An aging population means that grocery store shelves will be increasingly lined with foods that come with added health claims while younger consumers with food intolerances will drive demand for gluten-, nut- or dairy-free foods in 2012, predicts a market research group in the UK.
According to the latest trendspotting predictions of Leatherhead Food Research, a strong interest in maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle among retiring Baby Boomers will fuel more product launches in the functional food market next year — foods that come with health claims.
Expect to see more products with glucosamine for joint health, for example, and foods with added omega-3 for brain health, analysts say.
Artery-cleaning products are also poised to make a breakthrough in the functional food market, experts say, and seduce older consumers with promises of cardiovascular benefits.
Meanwhile, “free-from” foods — labels that indicate gluten-, dairy-, soy- and nut-free products — will experience rising popularity in 2012, Leatherhead says. And it’s not necessarily consumers with food allergies who are driving this demand, but those who are voluntarily cutting out ingredients and making changes to their diets.
It’s the same prediction given by Mintel this fall, when the market research group forecast that free-from foods would grow from sales of $347 million a year to $595 million in the UK by 2016.
Mintel analysts also announced that dairy-free products overtook the gluten-free sector in baked goods for the first time last year.
Meanwhile, here are Leatherhead’s other top food trends to look out for in 2012:
Health and wellness: More food manufacturers will be reducing salt, fat and sugar in their foods to meet nutritional guidelines.
Sustainability: The greening of food continues, with packaging reduction initiatives, more ethical sourcing policies and the reduction of food miles.
Convenience: Despite interest in cooking, busy lifestyles will continue to push demand for ready-made meals. In response, manufacturers will launch meal kits and convenient but premium no-fuss foods.
Flavor solutions: Bold flavors and ingredients will be used to compensate for lower salt, fat and sugar levels in foods. Watch for combinations of herbs and spices, and ingredients like lemongrass, garlic and ginger. Some companies are playing with seaweed as a salt enhancer, while adventurous consumers are keen on premium flavor combinations like lavender and dark chocolate.
Demand for natural: Ongoing, particularly in areas of food colors and flavors.
Affordable luxuries: Because food is seen as an affordable luxury, during the economic turbulence consumers will be willing to splurge on gourmet, premium foods in place of big ticket items.
Location, location, location: Location will be increasingly linked to quality. Consumers will continue to ask where their food comes from and seek out local ingredients. But local, authentic ingredients like Madagascan vanilla will also figure in the dialogue.
Softer claims: Food manufacturers are recognizing that consumers are a savvy lot and will soften their claims. The European Food Safety Authority’s belt tightening over exaggerated claims is also having an impact.