Sugar’s vilification as “toxic” is one of the food-culture trends shaping up to have significant implications for food makers/marketers and retailers in 2013, according to a new report from The Hartman Group.
Progressive, health and wellness-minded consumers are increasingly concerned about research linking excessive consumption of added sugars and fructose to systemic inflammation and long-term risks for heart disease and other chronic diseases -- pointing to sugar perhaps becoming “the next tobacco,” according to Hartman’s “Ideas in Food—A Cultural Perspective” report.
On the other hand, the report notes that responding to these concerns about chronic inflammation is likely to be “the next business opportunity” for the food industry and brands.
In another “free-of” development, health and wellness-oriented consumers are not only avoiding gluten and wheat, but also all products made with grain-based flour (they perceive pulverized flour as aggravating food sensitivities and compromising healthy digestion).
Among other “top ideas to watch” elaborated on in the report:
* Scratch-cooking challenges. Consumers continue to struggle with at-home fresh meal preparation, creating considerable opportunities for CPG manufacturers, retailers and restaurants/food service providers to meet the growing demand for fresher and less-processed foods and beverages.
* Protein and the “return” of breakfast. Consumers perceive protein to be the “secret” to weight management, energy and satiety. Protein consumption at all meals, and especially breakfast, will be on the rise in 2013. At breakfast, consumers are replacing traditional carbs with eggs (particularly free-range), dairy and convenient protein formats (including ones that offer interesting “global” flavors). Eggs, yogurt, lean meats, seafood, beans, nuts/seeds and alternative proteins are being adopted across meal occasions.
* Ethics and transparency in food sourcing/production. Transparency and traceability in food sourcing, once considered “upscale market” concerns, are becoming mainstream issues -- meaning that they are now a cost of doing business for food companies, retailers and restaurants.
* Revival of traditional foods/growth of cultured products. This is being sparked by interest in simpler foods, and in particular by the “DIY ethic” and digestive, immunity and other benefits of cultured foods. Novelty-seeking Americans will welcome expanded global offerings that deliver these benefits, says Hartman. “Cold-pressed” juices pasteurized with pressure instead of heat are also seeing increased popularity. “Nearly-raw” fruits and vegetables are seen as cleansing and the next level in “fresh.”
* Herbs/spices trump OTCs. In lieu of pharmaceuticals, a growing number of consumers are seeking health (and taste) benefits from herbs, spices and botanicals. Hartman expects the beverage and confectionary categories to leverage this “burgeoning” trend.
* ‘Casualization’ of restaurant cuisine. Consumers are transitioning from
full-service restaurants to fast-casuals and QSRs that offer draws such as customization, higher-quality ingredients, bold/ethnic flavors, open production, transparency and an engaging
“narrative” or experience. The demand for real, fresh and less processed items will, among other trends, drive interest in globally inspired cuisine using breed-specific, local poultry.
* ‘New-guard’ candy. Hartman expects the candy category to reinvent itself over the next few years as it adopts fair trade sourcing/principles and launches products with better-for-you ingredients (products free of ‘negatives’ such as high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, trans fats and artificial colors and ingredients).
* Edible food packaging. There is opportunity for the food and beverage industry to tap into consumer demand to cut waste and over-packaged foods by creating edible packaging using new technologies used in molecular gastronomy/avant-garde cuisine, says Hartman.
* Continuing evolution of retail formats and private-label brands. Mass drug stores will continue to upgrade their fresh-convenience food offerings, while convenience stores will “play catch-up” in attracting female shoppers. Also, private-label or store brands will take a growing role in driving product innovations.
Other trends noted include: Growing emphasis on marketing to today’s more diverse American families, including LGBT couples and families; greater emphasis on plant-based foods as the main component in meals; and use of crowdsourcing in creating and launching new products, even by mainstream brands.
The report can be downloaded from The Hartman Group’s site.
"No Sugar Sign photo from Shutterstock"