New product trends for a New Year: 10 trends to watch in fast-moving consumer goods in 2017

Ugly is beautiful, cold is hot, and alcohol is healthy: trends from the world of fast-moving consumer goods that reflect the upside-down innovation expected to roil the consumer marketplace in 2017. These are just three of 10 hot new trends GlobalData unit expects to change the course of packaged goods innovation and marketing in the New Year.

New products drive the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) world, and the expectation is that 2017 will deliver a bountiful crop of new product innovations. Sustainability, trust, transparency, health, wellness, and tradition, are key themes expected to power new product innovation over the course of the year. GlobalData has identified the following 10 trends to watch in fast-moving consumer goods in 2017 that will help shape the year ahead:

1. Clicks-to-bricks innovation – Online brands have been more of a curiosity than a real threat to the established order in FMCG. But this is changing, and 2017 could be a pivotal year for “clicks-to-bricks innovation.” Former internet-only brands like UK snack-box pioneer Graze and US-based online razor seller Harry’s, show that e-commerce brands can succeed in-store. Unilever’s recent purchase of internet razor seller, Dollar Shave Club, suggests that packaged goods giants are watching the “clicks-to-bricks” trend. E-commerce-only brands are in a position to understand the purchase patterns of their customers better than makers of packaged goods sold through stores, a rich knowledge base that can be tapped for in-store marketing. E-commerce brands have the ability to test novel flavors or ingredients in real time in a way that would be nearly impossible in-store. For instance, PepsiCo’s Bear Naked custom-made granola offers 50 unique ingredients (like coffee brittle, bourbon flavor, and dried black olives) so consumers can custom-design their own granola on the internet, providing taste preference information that could be leveraged in supermarkets.

2. Ugly is beautiful – Beauty may only be skin-deep, but high beauty standards within the food industry have been blamed for a food waste crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that as many as 40% of fresh fruits or vegetables are excluded from the market because they do not meet the high cosmetic industry standards. So-called “ugly” fruits or vegetables may taste great, but lack shelf appeal. Food and drink marketers are waking up to the food waste issue with a new generation of products made with “ugly” fruits or vegetables. In France, Intermarche’s ‘The Ugly Vegetables’ line offers tasty canned peas, carrots, green beans, and spinach, which have been deemed esthetically inferior to “regular” vegetables, at a 30% discount. Uglies potato chips – made from potatoes rejected due to minor imperfections – are expected to hit US stores in 2017. Look for a growing number of food- and beverage-makers to take a stand against food waste by finding clever new ways to use so-called “ugly” fruits and vegetables in their products in 2017.

3. Cold is hot – Cold-pressed juices were among the first packaged products to put “cold” on the map as a positive attribute for foods or drinks. Since then, “cold” has migrated to coffee (with cold-brewed coffee steeped in cold water for hours), baby food, and even skincare products like a fast-moving polar vortex. The word “cold” has become shorthand for a product that is perceived to be less processed, more pure, and clean, with higher levels of nutrients – attributes that resonate with today’s consumer. “Cold” also aligns with the clean label concept in a way that consumers can easily understand. Look for packaged goods innovators to warm up to the “cold” concept in 2017.

4. Blank-slate brands – Forget about the past; blank-slate brands are all about the present and future. Often created from scratch, these brands are free of the “baggage” that can make existing brands reluctant to pursue new opportunities and conquer new markets. A case-in-point is Kraft Heinz’s new Devour frozen meal brand, which is promoted to Millennial men in the US via the sexually suggestive tagline “food you want to fork” – a phrase that could possibly be toxic for an existing frozen food brand. Blank-slate brands tend to resonate with younger consumers, who are often wary of big companies and uncomfortable with brands that do not reflect their personal values. According to a Q1 2015 GlobalData survey, 59% of 25–34 year old consumers globally say they like to buy foods or drinks that are reflective of their attitudes or opinions in life, compared to just 44% of over-55s who feel the same way.

5. Full disclosure – No, it is not your imagination. Grocery store shelves are looking more like a confessional today as packaged goods brands “come clean,” revealing details about how products are made, where ingredients are sourced, and what products do and do not contain. Growing issues like provenance and product safety are encouraging product-makers to become more forthcoming. Recent controversies like the “fake farm” fiasco in the UK – where supermarket retailers made it appear like food was sourced from local farms when it was not – have added fuel to the fire. So have concerns over fake fish. The environmental group Oceana recently used DNA analysis to find that one of every three fish it evaluated in the US was mislabeled. Full disclosure matters, but so does the source of the disclosure. A GlobalData Q3 2016 survey found that twice as many consumers find on-pack certification logos from the government or another authority to be “completely trustworthy” than on-pack marketing or health claims by brands.

6. “Healthy” alcohol – It sounds like an oxymoron, but alcoholic beverages really are getting “healthy” as beverage makers address issues like calorie reduction, energy enhancement, and clean label concerns. A new generation of alcoholic drinks inspired by bottled water is on the horizon as alcoholic drinks tackle issues that have troubled carbonated soft drinks for decades, including calorie content and sweetener issues. These new alcoholic seltzers and sparklers could create a new category of low-calorie flavored alcoholic beverages. At the same time, alcohol-free beer is becoming a rising global phenomenon. AB InBev recently said that it expects one fifth of its total beer volume worldwide to come from no-alcohol or low-alcohol products by the end of 2025, up dramatically from around 6% today.

7. Blurred meal boundaries – The growing tendency of consumers to snack at any time of day is eroding the “three square meals” concept. In its place, innovation in new foods or drinks targeting consumption during different times of the day is gaining traction. What this means for consumers is the chance to enjoy new concepts like toast-flavored potato chips for breakfast (in Japan), hummus as a dessert food (in the US), and fish and chips as a potato-chip-like snack (in Spain). No meal appears to be off-limits for change. A pair of recent GlobalData surveys found that the percentage of consumers saying they snack between breakfast and lunch rose from 26% in 2014 to 33% in 2016 – a huge rise in just two years, which represents growing opportunities offered by blurred meal boundaries.

8. Beauty queens – Younger consumers love to share on social media. Makers of packaged goods are tapping into this sharing behavior by creating products with more of a social media-friendly “wow” factor. The popularity of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat is forcing companies to think about how their products play on social media. Conversely, social media itself is inspiring new product innovation. The concept of “overnight oats” – made by combining oats with milk, yogurt, fruit, and more, in a jar and refrigerating overnight – has become a social media sensation to the point where Quaker recently partnered with the Chef’d meal delivery service to offer an overnight oats breakfast meal kit in the US. Personal care brands are also tweaking products to increase social media reach with the goal of “going viral.” Kanebo’s new Evita beauty whip soap in Japan is dispensed in the shape of a rose, turning a somewhat mundane product into an internet sensation.

9. New ways to go “animal-free” – Going animal-free used to mean a compromise in taste and performance. Not anymore. A new generation of animal-free alternatives is on the cusp of allowing consumers to go animal-free without any compromises. Scientific breakthroughs like cellular agriculture mean that innovators can produce “cow’s milk” with real milk protein, without the need for a cow or the deep environmental footprint of animal-based agriculture. Perfect Day is a new brand of animal-free “milk” set for a 2017 launch in the US that uses cow DNA to help produce milk proteins via a fermentation process similar to that used to make craft beer. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley-based startup Impossible Foods promises the world’s first plant-based “meat”, claimed to be so close to the real thing that consumers will not notice the difference. Even personal care is getting in on the act, with the percentage of personal care launches promoted as being vegan-friendly more than doubling between 2014 and 2016, according to GlobalData’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products.

10. What’s (really) old is new again – Innovation in food and non-food products increasingly has roots in the ancient world, as packaged goods companies take a closer look at the past to help provide a roadmap for the future. Fast-moving consumer goods companies are rediscovering a host of concepts rooted in the past, from fermented foods and essential oils, to ancient grains, charcoal-based cleaners, Ayurveda-inspired oil-pulling, and more. Look for the trend to continue in 2017 as, according to a Q3 2016 GlobalData survey, 51.9% of global consumers either completely or somewhat agree that products from the past are better than products that are available today.

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