Trends shaping Australian prepared meals market

Today, consumers are discovering new ways to nudge themselves towards better habits and are taking a more holistic approach to their wellbeing. However, consumers don’t want to compromise on taste and experience, and food and drink products including prepared meals will need to find the balance between both taste and health.

According to Mintel estimates, Australia’s prepared meals market experienced moderate growth with a 4.6 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in 2014-18, however, this is expected to slow down to 3.5 per cent CAGR over 2019-23. The biggest contributor in terms of sales value comes from chilled prepared meals with 31 per cent of the market value in 2018.

The prepared meal category has been highly competitive between both private label and branded players. More recently, foodservice/meal delivery brands such as YouFoodz and Sumo Salad (Sumo Well brand) have increased their presence in retail. Furthermore, private label chilled prepared meals have evolved to resonate with modern consumers by tapping into their changing needs and lifestyles. Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) indicates that private label makes up for 30 per cent of chilled prepared meals launches in the past 12 months to Nov 2019.

In Australia, Mintel Purchase Intelligence research shows that, even though private labels make up only for 30 per cent of chilled prepared meals, Australian consumers are more likely to buy them than branded chilled prepared meals. It further highlights that private label chilled prepared meals can rival branded chilled prepared meals as consumers perceive them to be on par in terms of excitement and tasty perception.

With Australia’s prepared meals market set to grow modestly over the next five years, there are some notable trends happening in the market.

Power to the plants
With a shift in consumer attitudes towards meat reduction and plant-based eating, brands are now embracing the plant-based meat trend and are now offering choices to consumers in the form of plant-based meat, wholesome vegetables and vegan prepared meals. Plant-based meat prepared meals are currently using similar marketing strategies whereby they leverage familiar dishes/ingredients that are traditionally made with meat.

However, with the rise of plant-based meat, there could be potential backlash with its over-processed image. According to Mintel GNPD, only 9 per cent of prepared meal launches between November 2018 and 2019 featured a vegetarian-friendly claim, hence, meat formats made from real vegetables, such as three-bean meatballs, could have more mass appeal.

Furthermore real vegetables can also be a hero ingredient in vegan-friendly meals.

Better For You
Consumers today are looking to achieve their health goals with everyday meals, and brands in the prepared meals segment have an opportunity to help them achieve this. Mintel GNPD highlights that high/added protein claims in prepared meals have achieved mainstream status with 37 per cent of prepared meals launches featuring a high-/added protein claim in the 12 months to Nov 2019, increasing from 23 per cent in Dec 2016-Nov 2017. However, communication about protein remains varied.

Furthermore, with only 12 per cent of prepared meals claiming high-/added fibre in the 12 months to Nov 2019, health claims beyond protein are gaining momentum. Brands can use a combination of different health claims such as high protein with fibre, calorie call outs or immunity to resonate with everyday consumers.

Brands also have an opportunity to enhance their health proposition by incorporating new emerging ingredients such as collagen and hemp. To help overcome the niche and unfamiliarity of these new ingredients, prepared meals can combine them with familiar and traditional ingredients, flavours or formats.

Elevated convenience through flavour and new occasions
In Australia, both private label and branded players are exploring regional Indian flavours and dishes to differentiate themselves by leveraging the momentum of Indian cuisine as it becomes mainstream. Mintel GNPD indicates that Indian-inspired prepared meals represent 11 per cent of the prepared meals category in the 12 months to Nov 2019.

Australia’s food, drink and culture has continually been influenced by Asia, and is reflected in the prepared meals category. From Korea to Japan, Indonesian to Vietnam, there is an opportunity to explore regional Asian ingredients and dishes to excite consumers’ lunch and dinner routines.

Prepared meals are traditionally aligned with snack, lunch and dinner occasions. However, breakfast is an untapped consumption occasion, which companies can tap into and explore both sweet and savoury. Also, sides to share in a bigger portion could complement the dinner occasion.


Will fruit-infused water be a substitute for carbonated soft drinks?

According to a recently published report on the fruit-infused water market, which includes the global industry analysis 2014-2018 and opportunity assessment 2019-2029, and projects that the fruit-infused water is expected to reach – $14.7 billion by the end of 2019 in terms of value, and is forecast to reach – $31 billion by the end of 2029.

The flavour and the nutritional content of fruit is infused in water to increase its nutritional quotient. The global population is becoming more health conscious, and focussing not only on healthy food, but also healthy drinks to ensure complete nutrition. Water with high nutritional quotient such as fruit-infused water, is gaining more popularity in the health conscious population. This increasing popularity of fruit-infused water is expected to drive the growth of the market.

Unique flavours positively influencing the intake of fruit-infused water
Manufacturers of fruit-infused water offer many flavours using different fruits. Amid them, the citrus flavour is more popular among consumers. With increasing popularity of various flavours, manufacturers are experimenting and introducing new flavours. Manufacturers are coming up with innovate new combinations by infusing two or more fruits together in water. This gives new taste and colour to the water. This continuous introduction of new and innovative flavours gives choice to the consumers and is influencing them to try these new versions. Increasing variety and choices for consumers are expected to drive the growth of the market.

Focus on health & wellness ensures opportunities for the infused water Industry
Healthy living is one of the major objectives of consumers worldwide. The urban population is more conscious about fitness. When infused water is paired with a health regime, manufacturers of fruit-infused water get the benefit of positioning their product in the health segment. This provides great opportunities for manufacturers to introduce more flavours in the wellness market.

Fruit-infused water as a healthy substitute for soft drinks
Fruit-infused water is a hydration product that has a taste and nutritional ingredients that can complement a healthy diet. Fruit-infused water can be considered as a substitute for normal drinking water and other soft drinks. Fruit-infused water is consumed along with a healthy diet by health-conscious consumers, and this trend is expected to boost the market demand in the nutritional segment.

Increasing consumption of bottled water fueling the market growth
The consumption of supplied water is decreasing as the consumption of bottled water is increasing day by day. Consumers prefer bottled water in the HoReCa sector, and also while travelling. Carrying bottled water is a much better choice for consumers rather than opting for supplied water when on a tour. This leads to an increase in demand and consumption of bottled water and thus, also increases the demand for bottled water in fruit flavours. The demand driven by the consumption of bottled water is fueling the market growth of fruit-infused water.

Impact of plastic packaging bottles on the environment
Manufacturers of fruit-infused water commonly use plastic bottles for packaging. The usage of plastic has a hazardous effect on the environment as well as human health. Any type of water, which is stored in plastic may cause ill effects on human health after consumption. Carbon footprint also increases when plastic is used as a packaging material. Thus, the use of plastic bottles for packaging is restricting the growth of the fruit-infused water market.

Flavour trends: on a discovery mission

The search for something new, different, and exciting is leading flavour developments in food and beverage, supported by an ongoing interest in natural, clean label and healthier options.

‘New Discoveries’ emerges as the leader in Innova Market Insights’ Top Flavour Trends for 2019, as the company continuously analyzes global developments in food and beverage launch activity and consumer research to highlight the trends most likely to impact the food and beverage industry over the coming year and beyond.

Innova Market Insights Top Flavour Trends for 2019 are:

New Discoveries
Consumers are on a big, broad journey of discovery, moving out of their comfort zones to explore new food experiences, with flavour playing a major part in that. This is illustrated by the fact that two out of three US respondents in an Innova Market Insights survey agreed with a statement that they love to discover new flavours. Even among more traditional consumers who didn’t agree with the statement, there is still a role for reinventing classic flavours with novel twists, alongside developing new and more unusual flavours and combinations.

Sensational Concepts
Brands are leaning towards more remarkable and unusual flavour hybrids, as well as stronger taste experiences (hot, sweet, savoury, etc.), while sour options are also surging in popularity. Well-established sweet and salty combinations are being joined by a whole raft of other hybrid flavour solutions, led by initiatives such as sushi pizza, spicy tuna roll corn dogs, pasta bacon tacos and ramen burgers in the foodservice sector.

Sophisticated Touch
Established flavours perceived to be dull are being reinvented, often in much more complex and sophisticated combinations. An aging population globally is driving the demand for more adult-oriented options, with traditional coffee flavour, for example, increasingly giving way to more upmarket, added-value and on-trend options, such as Cold Brew Caramel Latte, in a whole range of food and beverage products. As well as coffee, other adult-oriented flavours growing in popularity include various types of alcohol, as well as smoked/roasted options.

Cultural Celebration
Consumers regard themselves as world citizens and are increasingly interested in diverse flavours inspired by foreign cuisines. Southeast Asian, East Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours are more in evidence in traditional and familiar Western snacks, beverages and ready-to-eat meals. This demand for authentic-style ethnic alternatives focuses not just on flavour, but also recipes and even product/ingredients origins/provenance.

Fifth Dimension
Umami is the fifth basic taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salty but unlike the others, it’s hard to define. Often described as savoury, meaty deliciousness, it comes down to the taste of glutamates on our tongue. Western awareness remains low, but the rising demand for exotic flavours and convenient home cooking is driving growth of launches with an umami claim. Conversely, umami is well-established and understood in the East, but the recent focus on mindful food choices and the demand for clean and healthy products has driven the use of ingredients with a natural source of umami taste.

The other top trends identified by Innova Market Insights are:

Bitter is Back
Botaniticals Branch Out
Fruitful Favourites
Functionally Flavourful
Flavour Connections

Consumers willing to pay more for natural colours and flavours – research

Consumers are happy to pay a premium of nearly 50 per cent for food and drink formulated with natural ingredients, according to a survey commissioned by Lycored.

In the online poll, researchers asked 506 US consumers whether they would be prepared to spend more on a product if it was made with natural flavourings and colours. In total, 88 per cent said they would.

This group of consumers was then told that the average flavoured milk beverage costs US$1.50 and they were asked how much they would be willing spend on a product if it was made with natural ingredients. On average, they said they would pay up to $2.20 – 47 per cent more.

The survey also found that the respondents preferred the appearance of natural colours even when they were not told they were natural. The researchers asked the respondents to express their visual perceptions of naturalness when presented with two flavoured milk drinks formulated with Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red natural colours and another made with Red 3, an artificial colorant. They were not informed which was which, and were asked to rate them on a 10 point scale in which 0 was ‘not at all natural’ and 10 was ‘extremely natural’.

Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red RP, which is designed for use in a wide range of foods and beverages, performed best, with consumers rating it the most natural looking. It was followed by Tomat-O-Red R, which was developed for products that contain oil and fat. The artificial colorant, Red 3, was ranked third most natural looking.

“Our research delivers two key learnings. Firstly, consumers are willing to pay significantly more for the reassurance that a product contains natural colours and flavours,” said Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing (Food) at Lycored.

“Secondly, they find natural colours more appealing from a visual perspective. For food and beverage manufacturers there is a clear message here: using natural ingredients in formulations will resonate with shoppers and enable you to charge more for your products, boosting sales and profits.”

Australian Botanical Spirit released with home-grown ingredients

An Australian first has been launched this week with Vantage Australia’s first botanical premium spirit range.

Australia had yet to put out a signature spirit on the map, encouraging Vantage Australia to release a spirit that was reflective of the Aussie outback and drew inspiration from its native flora.

Vantage Australia adds a twist of natural bushfoods to create a blend that blurs the lines between sweet and dry tastes whilst also giving life to old classics.

Both the 700ml bottle and the one litre bottle have Australian inspired artwork, with the latter capturing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and renowned city landscape.

A 1 litre icon series has been created to foster travel retail/duty free sales whilst creating a unique point of interest to drive domestic market sales.

Vantage Australia: The spirit of a Nation is in keeping with consumer sentiment that appreciates spirits of higher quality in the luxury/super-premium categories, offering an exclusively Australian indulgent experience and a growth category for the trade and will be well supported.