New food and drink products on the wane

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 29th April 2009

Fewer new products are showing up on supermarket shelves this year as companies temper innovation in an uncertain environment.

New data from the Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows total food and drink product launches have been cut in half since last year (a 51% decline from Q1 2008 to Q1 2009). New product introductions also dropped markedly from the last quarter of 2008 – by 32%.

Manufacturers typically release fewer new products during the first quarter of the year, but 2009’s fall is stronger than that seen in recent years, according to Mintel.

“Faced with low consumer confidence and reduced spending, many food and beverage manufacturers cut back on product development and new product launches,” Lynn Dornblaser, leading new product expert at Mintel, said. “Many companies face internal budget cuts that affect everything from new product ideation to development and marketing.”

Non-alcoholic beverages, chocolate, sugar/gum confectionery and dairy product launches were particularly few and far between compared to last year, with declines of 56%, 55%, 64% and 60%, respectively. The fall in chocolate and confectionery launches could, in part, be attributed to the later Easter – which fell in the second quarter this year.

Ms Dornblaser is confident, however, that plummeting rates of new launches will not continue for the rest of the year. Pointing to monthly data from Mintel GNPD, she noted that, while food and drink introductions declined steadily from October 2008 to February 2009, they increased in March.

“Consumer confidence has levelled off for the time being, which marks an opportunity for manufacturers. Now is the time for ideation and innovation for products that answer shoppers’ desires for value, quality, and pleasure,” she advised.

Mintel has tracked new products through three major recessions, discovering that new product launches consistently decline in the beginning of a recession, then quickly increase once signs of recovery are on the horizon.