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Telling a product’s story is the biggest trend to watch this year according to Innova Market Insights’ annual trends report. For Innova co-founder, director and trends expert Lu Ann Williams, increased consumer interest in the stories behind what they are eating and drinking will see an increase in companies adopting storytelling in branding strategies. Plant-based products, sustainability, and unusual ingredients are also on Innova’s Top 10 list. Kim Berry reports.

Storytelling: winning with words

Increased consumer interest in the origins of their food and drinks means ingredient provenance is becoming a key element of brand storytelling, Innova Market Insights co-founder, director and trends export Lu Ann Williams told Food & Drink Business. It is “absolutely crucial” to success in the market. “Fifty-six per cent of global consumers say that stories around a brand influence their purchase decision,” she says.

Consumers’ attention is piqued by opportunities to learn more about how products are made and what they are made of. That promotes an understanding of a product’s benefits and helps build trust in the brand, Williams says.

“You can’t convince consumers anymore, they have to decide. Consumers want authenticity, honesty and transparency.

“Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts.

“Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavour, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.”

The plant-based revolution

As plant-based eating is moving from a trend to a food revolution, the industry is taking up the challenge to deliver more “clean label” meat and dairy alternatives. Innova’s research found two thirds of global consumers want products with clean and clear labelling of easily understood  ingredients.

According to Williams, plant-based innovation has flourished because of increased consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics, which ties into the broader consumer lifestyle trend towards cleaner living.

“As the use of the term plant-based moves more into the mainstream, there is a lot more opportunity to deliver more clean label meat and dairy alternatives with improved nutritional profiles,” she says. In the last five years, there has been 68 per cent average annual growth in food and beverage launches that have plant-based claims.

The alt milk market in Australia continues to grow with the market broadening from soy and almond milks. At the Naturally Good Expo in Sydney last year, food consultant Bob Burke said oats were on the rise as a dairy alternative. Nielson data showed it grew 636 per cent from October 2018 to 2019. And in the US, yoghurt manufacturer Chobani announced it is launching oat based milk and yoghurt products.

The sustain domain

There has been a “massive” shift in consumer expectations around sustainability, pushing companies to prioritise eco-efficiency, especially to reduce food and plastic waste. According to Innova, in just one year from 2018-19, consumer expectations for companies to invest in sustainability jumped from 64 to 85 per cent.

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