From food additive fears to increased demand for organic and natural products, the concerns of health conscious consumers are poised to play a major role in food product development in 2015. When developing new food products, companies must keep the following three major food concerns in mind:
- Additives/”clean” labels
- Natural flavor enhancement
- Health benefits/effects
Food businesses that ignore these three concerns risk alienating an important part of their consumer base. Sounds like a lot to take into account, right?
Consumer concerns are changing food product development. Here’s what you need to know to better understand the most important consumer concerns— and develop a plan for effectively addressing these concerns during the development process.
#1: Understand “Food Fears”
These days, consumers—and especially millennial consumers— are ever more conscious of what goes into the foods they eat. A Technomic report covered by Food Product Design found that 2 in 5 consumers are concerned about food additives, and labels that are cluttered with unrecognizable, chemical-sounding ingredients are likely to send them looking for a new favorite brand.
Perception plays a major role in these food fears.
“Clean” labels with a short, recognizable ingredients list that boasts natural, unprocessed or fresh food are associated with improved health and taste. On the flip side, foods containing ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners or MSG are associated with negative health outcomes.
Clean labels can also be a critical deciding factor for consumers with food allergies or intolerances. The gluten-free food market, for example, has tremendous potential and is expected to generate sales of $15.6 billion within the next year, according to Food Product Design.
When developing a new food product, keep in mind consumer preference for ingredients that are perceived as wholesome and pure– rather than processed and unhealthy.
#2: Enhance Taste Naturally
This can be a tricky one. Consumers continue to demand food that tastes delicious, but are wary about additives and flavor enhancers. At the same time, Millennial’s changing eating habits are pushing the envelope for continued flavor innovation.
According to Comax Flavors, as reported by Food Product Design), the top food product flavors for 2015 will fit into four categories:
- “Melting Pot” (reflecting American consumers’ love of ethnic cuisines)
- “In a Nutshell” (reflecting the continued popularity of nut products)
- “Coffee House” (reflecting the love of gourmet coffee and espresso products)
- “Breakfast Anytime” (reflecting the continued ‘snackification’ of America with more consumers eating around the clock and choosing breakfast foods)
A creative, innovative approach to flavors in food product development is important for today’s consumers as examples of new flavor profiles indicate: Butterscotch Curry, Sriracha Maple, Pumpkin Praline Fudge, Almond Rose Shortbread, Cabernet Espresso, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Chicken and Waffles and S’mores Pancakes.
#3: Emphasize Health Benefits
When it comes to purchasing groceries and ordering meals at restaurants, consumers are especially sensitive to the perceived health benefits of their food.
According to research published in the journal Food Quality and Preference (“Ingredient-Based Food Fears and Avoidance: Antecedents and Antidotes," May 20, 2014) and reported by Food Product Design, a number of psychological factors play into food selection.
“Guilt by association” wherein some consumers fear they will gain weight or suffer health problems if they eat foods they perceive as unhealthy. On the flip side, consumers are eager to broadcast their healthy choices to the world in a phenomenon known as the “Prius effect”. Consumers make certain healthy food purchases because they believe these purchases associate them with a desired social reference group– and they want members of this group to be aware of this choice. In the case of the Prius, consumers purchased this hybrid car over other hybrids because the Prius was the most popular and well known.
When it comes to food selection, emphasizing the health benefits of your food product may not only increase the likelihood for an initial purchase, but also gain you free advertising when consumers tell others about your healthy food product.
The Bottom Line
Your business's food product development will be most successful when it takes these three concerns into account. In 2015, seek to develop foods that address consumer ingredient fears, emphasize health benefits and include innovative flavors.