Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

New app hopes to help consumers – and influence industry

Posted on:
January 16, 2018
Ann Eshaw

Image courtesy of Voedingscentrum

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, Dutch government organization Nutrition Centre has launched a new app that allows consumers to scan food products to find the healthiest option.

The app, called “Am I choosing healthy?” (“Kies Ik Gezond?”), shows a product’s ingredients and nutrition values. It aims to cut out the hassle of reading the small print on the label, and allows shoppers to prioritise nutritional values – calories, carbs or fat for example – so they show up first in the list. Consumers can also compare up to three products to choose the healthiest one.

“We’ve come to learn that not many people take the time to read the label. The Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports asked the Nutrition Centre to develop an app with the goal to help people choose the healthier option,” Wieke van der Vossen, Food Safety and Labelling at Nutrition Centre and project leader told New Nutrition Business.

The Nutrition Centre says its goal is to increase consumers’ awareness of what they’re choosing to eat. Although the app can be used by anyone, they expect it to be used mainly by people who already have an interest in nutrition and want to improve their knowledge.

“Even I had an eye-opener,” Van der Vossen said. “I was scanning this can of beans and the app said it’s not in the [Dutch dietary guidelines] Wheel of Five. I was surprised why it wasn’t because it’s just beans and there’s nothing else there, so why shouldn’t it be in the Wheel of Five? The app showed me that it had so many hidden added sugars that you wouldn’t know about unless you read the small print on the label.” If the product is not in the Wheel of Five, the app can suggest a healthier alternative.

The question is whether people will take the time to scan each product they’re considering buying in the supermarket. “Of course you can scan products in the supermarket while you’re shopping,” said Van der Vossen. “But I think there will be more people who’ll be either scanning at home the products they have been buying for years or will start searching for products before going to do grocery shopping. I think some people will be surprised about some food choices they’ve been making and maybe even start replacing some with different brands.”

The goal of the app is not only to increase consumers’ awareness, but also hopefully to have an effect on food companies. The app’s ability to compare products’ nutritionally with each other has started an online discussion, giving some companies heat.

“We’re planning to do consumer research later on this year to assess consumer awareness, use of the app, and whether the app has been influencing their choices at all,” said Van der Vossen. “In later stages, we’d like to research whether the app has had an effect on food products being launched in the Netherlands. It would be interesting to see if food companies will start taking a different approach as well,” she added.

By: Ann Eshaw

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Cricket granola – a leap too far?

Posted on:
January 9, 2018
Julian Mellentin

Late last year Fazer launched a cricket-based bread in Finland, in the hope that the market was ready for insect-based foods. It was. The breads were well received by Finnish consumers and sold out on the first day.

Now, another company is pushing the boundaries yet further. EntoCube has launched cricket granola, under its consumer brand Samu. The granola is available in health food chain Ruohonjuuri, and also in mainstream supermarket chain K-Food.

There is a key difference between these two products, and it’s to do with subtlety. While Fazer’s bread contains crickets that have been ground into flour – making them less evident to the consumer – Samu’s granola has roasted, whole crickets clearly visible in the mix. Consumers will be in no doubt that they are eating insects with every spoonful.

It’s a bold move. Consumers in the Western world may need more time to get used to the thought of eating insects, particularly in their whole form. But the fact that Finland seems to have a more positive attitude towards insect foods than other Nordic countries might help. Perhaps consumers that already can imagine eating insects – they may have dipped their toe in the water with Fazer’s bread – are prepared to consume them in a range of shapes and forms.

At least Samu has got one crucial thing right: a focus on taste. “Taste first” should be the number one motto for all food and beverage companies, and Samu has grasped this. The product is promoted as “mouth-watering”, “delicate” and “salty-sweet”; the content of apple and Nordic lingonberry helps achieve this.

But with the granola retailing at €9.49 ($11.43) per 200-gram box, consumers need to be prepared to pay for the privilege of eating insects. Will Samu be able to convince them to try such a challenging product – and to keep on purchasing it once the thrill of such a novel food has worn off?

By Mikaela Lindén

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The long slow decline of breakfast cereal

Posted on:
December 21, 2017
Julian Mellentin

The breakfast cereal category’s problems show no signs of going away. With the exception of a few speciality brands, it is a category that is increasingly “off trend”.

Most big breakfast cereal brands are on the wrong side of several trends – sugar, protein-at-breakfast and good carbs/bad carbs – not to mention people’s desire for products that are “less processed” and more convenient.

It is therefore not surprising that IRI supermarket sales data show a 2.26% decline in America’s $8.59 billion (€7.28 billion) breakfast cereal business in the year to November 2017, with market leaders all losing sales. Kellogg suffered most, with sales down 3.87% by value and 4% by volume.

Many brands with a health and wellness position did not do well. General Mills 2.25% decline in its business primarily reflects a decline of 2% in the company’s biggest brand, Honey Nut Cheerios.

Naturally, senior executives are upbeat about their plans to reverse the decline. John A. Bryant, executive chairman of Kellogg, was reported as saying, during a conference call to discuss the company’s financial results, that “we haven’t brought enough excitement to the category this year”. His view – that what the category lacks is “excitement” and innovation – was echoed by executives of other companies.

Senior managers often believe that any problem brand can be turned round, that new product development wizardry, new pack designs and brand repositioning can reverse any sales downturn. As recently as 10 years ago, that all made sense. But it doesn’t any more.

Cereal is in competition at breakfast with eggs, pastries, cookies, coffee, cafes and countless alternatives that appeal to consumers who are endlessly questing for products that provide convenience, match their ever-shifting health beliefs and deliver new and interesting taste experiences.

Breakfast cereal is a long slow path of decline that a host of new product launches and taste varieties is serving only to make less brutal than it would otherwise be.

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