Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

From kombucha to mochi: shopping with a Millennial

Posted on:
January 10, 2019
Julian Mellentin

The world’s biggest cities are magnets for internationally-mobile, highly-educated people like Russian-born Ksenia, aged 27, who lived in Norway and Italy before moving to London three years ago. Food explorers like Ksenia – who is trying to eat healthily “without obsessing about it” – have driven the fragmentation of markets and the emergence of new brands. NNB shopped along with Ksenia at the Kensington, London branch of Whole Foods Market, the “El Dorado” of retailers for healthier food and beverage start-ups.

“I only come here about once a month, it’s a treat,” says Ksenia of Whole Foods Market. “I know most things are overpriced and I can’t afford to do my groceries here every week, so I come to get special things or products I can’t find anywhere else, plus it’s always exciting to see new brands and taste the samples.”

Before we shop, we eat at Whole Foods’ “food stall market” where Ksenia chooses tofu to go in her wok bowl. She says she is not vegetarian nor vegan, but is “getting all my protein from fish and natural stuff like beans, I’m avoiding dairy because it makes me bloated and meat too.

“But I don’t usually have any of those vegan burgers or other ‘meat’ type of products,” she adds, “because I ate it once and got a really bad allergic reaction to it, which didn’t surprise me when I saw the long list of ingredients they have! I prefer to keep it simple”.

Once in the main supermarket, the options are many, from a hot meal buffet to a wine tasting bar area and a fish section with “amazing presentation”. “I come here for specific things, but it’s always nice to see what else is new,” says Ksenia.

We pass the meat section, where Parma ham and a variety of meat snacks are displayed: “Nowadays I rarely eat meat but I think this is one of the few places where you know exactly where the meat is coming from, so if anything I would buy it from here,” she says.

The large dairy section boasts brands not often found in mainstream retailers. “I want to get a vegan cream cheese that I can find here and sometimes in other organic shops, I tasted it in a vegan festival and it was really good, the best one I’ve had! Plus, it’s from this small island in Scotland, so I’m sure they use good ingredients,” says Ksenia. Like most other plant-based cheese alternatives the first ingredient is coconut oil. “So is coconut oil ok? I’ve heard it’s very healthy but also read somewhere that it’s not as healthy as people think.”

Next we pass shelves full of kefir and other probiotic beverages. “Did you know that kefir is traditionally from Russia? I’ll try this one since I don’t want the normal dairy ones,” Ksenia explains as she grabs a coconut milk probiotic drink.

We scan through the breakfast cereals and snack aisles, where Ksenia notices a courgette and cacao granola but leaves it because “granola is so easy to make, I make my own all the time”. Dried mango and pineapple snacks make it into her basket: “They are naturally sweet from the fruit so a good treat, of course it’s super expensive but I don’t buy it all the time, just when I come to Whole Foods because they have the organic ones”.

As we’re heading to the check-out we notice a buffet of mochi, the small ice-cream balls covered in a chewy glutinous rice layer. “I love mochi!” Ksenia exclaims, filling her tray with various flavours.

Next we consider a great wall of kombucha drinks. “Do you know if it’s really good for you? Doesn’t it have lots of sugar in it? Is it made from juice?” Ksenia asks. “Well, I guess I can always try it and see if I feel a difference.”

Shopping done, Ksenia admits she’s “so looking forward to trying these things, I can’t believe how excited I feel about having new foods and products!”

In Ksenia’s basket:  

  • Little Moon Mochi
  • Sheese 100% dairy-free chive cream “cheese”
  • Biomel dairy-free probiotic coconut milk drink
  • Equinox kombucha
  • Tropical Wholefoods organic dried mango

By Joana Maricato.

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Bread, milk, meat good or bad for the gut? Survey reveals consumers’ confusion

Posted on:
January 9, 2019
Julian Mellentin

Consumers are confused about what foods are good for digestive health, a new survey by consultancy New Nutrition Business reveals. The number of people who believe bread, meat and milk are good for digestion is almost equal to the number of people who believe they are bad.

The survey asked 3,000 people from the UK, Australia, Spain, Brazil and the US to rank some common foods as good or bad for their gut health.

While 38% of respondents singled out bread as the key culprit behind gastrointestinal distress, 24% said it was good for digestive wellness.

And despite kefir and fermented vegetables being hyped as gut health heroes, more people believed bread was good for digestion than believed kefir (17.6%) or fermented vegetables (15.8%) were good.

Consumers are just as divided over the gut health benefits of milk and meat.

  • Nearly half of those surveyed, 46.6%, believed dairy milk was good for digestive health, while 30.6% thought milk was bad for their digestion.
  • Just over half, 55%, said they choose lactose-free foods for their digestive health (although only 15% claim to be lactose-intolerant).
  • For meat, 27% of respondents said it was good for digestive wellness, while 33% believed it was bad.

“Contradictory consumer beliefs about which foods are good or bad for digestive health indicate how strongly attitudes about food and health are fragmented,” says Joana Maricato, research manager at New Nutrition Business. “Most people are adopting a wide variety of behaviours in relation to diet and health.”

This is a result of growing mistrust in official dietary guidelines, according to Maricato, and people’s desire to take back control of their diets. “Changes in dietary advice over the past 15 years have created consumer scepticism about the “expert” opinions of dieticians and nutrition researchers, just at the moment that technology has made it easier for people to find dietary information for themselves,” Maricato adds.

Most respondents, 76%, said they thought messages about diet and health were confusing. Asked where they learn about healthy eating and diet, most said they searched online and read blogs, while only 28% asked a nutritionist or a dietician.

Download full press release Bread, milk, meat good or bad for the gut? Survey reveals consumers’ confusion here.

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Unilever joins the plant-based burger frenzy

Posted on:
December 20, 2018
Julian Mellentin

Unilever is staking a claim in the plant-based meat alternatives gold-rush, acquiring a quirky brand for an undisclosed sum.

De Vegetarische Slager (translation: The vegetarian butcher) is a Dutch plant-based meat alternatives company which started with one store in 2010.

By 2017, the brand was available in more than 4,000 stores in 15 countries, including major supermarket chain Jumbo in the Netherlands and Waitrose in the UK.

The brand also has its own web shop, with products available for delivery within the Netherlands. The company opened a restaurant in The Hague in April 2018, where it serves dishes based on its products.

With $20 million in sales in 2017, that number may have increased to over $30 million in 2018.

De Vegetarische Slager’s range is based on blends of soy and wheat protein and includes vegetarian meal centres (15 products), snacks (13 products) and cold “meats” (5 products) and spreads (2 products).

Despite typically having 15-20 ingredients, the brand has taken off in the Netherlands – a reminder that some consumers have priorities that rank above ‘clean label’ and a short ingredient list.

It’s an unusual brand with an unusual pack design that seems have it a polarising ‘love it or hate it’ effect on people. Unilever will likely massively accelerate the brand’s distribution – and perhaps change the name.

The market for meat alternatives – mostly based on soy or pea protein – is already a crowded one, over-supplied with undifferentiated products, all fighting for shelf-space. Unilever’s move adds to the competitive pressures of a sector that is growing, but still fails to engage more than a small number of very committed consumers.

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