Sugar has become the main substitute ingredient in foods after the results of a 1980s study were published showing fat and cholesterol led to heart disease. It is the ingredient used in foods to keep it tasting good while lowering overall fat levels.
Though the studies were later disproven (a great overview of that history here), the nation’s stigma against fat has taken decades to reverse.
Record highs of obesity and cardiovascular disease can no longer be ignored, which are largely attributed to the introduction of high levels of sugar and refined carbohydrates into the collective American diet. Nutritionists and doctors alike are taking note, and changing their tune on sugar.
As we have seen in the past few years, emerging fitness fads (CrossFit) and their suggested diets (Paleo) have shown a dual creation of stigma/obsession with food: with protein being the new Holy Grail, and fat being promoted as a positive ingredient to replace the recently vilified sugar. The reversal of the original research has taken years to permeate through American culture, only recently resulting in the espousal of the values of oils, butters, and bacon.
As food manufacturers have been riding this rocky rollercoaster and trying to adapt, the question begs itself of, “What is the next taboo ingredient?” Since most innovations take 12-18 months to get onto shelves, companies need to have confidence in their knowledge of the changing tides of public opinion.
So what can we expect for 2017?
Protein will continue to be the biggest influence in brand & category growth.
Categories like beef jerky continue to grow aggressively; with less-processed brands leading the growth. Krave, which I mentioned in a previous blog for its Epic jerky bars, is up 84% in volume. This appeal reflects consumers’ search for dually satisfying snacks that help fuel a protein-filled diet.
Nuts and seeds will continue to provide options high in healthy fats and proteins, as each are used more often in baking and spreads. In fact, Mintel predicted that revenues from nut spreads will grow to $6.5 billion in 2018.
- Sugar reduction will continue to be a pervasive trend, with some substitutes from natural alternatives such as agave nectar, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
- As each major food manufacturer has pledged their own wellness-related agenda, several of the largest players are working to come out with reformulated food products with a lower sugar content or new brands to offer healthful options. General Mills and Nestle are just a couple examples of commitment to healthier offerings.
Still, this approach places huge amounts of money and faith behind the continued trend of sugar aversion. Given the time-intensive food production schedules mentioned before, companies need a way to monitor consumers’ reaction to these new products, and to understand if and how these underlying trends are changing.
To find out how you can use Signals Playbook™ to maintain market leadership without being sidelined from changes in consumer preference, contact us for a free demo today.