‘I’m no stranger to food insight trawls and safaris, testing concepts in a NPD kitchen, bringing new concepts to market and chasing the first glimpse of retail sales with a disproportionate level of urgency. At home I’m guilty of clogging up the Sky Box storage with eYpisode after episode of Anthony Bourdain or Rick Stein, touring the world in search of wonderful new flavours and finally the obvious cooking, eating and sharing good food with good friends.

In deciphering hot or new trends and translating this into an NPD strategy, my view is that this has become more complex than ever.

The contrast of trends and lack of consistency within the same consumer groups or households is now significant. Whilst avoidance of certain foods is nothing new, the vegan trend is well and truly landing in the mainstream space with sales fast approaching £1bn in the UK. At the same time, we see huge growth from companies doing a great job of adding a special touch to the meat game including Five guys, Chick N sours and Coqfighter.

What fascinates me further about this contrast of one extreme (vegan, fasting, food group avoidance) vs. another (overloaded indulgence of freakshakes, slow cooked pulled meats, gourmet burgers and countless quirky fried chicken pop ups) is the consumer reaction to the media or noise.

None of us like being told what to do…at one end of the spectrum, Five Guys, who are certainly a significant annoyance to McDonalds in the US and now in Europe, is all about Fresh: Chips are handcut on site, no cans, no freezers, no timers, no microwaves and also no spend on advertising. Quite simply everything goes into the product. At the other end we have seen the growth in those following vegan diets and an increase in vegan propositions across most product categories. There are so many great and valid reasons as to why someone would follow a diet or lifestyle such as this and one I trialled myself for half of 2018 in support of training for an endurance event.

I found the reaction to the Netflix documentary ‘The Game Changers’ in support of following a Vegan diet extremely interesting. I felt it almost pushed too hard and from the small sample I discussed this documentary with, it definitely challenged the credibility of the whole concept. Sharing the fact that Connor McGregor lost a fight to a last minute stand in who just so happened to be a vegan, discounts so many other variables in that situation, which, for me, discredited some of the other excellent fact based reasons to consider veganism.

So what could this contrast and lack of consistency mean for the food manufacturing world?

  • Ube may replace the Acai, CBD could end up in everything and consumers will continue, quite rightly, to be demanding and fickle amidst all of this. Ensuring you have a robust fixture of the future vision embedded in cold, hard consumer insight. Be clear where you have a right to play and win across the many spectrums of trends, tastes and propositions. Given this growing complexity and contrast, disciplined future space management will be key to drive consumer engagement and overall category growth.
  • Know when to bring a new proposition to market. Avoid the urge of getting there too early and the temptation to pat yourself on the back for delivering your 3 year plan in 12 months. Customers (and factory managers) rarely forgive you for that. When you do launch, trust your products, great tasting products sell and will drive repeat purchase and greater engagement with your overall category
  • Trial, trial, trial and get as much store and consumer feedback as possible.

In a world of open book retail relationships, margin pressure and decisions on where to put the money, don’t skimp on investing in category insight resource and ensure this has appropriate representation at all levels in the business to drive through the above points.”

If you would like to discuss or benchmark your sales, marketing and category structure and development plans please don’t hesitate to get in touch: george@edensearch.co.uk or call 07715 698157

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