no preservatives, etc.).
Other major CPG trends continuing or growing in importance
- Professional products for amateurs. Products enabling consumers to DIY instead of paying professionals continue to grow in number. "Professional" in-home products range from
carpet cleaners to hair-care products. On the food front, many launches are targeted at helping consumers be better home cooks, and many emphasize sophisticated results with simple preparation.
- Less is more, redux. On the food/beverage front, lifestyle simplification tied to convenience and economical solutions (with environmentalism playing a secondary role) both ties
into and counterbalances the more-professional-at-home-cooking trend. Examples include Starbucks' Via's premise of instant coffee with superior taste, the revival of super-simple but "tired"
categories like dehydrated soup, and beverages positioned as full meals in a can or bottle.
- Econo-chic. Luxury is making a comeback, but in limited, selective ways. CPG products
positioned as "small treats" -- such as premium confections, higher-ticket personal care products and scented household products that make chores or the home atmosphere more pleasant -- stand to gain.
- Instant results. Particularly in the personal care category, consumers want products offering fast fixes for issues ranging from wrinkles to blemishes. However, this trend is also
relevant to food and beverage, given the growth of "nutraceuticals" and the general trend toward simple, convenient food solutions.
- Simplicity for older consumers. On the other
hand, Baby Boomers and pre-Boomers increasingly want products that deliver simple but realistic results, rather than ones promising instant miracles. Just 22% of U.S. Boomers and 16% of pre-Boomers
say they have found cosmetics or medications that make them look or feel younger, whereas 35% and 50%, respectively, say that they used to believe that cosmetics/ medications could make them
look younger, but "now realize that isn't true."
- More cradle-to-grave marketing. Products are "stretching their brand values and target markets up and down the age spectrum,"
points out Mintel. Example: the Nestle Nesquik line spans products targeted to children under six up to a Gourmand variety for adults.
- Blurring categories. Many CPGs can no longer
be slotted readily into a single category -- shifting the focus from labels and branding to benefits, and creating opportunities, along with some confusion. Examples include Sunkist Solar Fusion (a
fruit-flavored, carbonated drink with caffeine) and L'Oreal's Perfect Clean Foaming Gel (featuring an integrated "scrublet").
- Personal hygiene comes out of the closet. More open
marketing of what were once considered highly personal items, like sexual lubricants, is here to stay.
- Sustainability still focused on basics. Consumers continue to reduce, recycle
and reuse, and continue to be interested in buying "green" products -- as long as they don't cost more. CPG makers continue to introduce more sustainable, less resource-intensive packaging formats.