Food Trends Vs. Food Fads

June 17, 2016

One wonders just why Frank Sinatra’s Pasta Sauce didn’t make it, while Paul Newman’s line of food and beverages now has over 100 products and is quite successful.

Mintel reports that in 2014 more than 14,000 new food and drink products from both large and small companies were introduced in the U.S., of these only 40 percent were truly new – the others were a combination of new flavors, new packaging, new formulation or a relaunch. The sad fact is that between 85-95 percent of all these new food and drink products actually fail.

One wonders just why Frank Sinatra’s Pasta Sauce didn’t make it, while Paul Newman’s line of food and beverages now has over 100 products and is quite successful. Dennis Rodman had lollipops, Bing Crosby ice cream and even Phyllis Diller was ahead of her time as a crusader for great tasting food in the early 1980’s with her branded chili that contained no sugars, preservatives, fillers or “other things I can’t pronounce.”

David Letterman, who in his youth worked in a supermarket often showcased new products found throughout the country in a segment called Supermarket Finds – including Tony Packo’s Hot Dog Sauce with beef featuring Jamie Farr’s face on the label, Mushy’s brand of canned peas and yes, even Diller’s Chili.

As we witness consumer trends changing the food world, with shorter and better-quality ingredient labels along with more exotic flavors led by the food-passionate Millennials the question is how can we predict which will be a hit and which a miss? Even the best known brands, including Nestle, Kraft-Heinz, Hershey, M&M’s and Healthy Choice, have tested, marketed and spent millions of dollars on products that fail. A fundamental flaw in product development is not separating out those products that is part of a trend, or simply part of a fad. Take a look at our daily food and beverage reviews and see which products you think will be a hit.

Brands have made a lot of money jumping on the fad of the moment (think sriracha or kale), the trick is to know when to get out before the market disappears.

Trends are identifiable and explainable. There is little question that for Coca-Cola and Pepsi their declining sales of carbonated soft drinks are due to consumers concerned about and wanting to curb the amount of sugar or artificial sweeteners they are drinking coupled with science that proves that both these ingredients may be harmful to our health and waistlines.

Products that are on trend usually are consistent with lifestyle trends, grow slowly and have multiple brands entering the category. A perfect example of this is the rise in plant and insect proteins that are being used for ingredients and stand-alone products for their health benefits, lower cost as compared to animal proteins and their sustainability profile that has a far less impact on the environment.

Fads on the other hand typically play off the hype and the emotional need to purchase a product. Cronuts, cragels (half bagel/half croissant),rainbow-colored bagelsbacon & cheese deep-fried crickets and self-heating cans of celebrity coffee are all examples of ethereal or ill-conceived benefits with a limited appeal. Often these are produced by a single brand with limited appeal – the result is that the faddish product gets publicity, sees a spike in sales and then dies rather quickly.

With retailers like Aldi and Lidl opening stores with a greatly reduced number of items to choose from, and most under their own brands, it is critical for food companies of all sizes to improve their success ratio. Otherwise their products will find the same fate as Grizzly Adams actor Dan Haggerty’s Cajun BBQ Sauce

Pod foods seems to be one of those fads that are trying desperately to emulate the Keurig success story. Flatev is a pod-based tortilla maker that uses hot metal plates to cook fresh tortillas in one minute from refrigerated dough pods that range in flavor from traditional to bacon bits.  Juicero  is a $700 appliance, roughly the size of a food processor, into which you insert a refrigerated pouch of cut fruit, vegetables or a combination, which costs $4 to $10 each depending on the flavor, and it presses the contents with 8,000 lbs. of pressure to squeeze your beverage.

Silicon Valley loves food these days. Steve Case, Kimbal Musk and others are all investing heavily in the food world – from farm to delivery to meal kits to our tables; and while these new food entrepreneurs are seeing the foods we eat through a different lens, we need to remind them that a successful food brand is built on a trend and not a fad.