Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

A ground-floor growth opportunity presents itself

Blog post fermentation google 2Social media is buzzing about fermented foods – even in countries with conservative food cultures, such as France, where industry will be tempted to dismiss the development as something weirdly American and not what sensible French people are interested in.

The restless, food-explorer consumer can find a wealth of bloggers and online sources recommending kombucha and other fermented teas, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, pickles, vinegars, tempeh and a host of other fermented foods for their digestive health benefit. Against this tide of more interesting alternatives, yoghurt looks like a less exciting option.

Against 0.5% growth for the $6.9 billion US spoonable yoghurt market in 2016 (IRI), kefir experienced 16% sales growth, for the third year in a row. Vinegars, a $544 million market, grew 11.7%, with an average annual growth rate of 9% in the past three years, and kombucha, now a big and established business, grew by 7%.

Fermented beverages offer consumers a way to get the benefits of good bacteria – and avoid the sugar that they associate (rightly or wrongly) with fruit yoghurt – and give a pass to dairy which, as the surging plant-based milks and desserts markets illustrate, is struggling to keep the loyalty of the ultra-health-conscious.

Smart companies will seize the fermentation opportunity now, at Day One.

Digestive wellness, the strongest and longest-lasting trend, is key to the success of fermentation. Consumers need to “feel comfortable inside” and they are increasingly opting for lactose- and gluten-free products, and plant-based drinks.

Smaller categories offering more interesting routes to digestive health are achieving greater sales growth than dairy-based probiotics. Innovative start-up Rhythm Health spent nearly a decade developing a probiotic formula that would thrive in a coconut-milk based kefir drink. Its flagship product, a non-dairy kefir shot, is marketed as “100 percent natural” and with no added sugars, connecting with the widespread consumer belief in “naturally functional”, and the need to lower sugar intake.

Fermentation also connects to the plant-based foods trend. Companies have already tapped into this need by creating single-serve vegetable-based snacks – a format that fits well with fermentation.

Fermented vegetables are a well established idea in consumers’ minds – they’re a traditional food format, such as kimchi or tempeh in Asia. Offering a fermented chilled vegetable-based snack that is ready-to-eat can connect to that idea of traditional use and be credible.

Fermented beverages and foods are slowly on the way up – even in France.

You can find out more by New Nutrition Business’ new report Fermentation: how to make a trend into an opportunity at (

Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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