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What did Foodfax Reviewers think of 2018 food and drink innovations?

At the end of 2017, we predicted Veganuary 2018 would begin to entrench meat-free eating habits even amongst those unable to stick to a stringent Vegan diet. We were right.

But how much of this results from a long-term trend to a lighter, more varied diet, or pressure from ‘Vegan Warriors’?

For the trade, vegan foods opened up a whole new sector opportunity. We tested 23 vegan products in 2018 but only 1 made it to the Top 100 most highly rated products of the year – Birds’ Eye: Chickpea and Spinach Mix.

Of 45 vegetarian products tested, 7 made it to the Top 100, with Morrisons Cheddar and Rice Stuffed Peppers the Top Vegetarian Ready Meal.

Seeds and nuts increasingly replace meat and dairy protein, with the highlighting of Protein a growing trend in relevant categories – this year’s Top Savoury Biscuit was Ryvita’s Protein Red Quinoa & Sesame Crackers, whilst Jordan’s took the Top Cereal slot with their Country Crisp Protein Nut Crunch.

Alternative grains and pulses are increasingly mainstream - ancient grains like Quinoa and Bulgur Wheat – and there has been widespread use of dried peas/beans in the snack sector albeit with mixed results. None made the Top 100.

2019 is shaping up to be a meat-free year – we’re already testing 12 Vegan and Vegetarian foods in Veganuary 2019 - and we predict a rise in ‘feel good’ foods. Products that promise to be kind to our skin, our gut or our brain.

Obesity levels continue to dominate the news and there will be a consistent flow of low sugar and low salt lines as retailers and manufacturers respond to Government Guidelines. The base point for defined healthier options is changing and whether any make it to the Top 100 depends on how successful manufacturers are in effective recipe development.

This all makes Free From seem like yesterdays trend. We tested 43 of the most innovative lines loosely defined in this category, but only 1 – a sugar Free water from Volvic – made the Top 100. With the principles of clean eating under increasing scrutiny, this category may revert to its original role of good foods for Coeliacs.

Appearance is everything. The urge for Instagram friendly foods to impress on social media shows no signs of abating. 2018 saw a drive for restaurant standard finishing and food as theatre products – think Christmas - on treat lines and Meal Kits to allow finishing touches to be added at home.

And by the way, we tested 40 Jack’s new lines in 2018 – 18 made the Top 100 Most Highly Rated Products. New to market if not new food ideas, products from the Jack’s range illustrate the role of value in today’s marketplace. The range proved highly acceptable to reviewers across the shopping basket, from Apple Juice – No. 4 in the Top 100 – through to Wiltshire Cured Ham at 95 and spanned Mince Pies, Bacon, Spatchcock Chicken and Mixed Leaf Salad.

7 of the new Tesco Value lines also made the Top 100 – out of only 13 tested. Again, these spanned the average Grocery Basket, including Rump Steak at No. 25 through to Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice at 76.

Retailers continue to drive innovation; they are close to market and can respond quickly.

45% of the products in the Top 100 were retailer Own Brand. 27% of these made it through to our Top 100. This compares with 18% for Brands, although we tested almost twice as many Branded products.

Established brands are getting bigger and offering less and less real innovation, leaving the market open to a generation of new brands targeted to discreet sectors and consumers. Many of these initially lack mainstream appeal, with none this year making the Top 100. Some are slow burn winners. Think Innocent and Gü.

Development Teams looking into a crystal ball for the next best thing should remember that consumers are usually a few steps behind. Our Reviewers still see Sweet Potato and Salted Caramel as something new and if we look at the products that they felt were the most ‘new and exciting’, it was not the Cold Brew Coffees, Jackfruit or Beetroot Gnocchi, but Maltesers Buttons and Kit Kat Senses that topped the list.

But consumers love ideas and inspiration, even if they buy them only once. Good consumer research can help with understanding of how a new product fits with trends, matches expectations and delivers great value for money.


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