The clean-eating trend has inspired a back-to-basics approach in product development and is an overarching theme in The Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights' Top Ten Trends list for 2016. New global products tracked with an "organic" claim have risen from 6.3 percent in the first half of 2013 to 9.5 percent in the first half of 2015, the market research firm says. A surge in "free from" launches and "flexitarian" options also has been reported. A live webinar at 10 a.m. EDT on Nov. 24 will provide an overview of all the key trends, it adds.
"Clean and clear labeling and 'free from' foods have all gained traction and moved onto the next level during 2015," said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, in a statement. "While other emerging trends for 2016 include the rise of the part-time vegetarian ('flexitarian') consumer, interest in a return to food processing the natural or old-fashioned way, the search for permissible indulgence and the re-establishment of links to 'real' food."
The following are some of the top trends for 2016 as indicated in the report:
1. Organic growth for clear label: "Clear label" established itself as a key trend in 2015, with greater transparency and focus on simpler products with fewer artificial additives taking "clean label" to the next level, the market research firm notes. The biggest surge in new product development has been reported in organic products, indicating that this will be a key platform going forward in the short term, although the challenges involved might result in more beneficial platforms for clear label in the longer term, it adds.
2. “Free from” for all: Many consumers don't actually need products that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy, but are demanding them anyway, as they consider them to be healthier. Industries have little choice but to respond, and the recent surge in mainstream gluten-free products has been incredible, the market research firm notes. Other "free from" platforms are also gaining steam, it adds.
3. The "flexitarian" effect: The rise of part-time vegetarians, who have reduced their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns, is having a major impact on new product activity. This includes the technological development and promotion of better-tasting products more reminiscent of meat, as well as the use of alternative protein sources and more animal-friendly processes, the market research firm says.
4. Processing the natural way: Established food processing practices that have been around for centuries also are in the spotlight. They bring with them a natural and authentic image to counteract some of the negative perceptions of heavily processed foods, the market research firm says. The health benefits of fermented foods are seeing increasing awareness among western consumers. Newer technologies such as high- pressure processing (HPP) also could succeed if they are seen as a fresh alternative to using preservatives.
5. Green light for vegetables: Consumers know they need to eat more greens, but shy away because of taste expectations. Children can be encouraged to eat more through hidden vegetable products, while the rise of fusion smoothies and high vegetable pastas indicates that adults also can be encouraged to increase their intake, the market research firm says.
The other trends identified by Innova Market Insights include: Creating a "real" link, small players, big ideas, beyond the athlete, the indulgence alibi and tastes for new experiences.