Consumer Trends for 2009

With the economy affecting shopping, consumers grapple with prices and desires.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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A look abroad

Beauty foods, detox products and eco-friendly-everything are the global buzzwords for consumer packaged goods in 2009, according to Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics. Looking ahead, the trends to watch include: 

First Mars claimed heart-health benefits from the flavanols in chocolate. Now Mars takes its Dove line into new territory by adding “skin-nourishing vitamins.”

Nuts about nuts (and seeds): Nuts are now hailed as nutritional powerhouses, which is why they are showing up in more new product launches. Snack bars, in fact, are increasingly going naked to showcase nut ingredients. Seeds too are getting their due on the health front, including flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Don’t energize, relax: Energy drinks have certainly taken the world by storm. But if economic woes caused by an overly caffeinated worldwide financial system are a metaphor for what may happen in food and beverage markets, then get ready for more relaxation offerings. New product offerings include Drank Relaxed Energy Beverage, dubbed the “world’s first extreme relaxation beverage” that induces a natural calming and soothing effect when consumed. Also new are Purple Stuff Pro-Relaxation & Calming Elixir; Nescafe Body Partner Relax Coffee, which is decaffeinated coffee infused with chamomile (introduced in the Philippines) and Lotte Relax Gum Apple Tea Mint (in Japan). The last is a new functional chewing gum with theanine from green tea that delivers a relaxing effect.

Beauty you can eat or drink: Move over cosmetics. The new way to look beautiful is with an emerging generation of specially formulated foods and drinks. Though the trend is very much in its infancy, it has attracted some attention from heavy-hitters in the food industry, including Nestle and Mars. Nestle USA’s new Glowelle Beauty Drink Supplement Powder fights signs of aging from the inside out with skin-beautifying antioxidants. Mars’ Dove Beautiful Milk Chocolate has skin nourishing ingredients such as vitamins C and E along with biotin, zinc and cocoa flavanols. And in the UK, Beauty Spring Water touts its Praventin ingredient as rich in lactoferrin to help reduce acne.

Steam it up: Steam literally has a head of steam in the frozen food market as a growing number of food makers introduce products utilizing the cooking power of steam. Buoyed by a new generation of microwave cook-in-bags that vent excess steam during the cooking process, the trend is picking up momentum with launches such as Dole Easy Steamer Potatoes, Birds Eye Steamfresh Specially Seasoned Rice and, in France, Bonduelle Vapeur Vegetables.

Detox me: New products are hitting the market that promise to “detoxify” in one way or another. Some food-based detox products use liver-friendly ingredients such as dandelion root as active ingredients. Regardless of the science behind the trend, consumers are paying attention to celebrities, including Beyonce and Oprah Winfrey, making a name for detox diets. Recent launches include Function Urban Detox Goji Berry Drink in the U.S. and Water Detox Vitamin Water in the UK.

Get ready for stevia: See “Look to the Future" below.

It’s an “eco” friendly world: Worldwide economies may be dipping, but that does not seem to have dampened the desire for companies and products to be perceived to be environmentally friendly. Mentions of the word “eco” for new food and non-food packaged goods from around the world have nearly doubled in the past two years, according to Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics.

Flower power: Flowers are beginning to play a bigger role in new product formulations. Floral flavors such as lavender, hibiscus and jasmine are appearing in foods and beverages. Examples include Ooba Sparkling Refreshing Hibiscus Beverage, which is said to have a high level of antioxidants; lavender-jalapeno-flavored Theo Caramel Collection Chocolates and, in the UK, Simply Hibi Health Drink. Subtle, non-fattening and aromatic, floral flavors look to surprise in 2009.

Brain power: In today’s world, mental fitness may well be more important than physical fitness, and a growing number of brain health products are hitting the market. Touting “good for your brain” ingredients – primarily DHA omega-3s -- are recent entries Kellogg’s Live Bright Brain Health Bar in the U.S., IQ Plus Brain Drink in Austria and Germany and Unilever’s Rama Idea! Margarine in Europe. Mentions of the word “brain” in new food and beverage products worldwide have nearly tripled in the 2007-2008 period versus the 2005-2006 period, according to Datamonitor.


 

Look to the Future
Two ingredients could come and go in 2009 … stevia and salt/sodium, respectively.
Stevia-based sweeteners won an FDA non-objection in mid-December. Some are calling the extract from the South American plant the “holy grail” of sweeteners: It’s natural sweetener, it tastes like sugar and it has no calories. It’s been in use for years in South America and Japan, but most of Europe, like America, has not yet approved its use in processed foods and beverages.
U.S. approval appears certain. Look for European approvals in the not-too-distant future.
Reduction of “bad ingredients” will continue be a consumer priority, and the battle still rages against sodium. The food industry already has been removing or lowering salt from soups, breads, chips, baby foods, kid’s foods, juices, frozen foods and sauces. Some 663 products claiming “reduced sodium” were introduced in 2007, vs. 449 in 2006, and another 402 rolled out in the first nine months of 2008, according to Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor’s Productscan Online (www.productscan.com), Naples, N.Y.
It’s notable that Campbell Soup Co.’s reduced-sodium soups rang up some $650 million in retail sales in 2008, vs. $100 million in 2003. According to Lisa Walker, Campbell’s vice president of innovation, the lower-sodium soup line was deemed the top-selling new food product introduction of 2007 by IRI. Even Chicago-based Morton Salt responded to consumer desires by rolling out Salt Balance, a blend of salt (sodium chloride) and potassium chloride, with 25 percent less sodium than regular salt.
Lowering sodium is the real key, and there are more ways to do that than simply reducing the amount of salt. For instance, ICL Performance Products (www.icl-pplp.com), St. Louis, offers two grades of its leavening agent, Levona Opus and Levona Brio, allowing formulators to replace a key ingredient, sodium acid pyrophosphate, with calcium acid pyrophosphate.Now it helps food processors create products with less sodium -- and it adds calcium.
Nevertheless, there is at least one source calling for government intervention. “High sodium content is the single greatest problem in the American diet,” claims Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It’s welcome that some companies are lowering sodium, but what’s really needed is a government initiative.”
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