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Market research firm predicts food trends for 2011


More restaurant-style meals. Less sodium, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. More about the positive ingredients.

These are just some of the trends Mintel, a Chicago-based market research company, predicts will make an impact in 2011.

The company says the predictions represent the continuations of current big-picture trends and what food manufacturers are doing. The company doesn’t expect there will be major changes in the marketplace.

Core trends

Here are the six core trends:

• Quiet Reduction: Mintel says sodium, sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are three ingredients that appear to be experiencing covert reductions in product formulations. While sodium reduction has been in the spotlight, sugar and HFCS are jumping on board. Mintel predicts that as the media continue to demonize HFCS, it could likely end up as a key labelling issue, in the same way as trans fat-free. Consumers should expect to see sugar and stevia used together to achieve an overall lower sugar content in new products. However, “stevia” will not always be part of the overt communication. Instead consumers could see messaging like “naturally sweetened” or “reduced sugar.”

• Redefining Natural: Mintel says that while all types of natural claims have grown in importance in all regions and across all product categories, the term “natural” is still ill-defined. Terms that are vague or not well understood will come under fire and Mintel expects to see an intervention of regulatory bodies. Also, consumers should expect to see a new focus on accentuating the positives of what is in a product, rather than emphasizing what is not in it.

• Professionalization of the Amateur: Mintel says mainstream brands are getting into a more serious “professional” arena, by bringing into the home what used to require a specialist service. This trend arguably has its origins in personal care markets, but continues to expand to include food (chef-endorsed, restaurant-style meals).

• Sustainability stays focused on the basics: Mintel says sustainability is not slipping down the priority list, but instead of seeing new developments, consumers can expect to see a continuation of what we have seen, with a few twists. There will be a greater focus on reduced packaging that promotes environmental responsibility in combination with uniqueness, such as boxless cereal bars or more cereals without the inner bag. Also, expect water usage to become a hot, consumer-facing issue in 2011. Companies will be looking for ways to conserve water and change their consumption habits so that there is enough world supply.

• Blurring Categories: Mintel says manufacturers’ response to consumer needs will be the driver to developing hybrid products. Consumers don’t necessarily view products as being in one category or another, rather they look for solutions that meet their needs, and that may be something that straddles multiple categories. Sparkling beverages are appearing more and being positioned as a source of refreshment, as well as sophistication. Beyond hybrid forms, we also see a blurring of how consumers use products – with beverages consumed as snacks, snacks as meals, for example.

• New Retro: Mintel says that over the last year, there have been more big brands revitalizing old products and old ad campaigns, tapping into the escalating trend of nostalgia. Mintel anticipates more of these in 2011. Companies are returning to a time when life seemed somehow easier, whether that’s the 1980s for consumers in their 20s, or the 1970s or 1960s for older consumers. Expect to see brands using old formulations, old package designs, re-runs of advertising campaigns or new ads with a retro feel.