There have been several key trends driving changes in consumer F&B buying habits. The primary trends include a movement towards health-conscious choices, support for sustainable and ethically sourced products and also a demand for more visually pleasing food.
Here we briefly look at these trends and examine the role that flavour and taste still play in determining which food products consumers choose to purchase:
Food Navigator, a prominent F&B news and analytics site, identified three trends for 2019 of which three touched on Sustainability. These were a rejection of plastic packaging by consumers, a move towards locally sourced products and increased mergers and acquisitions in the sustainable foods sector due to its high growth and increased number of companies that are looking to identify with the space.
Many analyses show that people are searching for combinations of healthy and tasty. Google themselves released a report in 2016 showing food trends for the year, which gives a clear indication of which foods people are looking for at specific times. It underlines the rise of superfoods such as turmeric and kale as well as showing how brands can successfully market their products within the context of this trend.
Presenting food attractively has always been important, and food photographers have a long list of tricks for preparing and manipulating food prior to a shoot. However, the advent of mobile phones with cameras and photo sharing platforms such as Instagram has made this even more important.
There is now an entire industry of food bloggers and influencers that are present on Instagram, as well as more casual users of social platforms that also choose to post photos of their food. As a result, having a well-maintained social account has become par for the course in the F&B industry, and having an aesthetic product is extremely helpful in that regard.
The Role of Flavour
Whilst these trends are all certainly important, it is key to note that taste is very much still the element that matters the most for many consumers. What has happened is that with the increased choice on the market, consumers demand that products meet their standards in the areas outlined above in addition to tasting great, rather than instead of it. They are no longer prepared to accept large trade-offs in this area and food producers must accept this and innovate accordingly.
Qualitatively, this can be seen by the large number of healthy eating websites that claim to have recipes or products that are both healthy and delicious. Very few brands focus only on health and ignore the taste element when marketing their products.
More quantatively, in a recent US study, 93% of people said that taste mattered to them when making a food purchase, versus 30% that considered sustainability.
Aside from the trends mentioned above, variation of flavour can also be seen as becoming more and more important. Consumers require range and are enjoy being able to customize their order. Starbucks are a great example of a company that capitalized on this trend, encouraging consumers to customize components of their order, rather than taking the traditional one size fits all approach.
Brands that Get it Right
All this means that there are rewards on offer for brands that manage to taste good whilst also ticking the other boxes that are important to consumers.
The most obvious example is Beyond Meat and their flagship product, Beyond Burger. Whilst certainly promoting a message predicated on healthy eating, ethical consumption and sustainability, they clearly also focus on taste. In fact, most of their messaging is around how they have created a burger that tastes amazing and is not meat, rather than on hammering home the other points. They recognise that once they convince consumers that their product tastes as good as eating meat, then the rest of the argument flows through easily.
Another example is Alove Yoghurt, a smaller brand but one that was based largely on products launched in Japan by their parent company, Morinaga. Alove Yoghurt launched a naturally flavoured aloe vera yoghurt in 2017 that has done well since then. Once consumers accepted the taste of the yoghurt, then the fact that it was healthy helped to close the deal.
Advances in flavourtech have also allowed the production of natural flavours that are both heat stable and have a reasonable shelf life. For more information on this range and Quest’s flavour catalogue, contact us here.