Chicago — General food industry trends such as ancient grains, power foods and herbs, resurging classic flavors including peanut butter and coconut and dessert-inspired confections will have the biggest impact on the category during 2014, according to the NCA.
Association Executive Vice-President Alison Bodor says: “It’s an interesting balance — on one hand you have sriracha and on the other, peanut butter. There are products with kale or chia seeds, ingredients many Americans are just getting to know, and products with coconut or marshmallow, classic ingredients being taken to a whole new level.”
The NCA is highlighting the following five specific trends, gleaned from Most Innovative New Product Award submissions:
Seeds, Grains and Power Foods: Information Resources, Inc. data find that 53 percent of consumers try to eat foods that help prevent or manage health challenges, while another 45 percent seek snacks that offer benefits beyond basic nutrition. To meet these demands, the industry is offering more products featuring ingredients such as pumpkin seeds, chick peas, pomegranate and seaweed.
Classics Making Comebacks: Peanut butter, coconut and caramels are all in the midst of a resurgence across segments and flavor profiles, the Association reports. Caramels are beginning to bounce back as standalone items as well as inclusions, while coconut is popping up in sweet, savory, gourmet and salty products. Classic inclusions such as almonds, cashews and chocolate with hazelnuts are also becoming more prevalent, particularly the hazelnut sector, which grew sales 16 percent in 2013, the NCA reports.
Exotic Flavors Abound: To meet shoppers’ shifting flavor preferences and changing demographics, suppliers are turning to flavorful and exotic herbs and spices to differentiate their products. The NCA points to the rise of products featuring Sriracha this past year as an entry point for R&D departments to experiment with red chili and garlic condiments. Other ingredients popping up include ginger, rosemary, wasabi, sage and cracked pepper.
Decadent Indulgences: As a way to add texture and surprise consumers’ palates, suppliers are adding epicurean inputs such as brown butter, truffle oils and imported salts. The NCA notes that during the past few years these types innovations drove growth for segments such as premium chocolates, chocolate-covered salty snacks, and dried meats and fruits.
Desserts Get Shelf Stable: Dessert-inspired items are making headway in the market, as manufacturers are offering products featuring flavors such as strawberry cheesecake, birthday cake, decadent chocolate spreads and crème brulee. In addition, the Association reports beverage flavors are filtering into the category with a number of beer-flavored items, chewy candies featuring cherry cola, and macchiato- and crème de menthe-flavored products.