Friday, January 30, 2009

Back to Natural: Focusing on Functional and Generating Generational Sales

Yogurt’s a mainstay in our household – a regularly purchased product – and we’ve had a fair amount of brand loyalty over the years. Originally a local brand in New England, Stonyfield Organic went over well when there were small kids in my house, since it could be sweet, smooth, and without artificial ingredients. It wasn’t my kind of yogurt – not tart enough and a bit too gelatinous – but it’s better than a lot of what is available in your average grocery store. Recently, yogurt brands have been expanding out again (beyond the unfortunate direction of looking too much like a bad version of dessert, from the turn-your-tongue-green and sell me a cartoon character to the what-is-that-crunchy-chocolate-crap anyway) now there’s a renewed interest in yogurt as an actual health food --- priobiotics are one of the best selling functional foods out there. And greek yogurt –the “real” stuff with a richer texture --- has gone mainstream, too. I’m still buying the Stonyfield and a greek active culture yogurt for our regular use, but I’ve stood over the “probiotic” ones for a while, contemplating a taste. So far I’d resisted because they only come in the tiny packs and I'm suspicious that the benefits have been inflated. But the ad campaigns are definitely wearing me down, as I see Jaime Lee Curtis hawking the stuff with a big smile. The clincher was when I was offered some at a hotel breakfast bar this weekend, which I happily ate, especially when it had the words “ALL NATURAL” written across the top.

In the retail food and beverage market, natural and functional seem to be steady sales and growth areas. Although “natural” has a vague and watered down meaning, it’s clearly become more meaningful to consumers than “fortified,” “low-calorie,” and “low-fat.” According to the Mintel Global New Products Database, "Food and drink manufacturers today realize that natural and pure have become healthy eating ideals, as people look for holistic, genuine nutrition they can trust." Functional foods also have that edge – they have the tinge of science and nature all in one (Kraft has a LiveActive Chewy Granola Bar that smacks of healthy snacking while providing the consumer with all the fiber and probiotic culture you simply can’t find in potato chips). Ethical (eco) foods are also still a growing concern among consumers, so add that in to the mix.

I’m not Gen Y by a long shot – my kids and students are, though – and their food preferences match up with the trends described above. The Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts did some qualitative studies and found “their penchant for customizing foods through adds-ons or mix-ins (the reason they love fajitas and other "build-it-yourself" foods); their dedication to local, organic, fair trade and vegetarian/vegan foods (reflecting their belief that food choices can make a positive difference in the world at large); and their firm belief in the value of health/wellness and functional (including anti-aging) foods and beverages."

Sure enough, I looked around the classroom the other day and saw three women eating the same yogurt I’d had at the hotel – and the ones I bought for myself are mysteriously disappearing from the fridge awfully fast…. Honestly, the one I actually tasted was good, but until the science catches up with the marketing (or I magically become Gen Y), I think I'll probably go back to my regular brand.

image and an excellent analysis of the yogurt health claims from the great science magazine Inkling's Inky Circus Blog.

1 comment:

Best diet pills said...

I have to say Natural food marketing really got me. I think I've become a much more healthy person because of it. It never even crossed my mind to start eating healthy and take care of myself until the big marketing push towards natural and healthy food choices started occurring. As a result, I took notice and took action, I started eating right, I took diet pills, I started running…and now I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. All because Healthy was made to look more appealing than a twinkie.