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The UK's Leatherhead Food Research predict that 2011 will see a number of underlying trends rise higher up the agenda and combine to provide the food and drink industry with a renewed strategic focus.

Laura Freeman, Senior Market Analyst in Leatherhead's Market Intelligence department, discusses 10 food and drink trends that Leatherhead Food Research predicts for 2011.

Reformulations and stealthy reductions

Recent trends such as natural, ‘clean labelling' and lower salt/fat/sugar initiatives are continuing to impact all aspects of the food chain. Initiatives such as the removal of artificial additives and ingredients will continue into 2011, whilst many companies are also following initiatives to gradually reduce salt, sugar and fat levels in products without changing the taste.

Sustainability high on the agenda

Green issues are still high on the food and beverage industries' agenda. There will be a continued focus on issues such as food miles, food waste and recyclable packaging. However, there is also likely to be increased awareness and interest in new areas such as embedded water, building sustainable supply chains and energy use.

Health and wellness

Feedback from manufacturers indicates that trends around health and wellness are likely to impact strategic developments in 2011. Whilst functional foods with direct health claims are becoming more strictly regulated, particularly in Europe, there are some sectors which naturally lend themselves to healthy associations including yoghurts, multi-seed breads and fruit juices. These sectors are likely to use this to their advantage.

Riding out the recession

The government mentality of ‘we're all in it together' coupled with budget cuts in public spending will have an effect on consumer spending well into 2011, with many consumers feeling the pinch and budgeting where they can. The impact on the food and drink industry will be mixed. For some consumers there will be a continued trend towards staying in, buying from ‘basics' ranges and indulging in small luxuries (see below: small indulgences). However, we are also likely to expect a return to growth, albeit modest, across some value-added and premium lines.

Ever-expanding tastes

Cuisines from regions around the world will continue to inspire both consumers' taste buds and product innovations. Cuisines set to be influential in 2011 include Nordic and Middle Eastern; top chefs from these regions demonstrated their skills at Leatherhead Food Research's Taste Trends 2010 conference.

Provenance

Whilst locally-sourced foods will continue to be of interest to some consumers, we believe that ‘British' will be the core focus for consumers when demanding provenance.

Small indulgences

The ‘tighten our belts' mentality will continue into 2011 resulting in many consumers forgoing large expenses in favour of ‘treats' in inexpensive forms. One market likely to continue benefitting from this trend will be the chocolate market where innovations will be geared towards premium, high-quality offerings.

Frozen foods market beginning to thaw?

There is growing awareness that freezing food helps to lock in the quality and freshness linking to consumers' demands for better quality coupled with good value for money. Leatherhead Food Research's report Frozen vs. Chilled - A European Perspective (www.leatherheadfood.com/frozen-v-chilled) offers the view that "frozen ready meals and pizza are likely to place ever increasing emphasis on quality and value for money to compete against their chilled equivalents."

Less is more

Consumers will continue to demand convenience to fit in with ever-busy lives. The convenience category will see increased innovation around simple solutions with a focus on quality, particularly in the delivery of ready meals and meal kits. Reducing the amount of packaging will also be a focus.

Obesity to get bigger!

Weight management has been reincarnated in various forms throughout the food and drink industry over the years. The direction of the industry is shifting from ‘better for you' products (i.e. diet and low and light foods) towards products offering a longer-term focus in the form weight management benefits rather than weight loss. For example, innovations within the ingredients sector will allow companies to explore the addition of fibres and proteins and their effects on satiety.

 

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