Consumer-Driven New Product Development

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, a new, still-shifting reality is emerging for the food and beverage business. Consumer changes, as reported by the New York Times, include:

  • Consumers are making fewer trips to the store – with longer shopping lists. McKinsey & Co. found that before March, 19% of Americans hit the grocery store at least three times a week. By June, that fell to 10%.
  • Online grocery shopping skyrocketed last year.
  • Produce sales, particularly oranges, are breaking sales records.
  • Consumers are also stocking up more on frozen foods.

Consumer attitudes are changing 

TraceGains customer Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM) outlined half a dozen emerging consumer trends that will drive new product development over the coming months and years.

“Consumers’ attitudes, priorities, and behaviors are shifting significantly,” Ana Ferrell, VP of Marketing at ADM, said in a press release announcing its latest research. “This evolution is providing a unique opportunity for forward-looking food and beverage companies to bring a suite of trailblazing new products to market.”

The company found that “77% of consumers intend to make more attempts to stay healthy in the future.” Companies that manage to weigh consumer health concerns with affordability will succeed with consumers. 

  1. Greater focus on gut health and immune functions: Globally, 57% of consumers express more significant concern about their immunity. Products with probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics that can benefit the microbiome are quickly gaining traction.
  2. Plant-based goes mainstream: In the United States alone, ADM reports that 18% of alternative protein buyers bought their first plant-based protein during the pandemic, and 92% of those first-time buyers say they’re likely to continue consuming meat alternatives. With health, safety, and convenience as leading motivators, products that deliver exceptional nutrition and a high-quality sensory experience will thrive.
  3. A new take on weight management: With COVID-19 posing a more significant threat to those with hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, consumers are reconsidering weight management and metabolic health, with 51% of them more worried about being less active or gaining weight during the pandemic. That concern is sure to drive demand for functional solutions supportive of metabolic wellness and healthy weight management.
  4. Finding balance with self care: Everyone’s anxious and stressed right now. More than a third of consumers admit to being concerned about their mental health. People want new ways to improve their mental wellness, which includes comfort, food, and drinks. Food and beverages developed to elevate mood, sustain energy, and reduce stress will be increasingly popular moving forward. ADM also projects new opportunities for comfort foods, snacks, and baked goods, offering nutrient-rich ingredients and functional health benefits.
  5. Nutrition gets personal: Consumers are more aware than ever of individual health risk factors, and they’re demanding products tailored to health and wellness solutions will take off. ADM research shows that nearly a third of consumers are already buying more of these products. Goods that focus on improving nutrition, self-care, and general wellness can expect to attract consumers’ attention.
  6. A shift in shopping values: A growing focus on health is triggering a windfall in consumer health and wellness spending: 48% of consumers plan to pick up more health and wellness items. Simultaneously, economic concerns have powered a shift to value-based shopping, including growing demand for basic pantry staples, private labels, and value retailers. 

Obstacles remain

While the pandemic has created a host of opportunities, Food Processing’s 49th annual R&D survey shows that it’s spawned its share of obstacles as well. The new research reveals the pandemic could delay new product launches, with 59% of product developers rethinking their sourcing decisions. More than half of respondents – 52% – admitted the current environment would delay new product launches at least “a couple of months.” 

The most notable ingredient changes to new and existing products involve cutting back on sugars, with 37% of companies looking to remove added sugars. A quarter of those surveyed added they want to include more non-GMO ingredients.

Finally, the survey shows that most companies – 35% – say new product development takes nearly 12 months. That’s a 3% increase over last year. Overall, more than 53% of those surveyed explained that getting new products to market takes a year or longer.

The biggest mistake companies make is halting new product development, especially during a challenging economic environment. A wait-and-see approach leads to a static product portfolio that can’t hope to outperform a competitor’s proactive strategy. Because your competitors are moving ahead, pulling back on NPD isn’t a viable solution.

With the launch of Networked Formula Management, the TraceGains Networked Product Development Suite is now complete. The combined solution allows teams to go from manual processes to automated results by digitizing and streamlining new product development for better, faster innovation. Networked means companies no longer have to chase down suppliers for documentation because it’s already available.

See this latest TraceGains solution in action here.

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