|Developing liquid foods based on trends|
|LIQUID foods are in and of themselves a unique conundrum 每 to call them a discovery of recent decades is not entirely accurate, because strictly speaking, the use of liquids as a food item has gone back centuries, though with a primarily medical basis, such as the feeding of broth to recovering patients in many cultures1. Yet, looking at it from another point of view, the practice of using liquids as a primary meal item, or even a complete meal replacement, has only appeared in recent decades, though usually with a more general purpose.
Regardless, the trend of consuming liquid foods as a full meal 每 or to follow a liquid diet 每 is going strong, and it is a distinctive market that can yield substantial returns if industry players pay close attention to the food and beverage market trends accompanying it.
Know your trends
Liquid foods are applicable for numerous situations, but primarily come to the limelight in two sorts of circumstances. The first is where there are medical applications, such as for patients preparing for gastrointestinal surgery, or in recovery 每 both require medical approval and supervision. The second is where health benefits are targeted, such as to aid in weight loss or muscle gain. That said, what is important for industry players to pay attention to is how to utilise expert-identified market trends to make the most of these applications.
1. Healthy ingredients matter. The top two drivers, amongst the top five trends in the F&B industry for 2018 as identified by market research experts Innova Market Insights are ＆Mindful Choices＊, as well as ＆Lighter Enjoyment＊2. The former, which has also been deemed the number one driver this year, describes how consumers today are ever more conscious about what is actually in their food, and that much more attention is being paid to ingredients lists. The latter, unsurprisingly, is about healthier choices, and talks about how consumers are increasingly searching for ways to eat and drink more healthily.
Liquid meal replacements have also previously come under the microscope for worries concerning high sugar levels and/or preservatives. For example, the Soylent forum3 itself hosts several discussions regarding the amount of sugar and the type of sugar used in its various products. Soylent＊s open approach of discussing consumer concerns admirably reflects its confidence in its product, but herein lies an excellent example of how the ＆Mindful Choices＊ and ＆Lighter Enjoyment＊ trends come into play in the liquid foods industry. Consumers are progressively more aware of the fact that foods that are high in sugars and preservatives are harmful for the body, they are capable of taking up an investigative stance into the products they are purchasing, and are not afraid of taking to the World Wide Web to address these concerns.
So how should manufacturers handle this situation? The answer is obvious: Make sure the ingredients in your products are conducive to health, clean, and can stand up to public scrutiny. Not only is the consumer today always right, he or she is also always watching you.
2. Convenience and clarity should go hand-in-hand According to Mintel＊s version of the top five Global Food and Drink Trends 2018, one of the key trends to note is that of ＆Self-fulfilling practices＊, where it is reported that ＆As more consumers find modern life to be hectic and stressful, flexible and balanced diets will become integral elements of self-care routines.＊
Within this, convenience will play a major role, given the mention of ＆stress＊ in the above description, hence manufacturers will need to pay attention to what convenience actually means to their consumer groups. Some questions to reflect on: Does convenience mean being able to purchase the product in single-serving portions? Is it about preferring to purchase in bulk and distributing privately? What are the definitions of single-servings for the various consumer groups and demographics involved? Making a liquid meal replacement ＆balanced＊, especially in terms of nutrients is vital to adhere to this trend, but how can it also be made ＆flexible＊ in terms of customer demands? Answering questions like these are crucial to ensure that your product is convenient enough to maintain relevance.
3. Product information By paying sufficient attention to product labelling, you ensure that customers can conveniently identify the content of their purchased liquid foods. One of the top 2018 Packaging Trends as identified by Mintel4 is to aim for a label that fulfils the criteria of ＆Clean Label 2.0＊. You have to make certain that consumers neither feel overloaded with information when reading the label, as this will lead to confusion and suspicion. Neither should they feel under-informed as this would incur suspicion and distrust. Both are highly likely to lead to the rejection of a brand.
Take for instance the terms maltodextrin and sugar. If maltodextrin has gained enough popularity as a keyword such that the general public is aware of it and knows its health benefits, then it would be a good option to include on the label. But if not, and the label does not provide any explanatory notice either, consumers that taste sweetness in the product may instead feel that the manufacturer is being dishonest, and might consequently reject the product. Therefore, it is necessary that all vocabulary on the label be clear and easily understood, and must also remain concise so as not to confuse consumers. Note that although today＊s consumers are more informed than ever, it is not wise to assume what they do and do not know, or that they will take the extra time to investigate on their own. Remember, simple, comprehensible and short labels matter.
4. The inescapable influence of science and technology The impact of scientific and technological advancements on the F&B industry have drawn much focus in recent years, and it is no surprise that these have made a big impact on trends this year too. Mintel＊s overall Global Food and Drink 2018 puts its emphasis on online and mobile food shopping via the trend ＆Preferential Treatment＊, and talks about options that serve to attract customers by saving them time and money using a variety of modern channels and technologies5. When specifically discussing packaging trends though, emphasis is placed not only on the usage of packaging that is conducive for online shopping (dubbed rEpackage), but also on packaging that can extend food freshness, preserve ingredient fortification, ensure safe delivery (dubbed Packaged Planet), and also directly incorporate communication with consumers.
From the perspective of online shopping, many liquid food manufacturers are already on the ball with this, either directly offering shipping services via their own websites, like Soylent6, Boost7, and Ensure8; or selling these via online shopping vendors like Qoo10. With the advent of mobile phone apps and other sorts of channels making purchases ever more convenient and commonplace, it is becoming essential for liquid foods industry players to not only keep up with the times, but also make the extra effort to stand out from other brands, whether it is by packaging, process methods, unique added ingredients, or other methods.
Processing technology is another form of technological advancement that is crucial not only when it comes to setting your brand apart from the competition, but also more importantly to ensure quality 每 product freshness, nutrition value and safety. When it comes to liquid foods, two of the more vital aspects are sterilisation and the area of filling and closing9.