• January 5, 2023

SKU Applicants Reflect Hottest Food & Beverage Trends

SKU Applicants Reflect Hottest Food & Beverage Trends

SKU Applicants Reflect Hottest Food & Beverage Trends 700 500 Michelle Breyer

SKU, the nation’s leading CPG accelerator, received hundreds of applicants for the upcoming Food & Beverage Track, which kicks off in March at the Natural Products Expo West. It was an exciting group of innovative brands spanning a wide range of categories. These brands are a microcosm of some of the hottest trends in the food and beverage industry.

Later this month, we’ll be announcing the brands in the track. In the meantime, we compiled an overview of some of these hottest trends.

Nuts, Seeds and Beans

From chia seeds to walnuts to fava beans, brands are finding innovative ways to create products using these nutrient-rich ingredients into delicious poducts. Nuts and seeds provide healthy mono- and polyunsaturated plant oils as well as protein. Legumes, which include beans, are filling and also contain lean protein. All of these foods are packed with vitamins and minerals.

“The market is mainly driven by the growing awareness of the health benefits of nuts and seeds as they are rich sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and other essential minerals, and the increasing popularity of the paleo diet,” according to Mordor Research. “As the millennial population is becoming health conscious, their consumption pattern is also leading to the increased demand for nutrient-rich foods. The manufacturers have been developing products that can satiate the market demand for nut- and seed-based products, especially among body-conscious consumers.”

Indulgent desserts

Even health-conscious consumers crave cookies, cakes and ice creams that don’t skimp on sugar, fat and carbs. Applicants include premium cake mixes, rich, buttery cookies and gooey cinnamon rolls.

“Decadent inclusions, high sugar and fat, or indulgent and premium is part of the broader “experiential eating” trend,” according to Manilbra Group USA.  “An indulgent milk chocolate chip cookie, a vegan birthday cake, or an individually packaged lunchbox treat, sweet baked goods connect with consumers as on-the-go staples and in times of celebration.”

Better-For-You Treats

Some of the most interesting brands created better-for-you dessert options of your favorite sweets. Whether it be sugar-free M&Ms or nutrient-rich cookies, we saw a variety of Keto-friendly, gluten-free vegan, allergen-free and low- and sugar-free options. One brand said their product “is so delicious you would never know it is gluten, dairy, nut and soy free.” Another positions itself as “fresh baked cookies with no crap or silly ingredients.”

According to the latest research from Future Market Insights, the better-for-you desserts market is estimated to grow at 6.1 percent CAGR during the forecast period 2021-2031, driven by demand from both children and adults who no longer have to give up their favorite treats. According to IRI data, sugar-free candy commands a premium relative to regular candy – 50 percent more.

Functional Beverages

We saw a number of functional beverages packed with such things as pre- and probiotic ingredients, vitamins and minerals, adaptogens and mushrooms for and nootropics. These drinks hope to capitalize on consumers’ thirst for products that promote gut health, mood enhancers, energy level and overall wellness. One product is positioned to offer “social energy.” Another is a beverage brand focused on mental well being.

The global functional beverage market is projected to register a CAGR of 7.5 percent during the forecast period (2022 – 2027), according to a report on the functional beverage category by Mordor Intelligence.

“With the s impact of COVID-19, the market has witnessed a surge in demand for products that provide functional benefits, such as immune health, which is likely to impact the market positively,” says the report. “Consumers increasingly seek functional beverage products as they believe might aid in the body’s defenses.”

New takes on old faves

From gluten-free cheese bread to artisanal pizza to gourmet English muffins, brands are taking on stale categories with innovative offerings.

“Current emerging food trends reflect our desire to augment traditional comfort-food choices with new varieties, more-sophisticated and exotic thinking” versions that give consumers something new to ponder while making their selections,” according to Natural Products Insider.

Spicing it up

There were several innovative brands offering new takes on the seasonings market. They include, vegan spices, farm-to-table seasonings, artisinal spice blends, low-sodium functional spices and spicy infusions for beverages.

Consumer willingness to experiment with new flavors and ethnic tastes has created a growing demand for seasonings and spices.

“The rising demand for ready-to-use spice mixes for specific recipes, which has been creating convenient options for consumers for trying hands-on cooking, according to analysis and projections by Research and Markets. “Ready-to-use spice mixes for specific recipes has been creating convenient options for consumers for trying hands-on cooking.”

Get Your goat

We saw our first applicant ever made from goal milk.

The global goat milk products market size is anticipated to reach $18 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 4.6 percent over the forecast period, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. The demand for products made with goat milk products is fueled by the benefits of goat cheese, including longer shelf life, nutritional benefits, and easy digestibility. “We foresee canisters of goat milk next to the oat and almond milk at the café very soon,” says Grand View Research.

Spilling the Tea

There were several tea brands among the applicants offering new takes on the beverage, including milk tea, luxury herbal tea and olive leaf iced tea. There also was a brand that offers “Asian loose leaf tea made simple.”

The tea market is projected to register a CAGR of 4.5 percent during the forecast period (2022-2027), according to a report on the tea industry from Research and Markets. “A growing, increasingly urban young population segment entering the middle class is prepared to consume more and pay for premium tea products,” according to the report.

For the Sober Curious

Several of our applicants had new offerings in the non-alcoholic category, from a canned wine to cocktails “inspired by classic drinks from the Prohibition.”

Low- and no-alcoholic products are seeing a 19 percent increase in dollar sales, whereas total alcohol sales are down 6.7 percent, according to NielsenIQ. The movement toward non-alcoholic beverages reflects a strong cultural shift in how consumers are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol and how it aligns with other aspects of their lives and lifestyles, according to a survey conducted by NielsenIQ. The survey showed that 22 percent of consumers reported that they were cutting back on consuming alcohol and drinking less. When asked why they were drinking less, the top consumer responses noted health and wellness, lack of opportunity and shifting interest as core reasons.

Cheers to RTD Cocktails

Although some consumers are shifting to these low- and no-alcoholic beverages, many are looking for RTD alcohol cocktails. And that was reflected in some of the offerings from brands that applied for the SKU F&B track, including Caribbean-inspired cocktails, hard seltzers and a cold brew-whisky product,

“You can’t get a beer wrong, whereas a badly made Mojito… not so great,” says a Nielsen IQ report on the growing RTD cocktail trend. A “growing ready-to-drink cocktail trend is addressing this gap in the market though and making big inroads in changing consumer behavior.”

The latest ready-to-drink cocktail trends cover many consumer needs and expectations from alcoholic beverages including convenience, experience, wellness, premiumization, and flavor choice. Some emerging flavors within the ready-to-drink space include margarita, punch, and ranch water seltzers.    

Spreading their wings

From bacon and coconut spreads to superfood jams, applicants created new and innovative products to compete with traditional jams and jellies.

Jams, jellies, and preserves are experiencing increasing demand worldwide – a CAGR of 4.90 percent during the forecast period, 2022–2027, .according to Mordor Intelligence. 

“Customers are constantly looking out for tastier and healthier convenient choices similar to jellies, jams and preserves that are low in sugar and fat,” according to a Brandessence Market Research report on the category. “Also fruits like raspberries and blueberries are being injected with extraordinary fixings like flavors, spices, netar, chia sees and so forth to deliver low-sugar and sans sugar jellies, jams and preserves.”