Meat still beats the plant-based trend

Posted on:
May 17, 2017
Julian Mellentin

Screamin Sicilian pizza was the 6th most-successful new product in America in 2016, earning $73.2 million in first-year sales.

The secret of its success? Meat. And lots of it. It has made a big hit thanks to meat-laden recipes with names like Boss Hog, Three Little Piggies and Mother of Meat.

There is no vegetarian or vegan option in the product range. The plant-based foods trend has yet to reach the Screamin Sicilian customer.

In fact two of the 10 most-successful new products launched in America in 2016 were meat brands. Their success is particularly striking given the claims by researchers and journalists that Americans – and millenials in particular – are lowering their meat consumption. In fact, there were no plant-based foods among the most-successful new launches of 2016.

And not all millenials are avoiding wheat, gluten and dairy. Screamin Sicilian make no concession to fashionable fears about gluten or any of the other ‘free-froms’.

Nor is everyone driven by clean label fever. Screamin Sicilian pizzas have on average over 40 ingredients, including many that we are told that people reject, such as:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils
  • Sugar
  • Wheat gluten
  • butylated hydroxyanisole
  • butylated hydroxytoluene

Yet their presence on the label has been no barrier to Screamin Sicilian’s success. It’s a reminder that people are willing to compromise – or overlook – a lot of things for a product that tastes great, is convenient and sold at a good price.

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The real fun part of trend hunting

Posted on:
May 7, 2017
Julian Mellentin

The marketing and NPD teams of companies that want to get to grips with emerging consumer trends like to get together with their brand consultants and advertising agencies and go out to retail stores and discover the latest, coolest products.

And quite right – you can learn more by wandering about the aisles of grocery stores than you will ever learn in a powerpoint presentation or by sitting in your office and trawling the internet. It’s boots on the ground that find the winning strategy, every time.

But which ground do you put your boots on? Which stores do you go to?

We’ve noticed that the default setting of marketers and their advisers is to head to the capitals of hipster cool. They to go to New York (especially Williamsburg), Austin, Texas, many parts of California, to London (and particularly Hoxton and Shoreditch), to central-city Melbourne and Sydney.

And when they get to these hubs of hip, they fill their time with visits to Whole Foods Markets, organic superstores, hipster cafes – and in fact all the places the ad agents and branding consultants and their upper income, college-educated friends like to go to themselves at the weekend.

The one problem is that while these hip-holes are a source of myriad crazy and brilliant ideas, they’re not necessarily the ideas that are going to spread. At least, not any time in the next 5+ years.

The leading edge is just that – way out in front. And it’s often described by cynics as “the bleeding edge” because so many of the amazing experimental ideas will die there too.

Which is why when at New Nutrition Business we think about trends we go everywhere – where the normal people go, who have mortgages and jobs and a budget and have never set foot in Williamsburg or Hoxton (and wouldn’t really want to).

That means not making special trend-hunting trips, but keeping your eyes open and your powers of observation turned so that it becomes a way of life.

I took the picture above passing through a small suburban railway station in Scotland’s biggest city.

The station café’s deal of the month was coconut latte. In Scotland?

The very nice Polish lady who runs the café was kind enough to explain that they sell really well and demand has grown steadily over the last year. People like the taste, there’s no dairy in it (a lot of people think milk makes them bloated she said) and everyone loves the taste of coconut.

The people who buy them are all ages. And most of them know what they’re buying – they maybe already had a coconut latte in a cafe or at a friend’s house or have made one at home.

So coconut latte is quietly going mainstream. Available at a regular station café, where people pick one up on the way to work and at an affordable price.

Visiting unlikely corners, keeping an open mind, taking pictures and talking to people – that’s the fuzzy reality that’s a big part of accurately tracking trends.

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The re-birth of full fat dairy – and the long slow death of low-fat

Posted on:
April 15, 2017
Julian Mellentin

It would have been unimaginable 10 years ago: Unilever wants to get out of the polyunsaturated spreads business and sell-off brands worth $3 billion (€2.8 billion) in retail sales. The reason? Sales are falling – down 8% a year in the US and more in other markets – and there’s nothing Unilever can do to pull them back.

It’s a perfect case study of how powerless companies are in the face of a big trend – and the trends in this case are the rehabilitation of dairy fat and people’s preference for foods that are as natural as possible over foods that are like a chemistry set.

Regardless of any scientific arguments still raging about dairy fat – and there are many health professionals who cannot bring themselves to accept that the science has moved on – what’s more important is that consumers are making up their own minds.

Starting with the most health-aware consumers, the most-educated and the young, people are losing their fear of fat.

Armed with their phones, people are able to access more information about nutrition than ever before – and they are learning to be more discerning in the data sources they go to. And the result?

In 2016 in the US:

  • sales of whole milk grew 4.6%
  • sales of skim milk fell 12.6% (an acceleration of the 3% decline of 2015)
  • Sales of butter increased by 8%.
  • Noosa Australian-style yoghurt – a range launched in 2010 which offers only full-fat yoghurt – reached over $100 million (€94 million) in retail sales. Other “whole milk” yoghurt brands are proliferating and they are one of the few growth-spots in a US yoghurt market where growth has stalled.

In Australia:

  • Full-fat milk sales grew by 9% in 2016 while low-fat milk sales slipped.
  • demand for dairy fat has resulted in prices increasing from $3,000 a tonne in mid-2016 to up to $S5,000 a tonne now.

In Sweden statistics from The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare show that Swedish butter consumption grew by almost 200% between 2005 and 2012 – while the incidence of heart attacks continued to fall. Swedes’ cardiovascular health improved despite eating more and more butter.

The old claim that increased butter consumption would increase the incidence of heart disease is defeated by reality.

The rehabilitation of fat represents the end of what Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School has called “the largest public health experiment in history”.

Low-fat dairy is not going to go away – people over 50 might be reluctant to give up the “low-fat-is-best beliefs” that they grew up with – but low-fat dairy’s share of the market – and particularly the premium market – will continue to decline as people rediscover the naturalness, pleasure and culinary usefulness of full-fat dairy.

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