Innovation is Critical to Meeting Evolving Consumer Demands

Fi Europe 2022 will reflect a world changed by two years of pandemic. Ahead of the event, Sophie de Reynal, Marketing Director at NutriMarketing, outlines some of the key market trends to have emerged recently in France and beyond and discusses how manufacturers can tap into these trends. 

NutriMarketing is a Paris-based agency that monitors innovation and conducts market studies, trend presentations, and guided innovation tours. The company helps customers to develop new products according to market trends and effectively communicate nutritional information. 

What have been some of the key overarching market trends in the nutrition and health sector over the past two years or so? 

The Covid-19 pandemic saw people become more and more concerned about their health, especially their mental and immune health. At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was afraid, because all day long they were hearing about the number of deaths and the number of new infections. 

Doctors and scientists were talking about co-morbidity factors such as old-age, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This anxiety increased consumer interest for preventative health through a more holistic approach based on healthier diets, more exercise, and less alcohol and cigarettes. 

How has this concern been translated into consumer demand? 

In the last two years, immune health has emerged as a key consumer concern. Sales of vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and elderberry exploded as people were looking for ways to protect themselves from the virus, by boosting their immune system.

At the same time, stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, fear of being ill, as well as fear of losing one’s job and/or fear of the economic crisis, led to a renewed interest in mental health. Nootropics, adaptogens, vitamins and minerals, and omega-3 have been among the main ingredients benefiting from this trend.

Have you identified any trends that are more specific to the French market? 

French people have of course been concerned about their health, but they have also turned to comfort food. During the first lockdown, the French population gained 2.5 kg on average, and in 2020, five among the ten best sellers in the French food market came from Ferrero … with the 1kg pot of Nutella at number one! I guess that eating more indulgent product was a way to fight stress as well!

On the other hand, looking for local ingredients has also emerged as a huge trend in France. People are interested in enhancing food sovereignty and want to help improve the living conditions of French producers. Sustainability and fighting climate change are also a big concern among French people, and French fairtrade products currently represent a third of the fairtrade market in France.

Last but not least is the success of the Nutri-Score system. More than 50% of all products sold in France have a Nutri-Score, and we are clearly seeing the food industry either reformulate to improve their score, or launch new products with Nutri-Scores of A or B. As an example, Kellogg’s recently launched a Special K granola product with a Nutri-Score A, and several other snack companies have launched potato crisp alternatives with Nutri-score A.

What elements or factors make the French market different?  

In terms of sustainability, a key factor has been a new French regulation called the AGEC law. This regulation aims to cut food waste by 50% by 2025 and promote the circular economy.

Another point I would make is that in 2020, 50% of French people saved money, while the other 50% found it hard to last the month. This economic polarisation led to a division between people who could afford to buy organic, premium quality products, and others who could only afford products from super discounters.

What are some of the challenges / opportunities that manufacturers should bear in mind when entering the French market?

The challenge for foreign companies is that French people are looking for local products and/or local ingredients. One opportunity could therefore be to offer products with specific advantages that fit French expectations - traditional products, sustainable and clean products, or exotic products that are not available in France. 

Having the Nutri-Score on your product could also be an advantage. Unfortunately, delivering very cheap products might also represent an opportunity in France.

You are delivering Innovation Tours at Fi Europe. Could you talk more about this?

We began creating innovation tours 20 years ago. The main goal has been to help visitors find innovations, and to provide more visibility to innovative exhibitors. At Fi Europe 2022, we will guide four innovation tours focusing on Plant-based, Health and wellbeing, Reformulation, and Sustainability. 

It’s been a difficult two years for everyone – what are you hoping to learn, or take away from the upcoming Fi Europe event? 

I hope that the 2022 edition of Fi Europe will be a great one. Last year the organisers had the courage to maintain the show despite the pandemic, and it was great to meet people in person. The Paris edition of Fi Europe is always very successful and I hope this year will be the most successful yet! Exhibitors and visitors have been waiting for this event - the biggest ingredient show in Europe!