Top 6 Food Processing Trends

Anticipating and acting on trends can make or break a company. It pays to know which ones are still in the game and which are emerging.

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But the aging trend involves more than ingredients and formulations. The doubling of the over-65 population by 2030 means increased need for easier-to-open containers. The logistics involved can include everything from packaging machinery redesigns to food safety concerns based on conflicting needs to creating tamper-resistant and sanitary packaging that doesn’t require sophisticated kitchen tools or a magician’s touch to open.

Then there’s labeling. Larger print on labels for presbyopic eyes means less room for those marketing blurbs, images, slogans and serving suggestions that go so far to separate one product from its competitors.

4. Eat global, buy local

New findings in a joint study by Mintel and the National Assn. of the Specialty Food Trade, New York, show specialty food “continues to show strong mainstream movement,” and it singles out ethnic influences as part of the growth surge in the $35 billion product niche.

 

Top 6 food processing trends: acai juice from Sambazon
Before 2001, few North Americans had ever heard of açai. Today, one of its chief importers, Sambazon, has its hands full keeping up with demand.

“American consumers are continuing to take advantage of the country’s diverse cultures and offerings,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst for Mintel. “As consumer interest in new flavors and products continues to grow, so does the specialty food market. As immigrants continue to acculturate, their food traditions are becoming more mainstream. More Vietnamese, Thai and Indian flavors will continue to flourish within this category.”

Globalization can be a volatile category. One example is the healthy fruit açai. Before 2000, the fruit was enjoyed primarily on its South American home turf, usually at small juice stands. In 2001, the first company to bring açai to the U.S., Sambazon (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif., imported 40,000 lb. of açai pulp. In 2005, the figure was about 4 million lb., according to CEO Ryan Black, and demand is growing as fast as supply can fill it.

Globalization’s real heft as a trend, though, comes through such mega issues as the drive to enter the China market. (To find out more, check out our archived web cast, “Four steps to China: One billion hungry customers await you”). And as the sleeping tiger that is India awakens, another billion potential customers wait in the wings.

5. Control yourself

We’re controlling portions not just for health but convenience. As a trend, convenience has been high on the list of movements to follow for years. But the two aspects merged in 2004 when Kraft Foods Inc.’s Nabisco brand launched 100-Calorie Packs of some of its most popular cookies and crackers.

Those aren’t exactly health foods. But it was a clever move, because dietitians and other nutrition experts had been clamoring about portion control for years. Although aimed largely at the restaurant industry, it was a pleasant surprise when the cry for sensible portions finally was heard by the packaged food industry.

The trend took off with such gusto Kellogg Co. (www.kellogg.com), Battle Creek, Mich., brought out its 90-calorie packs of Special K Snack Bites and 130-calorie Granola Munch’ems. Frito-Lay North America (www.fritolay.com), Plano, Texas, joined in with 100 Calorie Mini Bites versions of its Cheetos and Doritos snacks. In the space of two short years, sales of such portioned packets passed the quarter-billion dollar mark.

Even manufacturers of healthy foods are hopping on the portion-control bandwagon. For example, Nspired Natural Foods Inc. (www.nspiredfoods.com), San Leandro, Calif., just went national with its 90-calorie O’Coco’s chocolate crisp packs. Vitalicious Inc. (www.vitalicious.com), New York, offers 100-calorie, natural, vitamin-fortified brownies and muffins.

6. Make room kosher, halal is here

Kosher broke away from ethnic as a trend of its own with the first wave of fear over mad cow disease. Halal certification, the Muslim equivalent of kosher, is finally grabbing at the same brass ring.

The religious oversight of food encompasses food safety, health and wellness, ethnicity and spiritualism with one stamp. Or two. In the past year or so, the growth of religious adherence among boomers is seeing the combining of kosher and organic. This trendlet (“trendmerge?”) is still too new to show reliable growth figures. However, companies such as Wise Kosher Natural Poultry Inc. (www.wiseorganicpastures.com), Brooklyn, N.Y., are literally betting the farm on it.

 

Top 6 food processing trends: Kosher/organic chicken
Consumers see Kosher and halal products as being “safer,” “healthier” and “better for you.” Wise Kosher Natural Poultry Inc. offers product that boasts both Kosher and organic certification.

 

Kosher/halal isn’t just about meat, although the timing couldn’t be better with meat sales jumping. The number of products with some sort of kosher certification is nearing six figures. Estimates are that three-fourths of manufactured foods and beverages have, are in the process of, or are seeking some sort of religious oversight certification.

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