by Chris O'Brien
The latest review from the Mintel Global New Products Database found a 16 percent increase in products with "natural" claims from 2007 to 2008. By contrast, products with "minus" claims, including low-fat and low-calorie products grew by only 2 percent, and those with "plus" claims, including added ingredients and flavors fell by 2 percent.
"I think the shift in 2008 really spoke to a desire for simplicity on the part of the consumer," said Krista Saron, senior analyst at Mintel. "From 2005 through 2007, we saw a proliferation of products based on ethnic flavors and gourmet ingredients, adding complexity to both products and categories. But in 2008, with consumer budgets tighter, that kind of experimentation has been pared back as consumers are getting back to basic and natural foods."
In Mintel's research, the macro "natural" category also includes organic, no additives or preservatives and whole grains claims.
Saron said in early 2008, fear was one of the drivers affecting the trend toward "natural" as consumers watched leading products recalled off the shelves, but that in the second half of 2008, personal economics and general anxiety over the state of the economy likely contributed to the yearning for more simple, natural foods.
"We are seeing a desire for simplicity, wholesomeness and assurance that what is good for you is safe," Saron said. "There's a return to comfort foods and cooking from scratch driven by the consumer need for purity at a good price point."
Other product claim categories that increased from 2007 to 2008 were "suitable for," "ethical and environmental," and "functional."
Overall, Saron said Mintel is seeing a focus on implicit goodness and nutrition versus a reliance on fortification.
"Over the last few years we have seen a flurry of fortified foods," Saron said, "and while this group is still present, we have seen such greater penetration by natural foods, suggesting that inherent natural health is really what customers are looking for."
Following are the changes by category for the U.S. Market.
Source: Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD)