Gut health soda, plant-based and regenerative agriculture… Spot trends with face-to-face marketing

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drawing of his current trend report​which highlighted several emerging trends from carbonated soda for gut health and mushrooms of all kinds to the rise of regenerative agriculture and sustainable packaging trends, FoodNavigator-USA sat down with CEO and Founder of Presence Marketing Bill Weiland to spearhead the company to discuss trend predictions for the coming years.

Soda for gut health

“If there is an attack on our systems… Immunity 101 is our first line of defense”,Weiland told FoodNavigator-USA that the functional beverage category will continue to grow at an accelerated pace with the launch of value-added products like the new wave of soda for gut health.

Weiland dubbed carbonated beverages with digestive benefits — prebiotic, probiotic and postbiotic — as the next generation of functional beverages, evidenced by the sales explosion for long-life, better-fit sodas that tout the benefits of gut health. According to SPINS data provided by Presence Marketing, shelf life energy drinks and other functional beverages containing probiotics were the top revenue drivers, with growth of 4,357.4% in 2021.

In the niche category of soda for gut health, sales gains were more modest at 12.8% in 2021, but Weiland sees explosive growth for the burgeoning category as it picks up momentum and lures consumers in 2022.

“Let’s take a category like soda, obviously soda has been in decline for many years. A burgeoning category like soda for gut health is erupting into its own. It will be a quick climb to $1 billion and then billions of dollars. It’s just a category that feels like it’s ready to explode.he said.

Weiland added that even if consumers don’t know the difference between pre-, pro- and post-biotics, the low sugar profile of many products in the branded category will help reach a mainstream audience who are watching their sugar intake or who likes specific Chasing low carb diets like keto.

“Low Net Carb is the element of keto that will live forever”he added.

mushroom boom

Mushrooms continue to be a strong growth driver in the natural retail channel, with SPINS reporting 16.1% annual sales growth to reach $420 million in 2021. But how are retailers benefiting from this trend?

“I think you will definitely see retailers stepping onto the plate and having a more diverse range of fresh mushrooms. When it comes to commercialization success on the medicinal mushrooms side, powder formats, both loose powders combined in capsules, are already firmly established ,‘ Weiland said.

“I think extracts are an underserved part of this delivery system, so I think we’re going to see some excitement there.

Where next plant-based?

Like some other industry critics who have questioned the longevity of certain plant-based categories such as meat analogues, Presence Marketing believes that plant-based foods are approaching a point of saturation and that consumers will turn to fresh foods with fewer ingredients.

“Plant-based products are already stagnant and if you really look at the stats everyone is overhyping where the development of plant-based products is going. I think tech food will take a backseat to products made from fresh food ingredients,”‘ Weiland said.

“The gap between plant-based offerings and value-added dairy and meat is actually widening.”

Regenerative agriculture, a bankable trend?

Weiland has an upbeat outlook on the regenerative agriculture industry, which is increasingly being embraced by companies looking to incorporate regenerative farming practices into their operations as consumers become more aware and support brands with sustainability claims.

“If you think of organic, organic has failed me after decades”​ Weiland said, noting that organic’s cachet has won big among consumers, but that less than 1% of farmland in the US is USDA certified organic, he claimed.

“Regenerative agriculture is everything that is organic, with a much stronger aspect of land management. So I think in just 20 to 25 years we’re going to have 8 to 10% of US land regeneratively farmed.”

How important is sustainable packaging for consumers?

“While there have been many conversations from consumers about environmental sustainability, packaging impact, etc., until now consumers have not really made their purchasing decisions based on carrier or ship. That will change soon.” said Weland.

“We believe packaging will become a real trend in the second half of 2022 or the first half of 2023.” Weiland said, adding that consumers will be more willing to pay a small premium for a product made from sustainable packaging materials, all other attributes being equal.

“I think technology is going to play a big role … in a much more powerful way than relying on consumer habits.”

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