New directions for key areas of the U.S. functional food & beverage market

April 17 - What do the latest trends in functional foods and beverages targeting weight management and satiety, sports nutrition and energy have in common?  All three are benefitting from a shift to products made with more natural and whole food ingredients that are non-GMO and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.  Protein is particularly important to all three, with meat playing a more important role than in the past in delivering this nutritional benefit.  According to the Packaged Facts report, Functional Foods & Beverages: Key Trends by Product Categories and Benefits, all three are also undergoing major shifts in the marketplace that reflect cultural and lifestyle changes including heartier breakfasts and more, healthier snacking.

Consumers have lost interest in dieting to lose weight and in 2015 they prefer healthy eating.  This has marketers of traditional weight loss brands (think Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers and Special K) figuring out how best to address this new, broader base of wellness consumers while not alienating existing, loyal customers.   

Wither thou holistic vets?

April 9 - Holistic veterinarians are a key resource for pet supplements, according to Packaged Facts in the report Pet Supplements in the U.S., 5th Edition. Not only do holistic vets believe proper nutrition is the best preventative medicine for pets, but they will be much more passionate about recommending supplements to pet owners as a first line of defense for the pet’s health. Given this potential for pet supplement marketers, a very important question becomes, just where do holistic vets practice?

Based on the directory of holistic veterinarians supplied by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), by far the most popular state is California, with 93 registered holistic veterinarians. In fact, the West Coast in general is a popular region, with Washington and Oregon also having over 25 holistic vets. Beyond the West Coast, veterinarians are much more spread out, with concentrations in Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

However, looking at holistic vets per capita for each state paints a very different picture. 

Nutritional bars trend from sweet to savory

March 30 - Nutritional bars have gained a prominent place in the pantheon of snacks revered by a nation of snackers.  Nutritional bars are a handy way for consumers to stop eating three meals a day at set times and to start consuming smaller portions of food throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home.

Nutritional bars conform to a broad cultural shift toward healthier, good-for-you food products.  Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to offer bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and “natural” characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free.  Nutritional bars, which have achieved torrid sales growth in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed, notes Packaged Facts in the report Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S.

Pet retailing times a-changing

March 16 - The privatization of PetSmart.  The encroachment of mass-market players on premium product sales.  Pet owners’ growing infatuation with online shopping.  These are just some of the changes rocking pet retail in just the past year, and the hits just keep on coming.

By infiltrating niches previously occupied by pet specialty retailers, mass players are clinging to their share of pet product sales. For example, supermarkets offering superpremium product options, and mass merchandisers promising high-quality private-label products, wiled an attractive incentive to pet owners—plus the convenience of a one-stop shopping trip. Packaged Facts survey data published in Pet Product Retailing in the U.S.:  Channel Competition and Consumer Shopping Trends, 2nd Edition indicate that it’s not PetSmart or Petco that leads in terms of pet food and pet supplies consumer penetration rates, but Walmart, with 39% of pet shoppers buying their pet food there and 27% of turning to Walmart for nonfood pet supplies.

Retail pizza innovation moving in the right direction

March 13 - The frozen pizza industry has a problem on its hands: in the face of health and “real food” trends, frozen pizza may be suffering from a processed food stereotype. The bottom line is that during 2010-2014, the percentage of households eating frozen pizza in the past 30 days has dropped slightly, while the percentage eating 10+ pizzas per month has dropped 15%. The trend is particularly troubling because it involves demographics that have been core users, such as consumers living in households with an income under $25K and income married households with children with an income under $50K.

But against the backdrop of an improving economy—and signs that the middle class may finally be benefitting from it—this is only half the story. Restaurant pizza chains offering the promise of higher quality increasingly beckon, and pizza delivery and takeout provide very strong ammunition in the form of simplicity and convenience according to Packaged Facts in the report Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail, 2nd Edition.

Packaged Facts’ David Sprinkle presents at 2015 Global Pet Expo, seminar data indicates pet food and pet supply sales at $44 billion

March 4 - According to data presented by David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, during his U.S. Pet Market Trends and Outlook seminar at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida on March 4, retail channel sales of pet food and pet supplies approached $44 billion in 2014, up 2% over 2013. The pet market’s longer-term growth and prospects have continued to attract new players, expanding the range of marketers and retailers vying for a slice of the pie.

Local foods: A sales boom on par with “organic”?

March 3 - Will local foods organic foods in popularity? Some members of the industry think so based in part on consumer demand now at an all-time high. Data from a November 2014 proprietary Packaged Facts National Consumer Survey published in Shopping for Local Foods in the U.S. found that 53% of the 2,271 adult respondents specially seek out locally grown or locally produced foods. Among the primary reasons for purchasing locally grown or locally produced foods, 60% of consumers who purchase local products say they do so because the products are fresher. In addition, more than half (52%) of consumers say they buy local products to support local businesses, and 44% of consumers say the products taste better.

From takeout to haute cuisine, gluten-free is on the menu

Feb. 9 - That sound you (virtually) heard on January 26, when Pizza Hut debuted its Udi’s-crusted gluten-free pizza to 2,400 locations nationwide, was a collective cheer from the GF blogosphere. “The beautiful partnership of Pizza Hut and Udi’s,” said one blogger, is a celiac’s dream come true. “Excited” was the word du jour. Gluten free-ers are excited that the world’s largest pizza company is catering to their dietary needs. Excited that the move will spur other restaurants into GF action, and excited that Pizza Hut is doing it right.

In collaboration with Gluten Intolerance Group, Pizza Hut implemented in-store training protocols, developed customized preparation procedures, and supplied restaurants with Gluten-Free Kits with gloves, parchment paper, and designated pizza cutters. This overhaul process is not simple, easy, or cheap. Having made the investment in time and training to carve itself a slice of the GF pie, the world’s largest pizza company is clearly confident that gluten-free is far from faddish.

Indeed, Packaged Facts’ report Gluten-free Foods in the U.S. (January 2015) reveals that the share of chain restaurants serving GF fare skyrocketed seven-fold between 2010 and 2014 to 15%. And roughly 14% of respondents to Packaged Facts’ August 2014 proprietary consumer survey say the availability of gluten-free options plays a role when they are deciding what to order at fast-food or sit-down restaurants.

A case of “natural” survival in the frozen food aisle

Feb. 2 - The last few years have not been kind to frozen foods. Overall sales have for the most part been flat or shrinking. Any increases have been minimal and short-lived. The recent damage to this once essential grocery segment can largely be traced to a growing consumer taste for fresh, natural, and organic foods.

Like most food trends, the strength of this trend may be overstated but it is real and it is growing as can be seen from the double-digit sales increases for organic foods reported by the USDA’s Economic Research Service. The ERS further notes that organic foods are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores and are estimated to now represent over 4% of total U.S. food sales.

Since frozen foods are identified by many consumers as vehicles for additives and preservatives, the decline in sales appears to be an unavoidable result. Nevertheless, some frozen food marketers have avoided the decline because of their identity as purveyors of all natural, organic, healthier “good for you” products, according to Packaged Facts in the report Frozen Foods in the U.S.: Hot Meals, Sides, and Snacks. One of these is Annie’s, which makes both frozen and non-frozen food products. Another is Gardien, a Canadian manufacturer that offers a wide selection of vegetable protein-based meat alternative products.

Yogurt makers hope to capture a little Disney magic

Jan. 22 - Chobani recently announced that it is expanding its product range to appeal to more consumers and eating occasions.  Central to the expansion is its new Chobani Kids and Chobani Tots lines, which will prominently feature Disney and Marvel characters on packaging.  Such efforts by Disney are an essential strategic maneuver to not only potentially boost present-day sales, but to also build a vital rapport with the next generation of consumers that will endure even as today’s kids grow to adulthood.

Winnie the Pooh graces the packaging of Chobani Tots, which comes in mango & spinach and banana & pumpkin flavors.  And Spider-Man powers Chobani Kids, coming in flavors such as grape and strawberry.  Additional characters including Doc McStuffins will debut on packaging in summer 2015, according to a Chobani press release.

Of course, Disney is not a novice when it comes to aligning its brand with yogurt partners, notes Packaged Facts in The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation, 2nd Edition.

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