Business Issues

Consumers want complete and total transparency, says Mintel

Five key consumer trends of trust, self-care, stress, individuality, and sustainability have been identified by Mintel in the Global Food & Drink Trends 2018 report.

In our new post-truth reality, consumers require complete and total transparency from food and drink companies.

Many consumers around the world lack trust in regulatory systems, manufacturers, and even their fellow humans. This compounds a pre-existing wariness about food and drink because of product recalls, scandals, and suspicion about large companies.

The convergence of scepticism extends and enhances the existing consumer interest in the origins of food and drink that has been present (in some markets) for the past decade, Mintel’s 60 experts say.

Widespread distrust has increased the need for food and drink manufacturers to be forthcoming about their ingredients, production processes, and supply chains.

The need for reassurance about the safety and trustworthiness of food and drink has led to increased use of natural, as well as ethical and environmental, claims in global food and drink launches.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), natural product claims (which include no additives/preservatives, organic and GMO-free) appeared on 29% of global food and drink launches from September 2016 to August 2017, which is an increase from 17% of global food and drink launches that used natural claims from September 2006 to August 2007.

Similarly, ethical and environmental claims, such as environmentally friendly packaging as well as animal and human welfare claims, have risen to 22% of global food and drink introductions between September 2016 and August 2017 from just 1% in the same period from 2006-07.

As shown by the growth in natural, ethical, and environmental claims, widespread distrust has increased the need for food and drink manufacturers to be forthcoming about their ingredients, production processes, and supply chains.

This places pressure on manufacturers to offer thorough and honest disclosures about how, where, when, and by whom food and drink is grown, harvested, made, and/ or sold. Food and drink transparency can take many different directions, but the various claims serve a singular purpose: to help consumers feel more confident about the safety and purity of the food and drink that they purchase.

Mintel says clarity is required because distrust is rampant. A mere one in five Canadian adults trust the health claims on food and/or beverage packaging. Nearly half (45%) of Chinese grocery buyers aged 20-49 rank food safety as a top three concern when choosing a specific supermarket, hypermarket or online retailer. A lack of honesty can also damage trust because 65% of Thai, 64% of Australian, and 61% of Indonesian adults in major metropolitan areas feel cheated when a company is not clear about the high sugar content of its products, according to the research.

Meanwhile, other consumers might need to see actual proof, such as the 22% of US vegetable buyers who would like to see more fresh vegetables grown.

In addition to disclosing more specific transparency details, the next wave of clean label challenges manufacturers and retailers to democratise transparency and traceability so that products are accessible to all consumers regardless of household income.

The market is moving in that direction as e-commerce giant Amazon’s acquisition of premium grocer Whole Foods Market has the goal of making “high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone,” according to the company.

The frantic pace of modern life, constant connectivity, pervasive distrust, and contentious tones in politics and the media have caused many consumers to look for ways to escape negativity in their lives.

Many people who feel overwhelmed are focusing on “self-care,” or prioritising time and efforts dedicated to themselves. Approaches to personal well-being vary by individual but are increasingly marked by consumers developing their own unique definitions of healthy diets and lifestyles that often include following balanced diets and allotting time for relaxation.

The challenge of determining the elements of a healthy diet can contribute to negativity and stress because consumers are bombarded with potentially conflicting reports as to which recommended and which ones should be avoided.

For example, French, Italian, and Spanish consumers are as likely to be actively reducing their consumption of or avoiding fatty foods as they are to be reducing or avoiding sugary foods. Aversion to specific ingredients is being heightened as more cities, states, and countries implement taxes, labelling, and other mandates in order to raise awareness about the potential health impacts of sugar, salt, fat, or other avoidable ingredients.

The often-contradictory advice on what to avoid finds many consumers more interested in what food and drink offers instead of what it lacks.

This affirmational approach maintains the importance of formulating with the natural and often nutritional ingredients of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, herbs, spices, botanicals, and other plant-based ingredients as noted in ‘Power to the Plants,’ one of Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trends.

Plants are just one component of balanced diets, with many consumers creating personalised diets that also prioritise consuming sufficient protein, staying hydrated, and allowing themselves the occasional treat.

Permission to enjoy treats or satisfy cravings is an integral aspect of self-care that particularly addresses the widespread need for stress relief. For example, Mintel research reveals that 52% of Thai, 45% of Australian, and 43% of Indonesian adult metropolitan consumers say managing or releasing stress properly is an important factor for a healthy lifestyle.

Consumers who are seeking more routine relief from stress will continue to change the definition of “permissible indulgence” from the rare over-the-top feast to more habitual better-for-you and flavourful treats that are indispensable elements of physically and emotionally balanced lifestyles.

Technology is being used to engineer solutions for our stretched global food supply

In 2018, individual definitions of self-care and balance will reinforce the need for a variety of food and drink products that present consumers with positive solutions that can be incorporated into their customised and flexible definitions of health and wellness. This creates openings in the market for a variety of formats, formulations, and portion sizes of food and drink that provide consumers with options that can fit their individual diet plan and their current—or aspirational—mood.

Indeed, self-care-focused consumers will be looking for ingredients, products, and combinations that address nutritional, physical, or emotional benefits.

Motivated by the potential to save time and ideally money, consumers are sampling a variety of channels and technologies when shopping for food and drink. The latest evolutions in shopping offer consumers prompt and affordable delivery, a curated adventure courtesy of subscription services, ease of automatic replenishment, and simplicity of synchronisation with smart home devices. Busy consumers are drawn to e-commerce sites, mobile apps, voice control, and other online and mobile options because they are advantageous to their busy schedules and potentially their budgets.

Technology also could eventually be used to design food and drink that is inherently more nutritious, which presents the potential to extend the audience of scientifically engineered food and drink to reach nutrition conscious consumers.

Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trends are the result of collaboration between 60 of Mintel’s expert analysts in more than a dozen countries around the world.