The Product of the Year awards show how quickly consumer preferences shape food and beverage production
Our consumer insights team identifies big market trends, then works with our research and development experts to create winning foods and beverages in alignment. For this article we took the opposite approach, looking at some of the best-received new food and beverage products of 2019, then identifying the prevailing trends that are making each a category winner.
To choose 6 products to examine, we selected among the winners of the U.S. Product of the Year awards. Brands enter their products in the competition, which is decided by a survey of over 40,000 American consumers. (Kerry is not associated with this contest, nor does our discussion of these brands indicate an association with them.)
Among these products, we found a few prevailing trends in action, many of which we’ve written about previously in KerryDigest. Among these:
- Products continue to position themselves with clean label characteristics
- Proactive health and added functionality is on the rise in foods and beverages
- Innovative flavor developments are now borrowing from alcohol flavors
- Cold brew coffee looks to offer convenience and satisfy different consumer need states
Our article on the global state of clean label found that the trend toward natural ingredients and shortened ingredient lists is spreading from category to category, with consumers having less stringent expectations for indulgent offerings such as confections and alcohol.
If Butterfinger, the winner of the competition’s Candy Bar category is any indication, the time may be now for such products to join the clean label trend. The classic candy bar was acquired by Ferrero from Nestle in 2018 and was recently reformulated to appeal to clean label consumers who venture down the candy aisle. The product simplified its ingredient list by removing tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and hydrogenated oils and adding in U.S.-grown peanuts and more cocoa.
A shift toward cleaner labels may also be contributing to a renewed interest in prepared meals such as frozen entrees. Various reports cite that, following several years of decline, frozen foods began to rebound in 2018. Forecasts suggest the upward trend will continue, with Mordor Intelligence predicting a 3.4% CAGR through 2023. The success of these offerings is likely twofold: the consumer need for convenience still reigns, and a growing number of brands—big and small—are offering healthier frozen meal options.
The Lean Cuisine Origins line, which was the Product of the Year Frozen Entrée winner, offers health-minded consumers much of what they’re searching for, including organic ingredients, plant-based proteins and wholly meatless and vegan recipes, all ready-to-eat in just minutes. The meals also deliver on free-from claims, such as free-from GMOs and free-from artificial colors and preservatives, suggesting that the ingredients not found in such frozen meals may be just as important as the ones that are included.
Consumer needs are complex, and at times diametrically opposed. Such is the case of the consumer thirst for cold brew coffee—a laborious preparation method that is swiftly infiltrating the traditional coffee market—when partnered with the prevailing consumer desire for instant gratification and immediacy.
The winner of the Caffeinated Product category—Java House Cold Brew Dual Use Liquid Coffee Pods—satisfies both by delivering the taste of cold brew coffee in a concentrated, ready-to-use pod. The product also speaks to the need to make drinks that can fit more than one beverage occasion, satisfying consumers throughout their changing need states: the pods can be served hot or cold, which makes them more versatile.
More and more consumers are proactively supporting their health with foods and beverages. (Read more about this trend in our brand new Kerry proprietary consumer research white paper, Proactive Health.)
More than 75% of consumers are actively trying to improve their health in some way, suggests Mintel, and 41% of consumers eat foods with added functional benefits to manage their health. As a result, health management is no longer limited to medical checkups, prescription medication or dietary supplements and a balanced diet and regular exercise is second nature to the health-conscious consumer.
Enter the rethought healthy beverage. Each Zyn Holistic Wellness Beverage—the consumer-selected winner of the Healthy Beverage category—includes 200 mg of turmeric (aka curcumin), which may be one reason this particular drink scored high marks among consumers. The use of turmeric has grown by 15% in U.S. new product launches since 2013, according to Mintel, due in part to its health benefits.
Added functionality is on the rise in indulgent categories too, including ice cream. Consumers looking to food and beverage to fuel their day, boost their mood, supplement their health routines and even get help with sleep in a growing number of products. In line with this growing trend. Mintel data shows functionality claims have grown 4% in food product launches since last year.
As we reported in our article “Key Consumer Beliefs and Attitudes Shaping the Food and Beverage Industry Right Now,” products that offer relaxation and sleep benefits are especially on the rise among consumers in search of better work-life balance, a fact that likely contributed to the selection of Night Food Ice Cream as the Ice Cream category winner. The product is branded as a “nighttime ice cream” and contains ingredients that are said to be sleep supporting.
Alcoholic beverages have long been known for their innovative flavors. In today’s market, we’re seeing alcohol flavors in one category shift into other alcohol categories—like the wine-inspired flavors of Alcoholic rel="noopener noreferrer" Beverage category winner Strongbow Hard Ciders 100 calorie slim cans. We’ll continue to see this trend of alcohol-inspired flavors positioned in other alcohol categories, but also translate into new categories across beverage and beyond.
Although the winner of this year’s consumer choice award was a wine-flavored cider, beer flavored food products have grown 23% in new product launches since 2013, per Mintel. Not to be left behind, juice-flavored beers are also on the rise with a growing number of consumers seeking out new and novel flavor experiences.
Kerry packages many of its consumer insights into free resources such as white papers and ebooks. To learn more about our market research, or to partner with us on turning insights into winning food and beverages products, contact us.