Sceptical consumer, 2013 saw consumer trust in the food and drink industry take rather a battering with scandals such as horsegate. What consumers hated most was less the fact that they were eating horse per se and more the fact that they perceived companies had tried to pull the wool over their eyes.
Claims that count, one way companies can rebuild consumer trust is by looking at their products holistically and carefully considering the claims they are making about those products. With hyper-sensitive consumers who are concerned about the number of processes which they believe their food is subjected to and with a hungry press who are waiting for the next big food scandal, claims need to be spot on and actually deliver on their promises. Consumers are getting wise to ubiquitous claims like ‘natural’ which promise a lot without clearly saying what the product is actually delivering. It seems regulatory and marketing teams might need to get a whole lot closer in 2014 and onwards.
Growing focus on the supply chain, trade is changing. Food companies can no longer assume they can pay the right price and get the commodity they want. With fears around the supply of key commodities like cocoa, not only is the reality beginning to sink in that there might not be an endless supply of commodities, but the growth of food companies in the southern hemisphere means there are a greater number of companies demanding scarcer commodities.
Health and wellness rather than ‘diet’, companies are responding by moving from diet products which sit in a single aisle in the supermarket to more mainstream ‘healthy products’ which can become a more integral part of people’s lives. They are seeking to reposition ‘healthy’ in a more positive framework, as something to be enjoyed rather than dreaded.
Natural sugar alternatives, as manufacturers work to create the right taste profile for stevia and for other plant-derived sweeteners, such as monk fruit, to attain regulatory clearance, the artificial sweetener market still offers growth opportunities, however, in particular the sucralose and acesulfame-K markets.