Low Alcohol by Volume

One of the latest trends in the bar scene may influence your next summer cocktail or craft beer selection – whether on a patio or in your own backyard. The “Low ABV” category is growing on all fronts, from bartenders experimenting with new recipes, to producers creating near-beers and faux spirits that provide flavor and fun.

BUT, WHY?

You might be wondering… “but why? isn’t that missing the point?” As Millennials and Boomers are trying to stay fit, a recent study by International Wines and Spirits Record found that “52% of US adults who drink alcohol are either trying now or have tried before to reduce their alcohol intake”[1]. This is right in line with the emergence of “Dry January” – the 31-day alcohol-free challenge that has become a tradition for many following the holidays. Indicative of an overall search for moderation with alcohol, restaurants and retail brands have taken note.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

In NYC, the bar scene is rising to the challenge with trendy sober bars, mocktail menus and booze-free pop-up parties. These spaces are set up to look and feel like any other hip bar in the area, offering patrons an “alternative” night out. Most claim not to be a strictly sober space but rather one that promotes being social: talks, meet-ups, music, workshops, and my personal favorite: Juicebox Heroes, a karaoke lounge split into sober and non-sober sections. I have to imagine the experience is rather different from one side to the other!

On a broader scale, bars are putting more effort into their Low ABV program, and many times calling it out as a specific section on the menu. Generally defined as containing less than 1 ounce of high proof spirit, they are often only slightly less expensive as they tout similar high quality and unique ingredients as their alcoholic counterparts.

SO, WHAT NEXT?

Consumers will continue to look for what benefits their beverage choices can provide for them, by way of both wellness and experience. With the low- and no-alcohol beverage category projected to grow roughly 32% by 2022, it’s likely that creativity will continue to be key in shaping this trend – with the addition of items like “CBD-infused lattes” and “mushroom-elixirs”, the bar scene and how we consume mood-altering beverages is going to look very different even a few years from now.[2]

[1]“Low- And No-Alcohol Beverages Are a Growing Trend Worldwide.” Forbes. Pellechia, Thomas. February 20, 2019.
[2]“Sober-ish Summer?” Vanity Fair. Bryant, Kenzie. May 24, 2019.

What’s On Your Grill?

As we head into grilling season, what gets thrown on the BBQ might look a little different this year. While plant-based eating is certainly not a new trend in 2019, it is becoming increasingly more mainstream – particularly when it comes to the format we know and love: burgers.

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THE SHIFT?

Many factors are contributing to the growth in the overarching trend of plant-based eating: health/nutrition benefits; animal welfare; environmental conservation, to name a few. Add to that, recent reporting that shows 61% of U.S. adults want more protein in their diets and it is no surprise that plant-based protein is the #1 growing category in NPD’s SupplyTrack research.[1]

(Plant-Based Proteins; The NPD Group/SupplyTrack)

Based on independent and micro chain reporting, plant-based burgers are the largest product type within the category. In many cases they look like, taste like, and “bleed” like meat. With descriptors like “Meat Lovers Vegan Burger”, the target audience is clearly a broader base than those trying to get away from the experience of animal protein. All of these factors contribute to the rapidly evolving landscape of beef alternatives.

WHO’S MAKING IT INTERESTING?

This continues to be a topic we see and read about on a daily basis in the industry. So what – and who – makes it interesting? The innovation in the space is interesting. Impossible Burger, the burger that goes directly after meat lovers and recently launched a new recipe that “rivals beef in the attributes that matter the most: nutrition, versatility and, of course, taste”.[2] Truly focused on delivering a beef alternative that surpasses the “real thing” in likability, it originated in an effort to reduce overall global footprint. Beyond Burger, the pea-protein based burger that is free of GMOs, soy and gluten, rivals beef in the restaurant and retail scene. The brand has significant public spotlight as it grows its global footprint (now available in 700 stores in the Netherlands) and announced it will go public later this week.[3] Aside from these two leaders, there are many other alternatives – many coming from brands that have been in the “vegetarian” world for some time: Morning Star Farms’ “Meat Lovers Vegan Burger” and Lightlife’s plant-based burger with pea protein and beet powder.

There are 5 markets that make up 1/3 of the plant-based beef burgers in the U.S.: LA, Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Boston. [1]

WHAT’S NEXT

What makes this interesting is how operators and consumers are responding to these new offerings. I recently attended a panel of three different operators, each offering a different version of a meat-alternative burger (Impossible Burger, Beyond Burger, and a blended mushroom/beef burger). In their own way, each operator highlighted that there is a lot of room for trial and error when it comes to recipes, messaging and overall mainstream consumer education.

 [1]“2019 US FOOD SUMMIT.” NPD Group. April, 2019.
[2] “The Impossible Burger.” Impossible Foods. April 2019.
[3] “Vegan Unicorn Beyond Meat Enters Dutch Super Markets With Its Plant-Based Burger.” Banis, Davide. Forbes. April 2019.

The Rise of the Lifestyle Diet

As we dive head-first into 2019, many people have set goals to eat healthy or lose weight and have begun a variety of diets. More than ever before, fast food and quick-serve/fast-casual chains have seen the value in offering on-the-go options for their keto customers, Whole30-doers and paleo patrons.

Chipotle.com advertising lifestyling bowls for Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and double protein diets.

With 80% of New Year’s resolutions failing by February1, the Chipotle-style restaurants of the world are here to help.

A quick Google search for “best diets of 2019” returns various guides for Whole30, Mediterranean, DASH, paleo, vegan, Nordic, keto, Weight Watchers, Pegan (paleo-vegan), anti-inflammatory…the list goes on. As the general population grows more concerned with their overall health and wellness — and largely having a greater understanding that what works for one person may not for another — they find there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to adding a “diet” to your menu.

What we think:

As diets become lifestyles, chains that already incorporate customization on their menus have an easier time accommodating specific dietary desires. That being said, this opens a whole new door to mass-acceptance of healthier, nutrient-rich demand when dining out in quick-serve situations. You used to only find this type of dietary accommodation around LA or New York, maybe San Fran or Seattle, but never before has this level of dietary acceptance been made across the nation.

As dietary standards rise, restaurants — and therefore manufacturers — have no choice but to adapt alongside their customers.

A few chains incorporating specialized diets on their menus2:

  • Chipotle (keto, paleo, Whole30, double-protein)
  • Roti Modern Mediterranean (Gluten-Free Rice Plate, Keto Salad, Vegan Pita)
  • Chick-fil-A (paleo, keto or Whole30-friendly options: grilled nuggets and superfood salad, spicy southwest salad, grilled market salad)
  • In-N-Out Burger (protein-style paleo burger)
  • Taco Bell (keto options, highly customizable menu)

What’s next:

We pose the question: are many of these diets even a fad? They’ve been around for some time now, only growing in popularity. The differences in today’s “fad diets” and those of the 90s are whole foods, higher fat, and focus on origin of food, rather than low-fat shakes and non-fat cheese.

Used-to-be “alternative lifestyles” are now mainstream and restaurants are finally recognizing them as such. McDonald’s UK now offers vegan and vegetarian Happy Meal options3, and McDonald’s Sweden recently launched their first vegan Happy Meal4 — the McFalafel. Add those to the list of restaurants already offering options like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, and we will see vegan options on more menus in 20195.

Keep an eye out for greater transparency in food origin, lower sweetness levels6, and values at the center of purchasing decisions for these large chains. Dining options that have previously limited their stake in these issues are getting pressure from consumers to adapt, and, as a result, these chains will likely turn to manufacturers to help accommodate these requests.

[1] “80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February — here’s how to keep yours.” Business Insider. January 2017.
[2] “8 Fast Food Joints With Surprisingly Great Paleo and Whole30 Meals.” Thrillist. January 2019.
[3] “McDonald’s UK Launches Its First Vegan Happy Meal.” VegNews. January 2019.
[4] “McDonald’s Just Launched Its First Vegan Happy Meal In Sweden.” Delish. January 2019.
[5] “The year of the vegan.” The Economist. January 2019.
[6] “10 Macro Trends Impacting Food And Beverage Innovation In 2019.” Forbes. January 2019.

Small Risk, Sweet Reward

Today’s consumers are pulled in many directions and often need that little something to get them through the day. There’s a reason Starbucks offers happy hour prices on their most indulgent drinks, and why Panera offers a baked good to add to your lunch for 99¢. Whether we recognize it or not, many of us have grown used to the idea of small (often unplanned) indulgences on a daily basis.

What are we talking about?

“Small indulgences: Stressed-out consumers want to indulge in affordable luxuries and seek ways to reward themselves” ­—Faith Popcorn, BrainReserve

This idea of small indulgences is by no means new. Faith Popcorn, of strategic marketing consultancy BrainReserve, identified “small indulgences” as an emerging megatrend back in 1991, and it’s hung around and evolved ever since. As people focus on health and wellness on an increasing scale, small indulgences — particularly as they relate to food — become more appealing, as they help balance indulgence and control. Starting around 2015, this trend started to plow its way into the food space1 with the rise of things like of mini-appetizers on Pinterest and cup-sized desserts for weddings. “By offering bite-sized takes on cakes and other saliva-inducing foods, brands are letting consumers have their cake, and eat it too — without guilt,”2 says digital firm Trend Hunter.

What we think:

This trend isn’t going away any time soon. There’s a lack of guilt when the indulgence is small and, quite frankly, we all feel we’ve earned that one small treat after a long day of work or adhering to a new diet. And if you ask us, there’s something incredibly satisfying about a mini-splurge. You feel special about the impulse purchase of that $5 cookie because it is hand-crafted and made that morning from a local baker.

How we see it manifesting in society:

There’s already been an increase of artisan-crafted snacks and sweets at farmer’s markets, boutiques, and all over Instagram. Large food manufacturers will continue to develop smaller, artisan-like brands that can deliver on the quality (and lower price) that consumers seek. This trend already stretches far beyond food to things like Self-Care Sunday, chair massages, pet toys or just a half-hour to yourself. We believe we’ll continue to see this become the norm in many areas of life.

[1] “Tiny Foods Are Taking Over the Internet.” InStyle. July 2016.
[2] “Small Indulgence: Miniature treats and sweets help consumers control consumption.” Trend Hunter.

Personalized Nutrition

A rapidly growing trend, personalized nutrition – unique nutrition plans for an individual – is projected to grow $17 billion over the next 4 years.[1] This is the staggering prediction shared at Datassential’s recent Foodscape event, and it drove much of the content that was shared with the 400+ attendees in Chicago. Hyper-personalization is seen as the next evolution in healthy eating and it has the potential to impact the industry from every angle.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Customization is ingrained and expected on many fronts – today’s consumers are used to having products tailored to their needs and desires. Consider fashion, with companies like Stitch Fix providing personal styling and wardrobe items delivered directly to your door. Or grocery, with Amazon Prime reminding you which items are likely on your list based on prior orders. Or even any of the apps that serve us personalized content every day– Spotify, Netflix, Bitmoji, YouTube and more. It’s no longer “creepy” that brands know us so well. On the contrary, it’s expected. And it’s frustrating when they get it wrong.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s no surprise that this trend is making its way to food and beverage. Beyond the obvious extensions like fast casual restaurants that serve customized frozen yogurt / burrito / personal pizza / coffee / salad / you name it, consumers are constantly hunting better choices for their individual life experience. At the same time, over the past year we have seen the growing influence that Gen Z has on all food trends – their spend and influence is growing and, as we explored earlier this year, has the most substantial impact on “what’s next”.

Taking the cross section of “customization” and “Gen Z” a step further, 60% of younger consumers are beginning to use tech for food-related personal purposes. Think fitness trackers, recipe apps, food diaries and more. While the jump might seem steep, early studies show that progressive eaters indicate their interest in personalized apps and recipes. And this is where things start to get really interesting.[2]

As consumers integrate inputs from all parts of their life to provide a full view of wellness, personalized nutrition that incorporates basic biometrics, physical activity, known health issues/tendencies and more will inevitably influence the way people shop at retail and while dining out. What that looks like will evolve over time – but it’s certainly on the horizon.

WHAT’S NEXT

Food plans tailored to an individual’s unique “data” already exist. But only a small portion of the population is engaged with nutrition at that level. We’ll need to keep an eye on how more information shapes consumers’ decision-making criteria – and what role “taste” has in the process.

 

[1] “Personalized Nutrition and Food.” Datassential. Datassential: Food with a Story. Foodscape 2. September 2018.
[2] “52 Things We Learned & Experienced at Foodscape 2.” Datassential. Datassential: Issue 57. September 2018.

What’s your function?

Have you had pH balanced water recently? Or added a teaspoon of collagen to your coffee? Maybe enjoyed a beverage with probiotics like kombucha? While not everyone has jumped on this trend, the functional food market is growing rapidly, with revenue projected to reach over 440 billion dollars by 20221.

Referring to food and drinks that serve a greater health benefit, functional products are making their way to a broader range of formats. Brands look to sync added value with convenience and impact to win consumers over, as many of these products aim to be part of a daily routine.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

The growing awareness of the direct links between diet and type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer are clear drivers of the growing interest in functional foods. With the increasing presence of lifestyle diets that align with the same qualities, the focus on consumers’ health and well-being is creating a demand for food that does more than just satisfy hunger—essentially, consumers want more bang for their calorie.

Functional beverages were the first in this arena, from sports and energy drinks to a wide range of probiotic mixes. In fact, as many as 24% of juice and juice drink products now feature a functional claim1.

This has paved the way for functional ingredients that show up in a variety of formats to take center stage at shows like Expo West and retailers like Whole Foods. Primal Kitchen is a brand that offers a wide range of products that are Paleo, Primal, Keto-friendly, Whole-30 approved and “uncompromisingly delicious and nutrient dense”. They feature a wide range of formats of collagen—with benefit claims for bone health, joints, and skin.

WHAT WE THINK

Consumers are looking for ways to “strive” rather than “survive”—and while it might be difficult to anticipate which functional products stick, the mindset will continue to grow.

We understand that consumers are becoming savvier and that some of these products have much stronger benefit claims than others. It is likely that many of the products we see today may be short-lived as consumers decipher which have the greatest impact (and which fit within their lifestyle). But the mindset is indicative of where the food industry is heading. Value matters.

WHAT’S NEXT

Functional food and beverages are making a more direct and intentional connection between what consumers put in their body and the benefits they expect when it comes to their health and well-being. As studies begin to shed light on the mind-body connection, the proliferation of functional foods will gain momentum. While the range of available products broadens, consumers are going to have to decipher what to prioritize—if they don’t reach decision fatigue first.

Brands are going to be faced with the challenge of making their functional products easy to understand—with real, reliable links to health benefits. Perhaps the biggest battle they will face is breaking through the benefit clutter.

Just some Thought for Food™

[1] “U.S. Functional Foods Market – Statistics & Facts.” The Statistics Portal. https://www.statista.com/topics/1321/functional-foods-market/

Questions, comments or want to learn more? Let's connect! weshouldtalk@jtmega.com

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