(ETX Daily Up) – The reduction of packaging, fair remuneration for producers, respect for animal welfare… The new food products that we will put in the shopping cart tomorrow must not only taste good but also correspond to the values of consumers now made aware of environmental and social causes. One month before the international food fair, Xavier Terlet, a famous great expert in food innovation, gave us a portrait of this ethical shopping list.
According to the latest Kantar Insights Food study conducted ahead of the next edition of SIAL, ethics is becoming the third driver of food innovation. What exactly are we talking about?
Xavier Terlet: Environmental and civic concerns are included, such as the fair remuneration of a breeder or animal welfare. In 2021, 7.1% of new food products launched worldwide had an ethical promise. This may not seem like much, but compared to the offer identified ten years ago, it’s huge because in the past it was marginal, if not absent.
Are all consumers sensitive to this type of offer, whether in China, France or the United States?
It is in France that we find the most important food offer where innovations are betting on ethics.
What form do these ethical food promises take?
First of all, it concerns the packaging. Manufacturers use protections that contain less material. This is to display for example “-60% plastic” or “-60% material”. For example, we call on this “skin pack”, used in the fishmonger’s or butcher’s department, which is reminiscent of vacuum packing with a board of cardboard on which the product is placed and protected by a film that adheres completely to the latter. Brands also use bioplastics. Otherwise, manufacturers communicate on the carbon footprint of their manufacturing process or the use of local producers. We also see the use of products that would have been thrown away.
These new food products undoubtedly stand out from the rest of the shelf with higher prices. But in this inflationary context, are consumers ready to pay more?
According to the study we conducted for SIAL, we realize that the consumer is less and less inclined to spend more to afford these products that make the promise of ethics. Today, they are 14% to share this opinion, and it is completely new. And it is inappropriate with the offer that we know today which justifies its higher prices because of its ethical promise. The awakening may be difficult for manufacturers. There really has to be real added value for a consumer to agree to pay more. Look at the collapse of organic products! There is clearly a price issue. The organic market is saturated. In 2020, one in three products launched in France was organic. The price difference can be in the order of 65-70% higher, according to various studies. Today, we are killing organic because it is sold too expensively! Take the Danone yoghurt sold by four. The same stamped with the mention bio is twice as expensive per kilo! The consumer no longer understands why there is such a difference and this results in a drop in purchases. I am not saying that there is no longer a future for organic. There is a future for a discount organic, if not simple and cheap, which displays other added values, that is to say a local organic, respectful of animal well-being.
Are these ethical foods destined to last on the shelves?
Manufacturers are making the same mistake as with functional foods. Ten years ago, we thought that health was the main concern of the consumer. As a result, we prepared foods that healed or did good while forgetting that the consumer wanted above all to have fun. He was sold products whose place was in pharmacies and not in supermarkets. The failure was bitter. Today, it is a fundamental mistake for brands to highlight only the ethical value of their product without betting on pleasure. When we go shopping, we don’t buy ecological products, we buy food to feed ourselves.
The second driver of food innovation is health. Hadn’t we already gone through this approach?
Let us first remember that for consumers, food purchases are made according to three criteria that could be summarized by saying “my pleasure, my health and my planet”, knowing that it is a successive order. The best-selling innovation in 2021 is Ferrero ice cream. From now on, we are looking for products that do us good and bring us pleasure. In jam, for example, we no longer play on the reduction of sugar, but on the intense taste of the fruit. When we lower the salt level, we add spices to give flavor. We also talk a lot about umami, this fifth flavor described by Japanese cuisine. We want less processed products, to have fun with simple foods, focused on naturalness and plants. The consumer may also wish to obtain an additional function by taking advantage of the properties of “super algae” or “super seeds”, that is to say of natural ingredients.
Health is also one of the key arguments for plant-based alternatives to animal proteins. Given the new fashionable diets, such as vegetarianism, but also issues around animal welfare, what future do you envision for this department?
First, this is nothing new. I was able to discover the first soy steaks in 1998, with Sojasun. In 2016, during the Sial, we also congratulated a brand for its lentil-based steaks. These foods are well accepted because they are natural. These are legumes. The department is developing through new tasty and simpler recipes. On the other hand, products which are intended to replace meat by attempting to imitate it with a similar texture or taste are ultra-processed. There are additives all over the place. This market is limited by the ultra-processing of their recipes and their excessively high prices. You must not sell fakes to the French consumer. Tomorrow, the alternative that will work will be the one that will not bet on imitation but which will offer another experience, with taste.
What will be the star flavors of the new foods that we will buy in supermarkets?
It is the strong tastes that permeate new innovations. The truffle remains a safe bet, and there is also ginger and saffron which are developing. The promise of intensity appears a lot on the packaging. A new taste experience is the expectation of today’s consumer.
International food fair, from October 15 to 19 in Paris Nord Villepinte