Why accurate data is fundamental to business success

Global economic trends, technological advances and changing consumer tastes all have an influence on global markets. Understanding these trends – and being able to anticipate new opportunities – are critical components of business success. Rick Miller, Associate Director, Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, explains why having accurate data is absolutely essential, from product development right through to targeted marketing.

Talk us through the sort of analyses and surveys that are conducted to arrive at Mintel’s conclusions.

"Put simply, we use a unique combination of data and expertise. Via 10,000 carefully chosen questions per year, we collect and publish over 3.7 million data points from 1.3 million consumers in 35 countries. Through this scrupulous process – and collecting data on a wide range of topics ranging from personal health and care choices to food and drink and trending diets in all age brackets – we are assured that the data Mintel has is clean; it’s simply the best."

"Our analysts are leading experts in their respective categories, often with years of senior experience in the industry before joining Mintel. It’s this combination that allows us to confidently say our conclusions are not only eye-opening but convincing to our more than 5000 global clients."

Are there any clear over-arching economic/social trends that are influencing current trends?

"Everyone, of course, is asking about the economic and social impact of Brexit and what consumers are saying. When we asked consumers about this and published the findings in our Brexit: Future Hopes and Fears – Ireland September 2019 report, 67% of Irish consumers felt that it will be more important to support local food and drink producers after Brexit."

Demand for plant-based ingredients ties into a third key trend – sustainability. Innova Market Insights research indicates that 87% of consumers want companies to invest in sustainability in 2019, up from 65% in 2018. “Consumers expect that companies will do the best they can,” says Williams. “There has been a massive shift here.” 

Sustainable actions can include the use of renewable energy sources, fighting plastic waste, or reducing food waste. “Most companies have figured out what their metric is,” she says. “The key now is understanding who your target market is, and how to communicate your actions to them.” This again ties in with the number one trend – winning with words.   

A fourth trend, which Innova calls ‘The Right Bite’, is about targeting products that help people manage whatever lifestyle they happen to be following. Generation Z consumers, for example, are often looking for products – such as protein drinks – that fit with their on-the-go lifestyles. Stressful modern living has also increased demand for nutritious foods that are easy to prepare, as well as indulgent treats that provide relaxation and enjoyment. “Mental health is on the agenda and is no longer taboo,” says Williams.

This trend also builds on the growing influence of the mindful consumer; someone who is looking for products that are good for them but also wants to feel good about what they eat. A good example of this is a French drink called Bee Zen, which targets the wellbeing of consumers but also supports the sustainability of bees.

The fifth top trend is tapping into texture. “Consumers are really recognising more than ever the influence of texture,” says Williams. According to Innova, 45% of US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks, while 68% share the opinion that textures contribute to more interesting food and beverage experience.

This growing awareness of the role texture plays creates opportunities for food manufacturers to differentiate their products from their competitors. Williams shares the example of fluffy pancakes, which are perceived by Brazilian consumers to be tastier, more indulgent, more exciting and of higher quality than normal pancakes. “ This should provide some inspiration for other types of products,” says Williams. 

Another key trend is what Innova calls ‘macronutrient takeover’. Williams notes that sugar is now public enemy number one in consumer perceptions and underlines the influence that the media and science can have on what is perceived to be good, and what is not. Some sectors like ice-cream have diversified, to include plant-based products that target consumers looking out for calories and fat content.

Opportunities for hybrid products is the seventh trend, identified by Innova as a means for brands to market and extend themselves. Mixing a niche ingredient with a more mainstream ingredient, for example, can help to attract more widespread consumer attention. “Consumers expect to find the perfect product for themselves, and hybrid products are one way of giving consumers a choice that they feel is perfect for them,” adds Williams. Even Coca Cola has launched hybrid products including coke mixed with coffee; energy coke; and coke with fruit flavours.

The final three trends include the fact ingredients are often the ‘stars’, though this requires familiarity and consumer acceptance to work. Probiotics are an example of ingredients that have rapidly gained public recognition. Eat pretty – the fact that many new product launches border on nutraceuticals – and brand unlimited – the fact that brands are engaging consumers like never before – complete the list.

Exciting times 

While storytelling tops Innova Market Insights’ top ten trends for 2020, other key themes from previous years, such as ‘Discovery: the adventurous consumers,’ will continue to feature strongly. “All trends essentially go together and build from previous years,” says Williams. “For example, we’re all global travellers. There is more variation in food, which is why this idea of discovery was one of our top trends for last year. This fits into story telling; people want to connect with something.”Williams suggests that Food ingredients Europe 2019 participants should analyse Innova’s top trends and visit the company’s tasting bar. “This will help them to see where they fit in, and where they see opportunities. I’d stress as well that the need to talk about discovery and storytelling is something that touches every category; there is a need to look at opportunities holistically. This is a very exciting time to be in food, as there is so much happening.” 

Don't miss presentations on Top Trends for 2020 by Innova Market Insights duringFi Europe 2019. 

Talk us through the sort of analyses and surveys that are conducted to arrive at Mintel’s conclusions.