Food & drink

Flavour of the month?

A research report by Datamonitor says that predicting the latest flavour trends is becoming more important (and more difficult) because people are becoming more experimental and because fashion cycles are speeding up. The report ‘Trends in Savoury Food Flavours 2005’ argues that flavours are influenced by an array of factors including cultural shifts and increased foreign travel (exposure to new foods and ingredients). For example, in the US, interest in Hispanic celebrities (and presumably Hispanic immigration in general) has thrown the spotlight on Hispanic foods. The ‘big three’ flavour trends in the US are Chinese, Italian and Mexican although there has been a noticeable shift in recent years to more regional and authentic expressions of each of these cuisine (Oaxacan rather than Mexican, Szechan rather than Chinese and Tuscan rather than Italian). Other ‘hot’ areas include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East, North Africa and South America. Interestingly, despite the strength of trends such as convenience and health, ‘taste’ is still the most important factor influencing purchasing decisions. This may mean that food companies should focus on flavour extensions rather than the introduction of new brands. The survey also predicted that savoury, fruit flavors, herb, meat and smoked flavors all have good growth potential in the future while alcoholic, buttery and cheesy flavours do not.

Ref: Prepared Foods (US) 1 April 2005, ‘New Product Trends: Finding Fashionable Flavors’, D. Nosalik (Datamonitor).
Datamonitor ‘Trends in Savory Food Flavors 2005’.


Think pink

Sales of pink (rose) wine are gowing through the roof. In the UK retailers have seen sales grow by around 60% over the past couple of years. So why has a drink associated by many with the 1970s suddenly become hip again? One reason is that red winemakers are focusing on heavier, more concentrated styles so some people are looking for a lighter alternative, especially during the warm summer months. Another reason is simply fashion. It was only a matter of time before that brown and orange stripped tank top that you bought in 1979 was be fashionable again and hey presto it is the same with wine. Pink drinks are fashionably retro (like cocktails) and wine makers are innovating too. One producer (Ch. de Sours) has even produced rosé en primeur. Mind you, there is also a more disturbing explanation. In psychiatric circles, pink is the colour of denial. But what are we in denial about? According to James Williams from the Williams Inference Center, the answer is probably risk – risk of terrorism, risk of debt and recession and the risk of growing old. And you probably thought you were just having a relaxing drink!

Ref’ Financial Times (UK), 4-5 June 2005, ‘The rise and rise of rosé’, J. Robinson. See also Williams Inference (Pink) August 2004 presentation.


Hungry for more

During the period 1997-2000, innovations in prepared and convenience foods and beverages outnumbered innovations in other consumer goods categories according to a report by Bain consulting. However, the situation has now been reversed which is a worry for food companies fighting for a larger share of the customer pie. Part of the explanation for this is that in many countries supermarkets are increasing the number of own-label (private-label) products on shelf, which is in turn removing a similar number of branded equivalents. However, you can’t just blame the supermarkets. Most new food products tend to be brand extensions of existing lines. Real innovation (new food categories, radical new packaging formats, new distribution channels or new business models) are thin on the ground. This might be due to a lack of skill, a lack of commitment or a lack of investment. Food companies typically spend just 1.6% of sales on R&D, compared to 2.6% within personal care companies or 25% in pharmaceuticals. It could also be because big food companies cannot tell the difference between a fad and a trend and are too risk-averse. A big trend in food is health, but many big food companies are refusing to adapt their products accordingly. Instead they launch ‘healthy’ and ‘lite’ versions of existing brands, which simply cannibalise existing lines. Equally, many branded products offer little or no differentiation from own-brand alternatives. So where is innovation likely to come from in the future? The answer is probably where it comes from now – small food companies. Perhaps the big food companies should scrap their innovation departments and simply buy up any successful competitors instead.

Ref: The Economist (UK) 7 May 2005, ‘Making a meal of it’.


A smorgasbord of food innovations

What’s new in food? A quick whiz around the world has unearthed the following: Brewtopia – This is a website that allows people to design and package their own beer, including adding their own logo or design to the label. The ‘brewery’ even gives you a (very) small share of the company with every purchase. This idea is similar to wine makers renting or selling rows of wines (and allowing you to design your own label) and clearly links to trends such as personalisation and ‘customer made’.
Buy me a beer – Another website, but this one allows people to buy their friends a drink online. Just visit the website, select a drink, pay for it online and your friend(s) will receive a text message to say that the drink is waiting for then at one of the company-owned bars. Kono pizza – One of the problems with pizza is that they are difficult to eat outside or on the move. Enter the cone-shaped pizza – a pizza that looks like an ice-cream cone. No spillage, no mess. The first two are amusing ideas, but they’re unlikely to be more than niche businesses. The cone-shaped pizza, on the other hand, has the potential to be huge.

Ref: Springwise newsletter issue 23, June/July 2005.


Food maps

A team of obesity researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (US) has teamed up with a group of cartographers to produce ‘food maps’ showing how physical environments influence food consumption and food choices. The maps are also used to answer questions like whether bars and late night convenience stores that sell alcohol increase the level of gun shootings in the area. The findings of the research could lead to tougher zoning laws in local neighbourhoods.

Ref: Philadelphia Inquirer (US), 23 May 2005, ‘Junk-food geography’, S. Fitzgerald. (thanks to Marcia Strauss).


If only they could talk

A company has invented a wine label that ‘talks’. The idea is that bottles can tell you where they are from, who made them and what sort of food they should accompany.
The idea is similar to ‘talking’ milk cartons previewed at a packaging trade show recently (packs that tell you what the use-by-date is) and medicine packs that that tell you what’s in the pack and how often you should take them. So what’s next? How about ‘talking’ packs that tell you how to cook something? For example, a cake mix that actually ‘talks’ you through all the steps to bake a cake. Or how about a can of beer that talks to you.

Ref: Various including Reuters. Thanks to Real World Marketing who spotted the original story. See also