Hydroponic vegetables growing in greenhouse at Cameron Highlands

5 future FMCG innovation trends from the FDIN

For those unaware, the Food and Drink Innovation Network (FDIN) is a community for successful innovation professionals in FMCG. Once every two months or so, they hold summits, conferences, talks and workshops aimed at sparking debate and networking. On February 8, they hosted their first event of the year: a seminar of strategy around the theme ‘Winning at new product development’.

We were there, scribbling notes and nodding sagely. Here are the top future FMCG trends we took away from the event.

1. The next wave of healthy eating

Allene Bruce, Director at New Nutrition Business pointed to a variety of trends in the health foods sector. Healthy eating has gone from low fat, to low sugar, to no sugar, to superfoods, to clean eating and more besides. The new trend is toward naturally functional food; those products which occur naturally but have huge health benefits. Think turmeric or beetroot.

Alongside this, we’re seeing a pull towards plant-based diets. This isn’t full vegetarianism, but a conscious decision to broaden eating repertoire and have a better balance. Of course, this has to hit the spot flavour-wise too, but the current generation of consumers are developing a mature palate much less inclined to super sweet, and more towards interesting savoury – as long as it’s healthy.

2. Convenience, indulgence, excitement

Snackification is no longer a trend; it’s the norm. As consumers move at a faster pace (literally – we now walk faster as a species than we did ten years ago), the convenience of food doesn’t look set to change any time soon. This convenience faces a new challenge, though: differentiation. Josh McBain, Planning Director for The Future Foundation suggested that, with the increasing choice for customers, brands need to stand out, either by offering indulgence in the form of premium product or ingredients, or excitement – something unexpected to surprise or delight.

3. Sportification of diet

While questions have been raised about the tangible benefits of ‘healthy’ snacks like protein bars, the sportification of our diets continues apace. As people strive towards healthier ways of living, it follows that food should fill that requirement too. Protein continues to be the biggest selling point for brands in this space, but the real winners will be those which can marry the benefits of high protein with low sugar and natural ingredients.

It’s not just about ingredients, either: the overall branding of the product has to be equally compelling. Think single serving bars or snacks, high profile brand ambassadors and powerful messaging.

4. Personalisation and collaboration

Both Mark Cowan, Founding Director & Commercial Director of Happen UK and Josh McBain highlighted the importance of personalisation. Generation Z, according to Cowan, are protective and selective about their lives and the brands they associate with. They’re all about creativity for themselves, yet they value meaning and co-creation. Personalisation means more than sticking someone’s name on a bottle (although Coca Cola’s campaign was hugely successful). Personalisation now means hyperconnected technology to understand each individual’s lifestyle, and target messaging accordingly.

Brands which instil a sense of community and meaning beyond the simple product will come out on top.

5. Authentic>cool

Just as you can’t fake cool, you can’t fake authenticity either. Heritage brands have a choice here: chase trends or double down on their brand equity. Cool means not trying too hard: a sense of elusiveness, backed by the support of social peers and an organic feel. Chasing the hype immediately denotes trying too hard. The brands that last and matter stay true to themselves.

In the fashion industry, brands like Carhartt and Stone Island have seen a resurgence in popularity, not because they’ve launched a line of diamante meggings (or whatever fashion demands), but precisely because the brands have stuck to what they do best. Innovations in FMCG face similar difficulties with similar solutions.


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