Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

Twenty years of food and health

NNB 20th anniversary graphicThis month we celebrate our 20th birthday.  To mark the occasion, we decided to show you what the team here looked like, 20 years ago. As you can see, some of us are seasoned veterans, while others were pre-schoolers back then.

To my colleagues who have been here almost the whole time – Miranda, who was a rocker when she started with us but today is a capable accountant and mother of two, and Chris, a father of three boys and a talented classical guitarist, who has toiled to keep our website current and functional – I say a particular thanks. You have made everything work through thick and thin.

I want to thank all of our customers – in America, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and elsewhere – who have been loyal to us from the start. We really appreciate that you have been with us for 20 years. We also appreciate those of you who have found your way to us more recently – and we hope that you will also stay for the next twenty years.

In the world of food and health, a lot has changed in 20 years.

Back in the 1990s there was a mythology that functional foods lay in some place “between drugs and supplements and food”. Today, no-one believes that.

Today we know that in the mind of the consumer food is “food first”. Any strategy that puts your functional food in direct competition with drugs or dietary supplements increases your risk of failure.

That’s one reason why – with the notable exception of probiotics – 95% of the food and health NPD in the years from 1995-2000 was a failure. Who now remembers Tropicana orange juice with added omega-3 fish oil? Or Muller omega-3 yoghurt? Or Becel cholesterol-lowering salad dressing?

The message that a food or ingredient has a natural and intrinsic health benefit is the most compelling one for most people. As a result, since about 2005, naturally functional has become the key driver of innovation in health.

This is what lies behind the massive success of almonds as a snack and as a beverage; behind the growth of coconut water, quinoa, chia, blueberries, oats and many, many others.

What we also know, that no-one understood 20 years ago, is that belief conquers all. Consumers’ beliefs about food and health have a bigger influence on which foods they choose than either health claims or science.

Another big shift over the past 20 years – and one that seems to be accelerating – is that peoples’ beliefs about health have become more diverse. As a result, markets are more fragmented and the target groups of consumers are smaller. This creates opportunities for smaller brands and it makes it more difficult to create “mass brands” in the way that would have been understood 20 years ago.

We can say with confidence that the next 20 years will unquestionably bring as much change as the past 20 years. And we look forward to looking back with you, 20 years from now.

Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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