Melissa Musiker is a registered dietician and a member of APCO’s Washington, D.C., health policy team.
I recently attended the Summer Fancy Food Show at the DC Convention Center. As an industry watcher and avid foodie, this was a great opportunity to learn about what is happening in the food and beverage industry. Amid the sea of chocolate, cheese and charcuterie, product trends paralleled broader health and wellness trends in food.
Labeling reflecting the method of production and ingredient sourcing is eclipsing nutrition claims as a way to sell the healthfulness of a product to consumers. Flavor profiles are more complex and sophisticated as the American palate evolves and becomes more accepting of products flavored with exotic fruits, herbs and spices, which also make it easier to produce foods with lower sodium, sugar and fat content.
Here are my top 5 takeaways from the trade show that I think need to become part of the conversation when discussing novel ways to sell health to consumers.
- It is all about the label, the bottle, the box. People eat with their eyes first. Decadent packaging, beautiful construction, and art-quality labels make a product just as much décor in the home of an image-conscious foodie as they are food. People are willing to pay more for products that look good and are more willing to try new products with cool labels. To quote a buyer from a major grocery store chain, “I don’t care if that is the best tea out there, the bottle is ugly. It won’t sell.”
- Tea is the next coffee. The antioxidant health benefits of tea are helping to increase its popularity. Bottled in lightly sweetened or unsweetened formats, products with minimal to no calorie content align with national trends in beverage sales and health and wellness. For those looking for a caffeine jolt, beverages made with yerba mate and fermented black tea are being specially brewed to increase naturally occurring caffeine levels.
- Sweetener system options are evolving. Naturally derived high-intensity (noncaloric) sweeteners like stevia continue to be popular, with products made from Monk Fruit gaining market share. Keep your eyes out for another natural sweetener and sugar alternative, concentrated Maguey Sap, which has a higher fiber and lower fructose content than the currently trendy Agave Nectar.
- Snackable fruits and veggies are hitting the shelves. Dehydrated and exotically seasoned (think curry or mole) fruit and vegetable snacks were clear crowd-pleasers. Several companies present were selling pre-washed and cut, value-added fresh fruits and vegetables that could be paired with dips and sauces for quick snacks or easy cooking. As consumers hunt for ways to make healthy choices easy choices and fit more produce into their diets, these types of convenience products will grow in popularity.
- Anything from Brooklyn or sold by a hipster must be better for me. A Brooklyn-denomination or hipster branding are clearly becoming signals to the “good food movement”-oriented consumers looking for products whose methods of production match their personal values. As the meaning of what is healthy becomes broader, more holistic, and encompassing both people and planet, consumers will look for foods that contain high-quality, whole ingredients produced sustainably and regionally.