Modern food and consumption trends are “aging” entire industries, which have to adapt to the new realities to avoid losing the young, solvent generation. We explored how product innovations and new brands are developed by large and local producers in the dairy, meat, beverages, and confectionery categories.
Plant-based milk is the most popular category of vegan alternative products. Its sales have grown sharply in recent years: consumers are looking for additional health benefits in plant-based drinks and choose them more often to protect the environment and animals. Yet, the vast majority of milk still comes from cows: consumption of plant-based alternatives was just 6.3 million tons in 2020, compared to 544 million tons of cow’s milk produced in 2021.
In the dairy industry, it is common practice to separate cows from their offspring within hours or even minutes after giving birth, as this increases the productivity of the plant. Dutch brand Kalverliefde positions itself as an ethical one – cows on these farms are not separated from their calves for several months, and the name is literally translated as “love for calves”. Demonstrating a careful attitude to animals helps to lower the customer’s anxiety level and provide them with a responsible option on the traditional dairy shelf.
Plant-based dairy blends are still an emerging category, but it’s a interesting way to provide consumers with a way to diversify their diets. French company Triballat Noyal has launched Pâquerette & Compagnie drinks based on oats, hazelnuts, almonds, and cow’s milk. Danone is exploring this trend even in baby food: the company introduced a new formula Aptamil on the European market. It is a breast milk substitute that contains proteins of both plant and animal origin.
Man cannot live by meat alone
Due to the popularity of vegetarian diets, industrial meat holdings are looking for ways to expand their brand portfolio with exclusively plant-based protein substitutes. However, some companies do not blindly follow the trend, but create cross-category innovations – mixes of meat and vegetable ingredients. Phil’s Finest, for example, offers consumers ground meat and grilling products containing quality beef or chicken and vegetables, combining the benefits of the ingredients into one product. One of America’s largest meat producers, Perdue Farms, produces Chicken Plus nuggets, which are made of chicken meat, chickpeas and cauliflower. The product is a lifesaver for parents whose children do not like vegetables. Each serving contains 11 grams of animal protein and 1/8 of the recommended daily intake of vegetables.
Healthy to the last drop
According to researches, Generations Y and Z drink less alcohol than their predecessors and are generally more conscious not only of the world around them, but also of themselves. 57% would rather go to the gym instead of a bar, and 69% find the culture of excessive drinking boring. One of the first non-alcoholic brands that captured the attention of the general public is Seedlip. The natural essences are made of herbs and fruits and replace traditional gins and liqueurs to make cocktails. All SKUs are not only alcohol-free, but also sugar-free, calorie-free, and allergen-free.
Sports drinks category is another segment facing bias from a younger and more advanced audience. Electrolyte sport drinks typically come in bright colours and with intense flavours. In contrast to this, niche organic products are launched with the same benefits (hydration and restoration body’s vitamins and minerals balance), but in a more natural and healthier format, such as the Roar brand. The category’s largest producer, Gatorade, has expanded its portfolio with Organic Thirst Quencher drinks without added colorings, which has received USDA Organic certification.
The energy drinks category, which was developed by large industrial manufacturers (e.g. Red Bull and Monster Energy), is also undergoing changes. It’s no longer just sugary drinks with lots of caffeine and taurine, but also healthier superfood-based substitutes. Water maker Perrier is exploring the territory of naturalness with the launch of Energize – drinks based on mineral water and yerba mate tea. Another ingredient moving out from specialized wellness stores into the mainstream is Japanese matcha. For example, MatchaBar produces Hustle energy drinks based on this green tea.
The trend of fitness products is changing “unhealthy” sweet categories. Halo top ice cream contains little sugar and has high protein value: a whole pint can be eaten without any consequences for your body shape. Each jar shows the number of calories per whole serving, but the design is not dominated by functionality: appetizing colors and signature gold caps highlight the pleasure of the dessert. The consumer insight of seizing the stress by eating ice cream (and not feeling guilty about it) is fully expressed in both the innovative product and the modern branding of Halo top.
Chocolate is an increasingly controversial treat. On the one hand, countries involved in the cultivation of cocoa beans can hardly be called rich, which affects the ethics of working conditions. On the other, the high levels of sugar and dairy repel anxious consumers, who rather choose a lower-calorie, lactose-free or vegetarian diet. The Happi brand responds to customer demand with oat milk-based, soy-free, gluten-free, and reduced-sugar chocolates and candies. In addition, the manufacturer buys ingredients directly, which makes it possible to track the cocoa’s path “from farm to bar.” The company knows exactly who grows its chocolate and how fair the farmers are rewarded for their honest labor.
The breakfast cereal shelf is mostly represented by children’s brands, with high carbohydrate content discouraging other age groups. The Magic Spoon brand invented ‘adult’ cereals: a product with a high protein content, unusual flavors, and ironic, modern design. Off Limits produces vegan healthy breakfast cereals and creates a whole community. Codes from the packs can be exchanged for merch with heroes from each pack, which also attracts the audience with nostalgia for their own childhood.
Local consumption trends become more global. From niche and trendy start-ups, they inevitably penetrate into the business strategies of large industrial players, who are adapting healthier and more functional food trends to the mass market. In addition, it has an impact on marketing strategies and communications in all related categories.
The demand for more conscious consumption and additional value from any product will be satisfied at the global level not by small startups, but by large companies. In order to be closer to the consumer, they will have to adapt to the new game rules in a complex and diverse market, where the boundaries between “bad” and “healthy”, mainstream and trendy products are gradually disappearing.