Treat foods lead new product intros.

Introductions of new food and beverage products in the U.S. have showed a significant increase (15.2 percent) this year, especially in contrast with the bleak new-product scene in the latter half of 2009, according to Mintel International Group.

During a presentation at IFT, Lynn Dornblaser, director, CPG Trend Insight, Mintel, the increase in food and beverages this year has been driven by new "treat foods," such as Greek yogurt and pretzel M&Ms, and products like specialty mayonnaise and spice collections that make it easier for consumers to make restaurant-quality food at home.However, U.S. manufacturers are not investing heavily in products for the organic food category, Dornblaser said. New organic products, which hit a high of 12 percent of new products in 2008, have dropped to about 7 percent. Larger companies are moving away from broadening their organic offerings, and smaller companies and private label organics are diving new products. Private label products allow cost-conscious consumers to choose an organic food or beverage, even though it costs more than a non-organic private-label product, while paying less than for a premium organic brand, Dornblaser said.

In general, private labels are driving many food and beverage decisions as consumers try to cut dollars from their grocery budgets, said Barbara Katz, president, HealthFocus International, who presented data from the HealthFocus Trend Study when discussing "the new value equation" that is changing the way consumers shop for food. Among those surveyed with reduced incomes, 40 percent reported buying more private label products. Brands are continuing to struggle in the current economic environment with only 1 out of 10 shoppers reporting being loyal to a brand, with the least loyal brand purchasers falling in the18 to 29 age range.