Food innovation fails to get tied down by economic concerns

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 8th July 2009

The economic downturn has not created a ‘health crunch’ when it comes to new product innovation, according to research conducted for UK manufacturing representative the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) by independent consultancy Mintel’s Global New Products Database.Based on its tracking of new product launches in the UK grocery market, Mintel has discovered that nearly 250 reformulated products were launched in the first six months of this year – similar to the same period in 2008. In all, over 700 product lines have been launched with new recipes since January 2007 – the equivalent of nine a week – more than in any other European country.

“The amount of work still being undertaken suggests there is no immediate sign of a ‘health crunch’ here in the UK judging by the number of newly reformulated products appearing on supermarket shelves,”David Jago, Director of Insight and Innovation at Mintel GNPD, said. “Even if things slow down in the second half of the year, it is clear from our global research that UK manufacturers and retailers are still leading the way on reformulation.”

Mintel’s research found that total sales of healthier eating options in some key food and drink categories are now worth £8bn (A$16.4b) – and in some areas are growing at twice the rate of the market as a whole as the health and wellness boom fails to be quelled compeltely by the economic climate.

The research is contained in a new report – ‘Recipe for change’ – published today by FDF, which describes how food and drink manufacturers are developing new products, and refreshing old favourites, so that they are lower in calories, fat, or salt.

“Our sector’s world-class capabilities in research and development have allowed us to tackle the complex task of changing the recipes of much-loved British brands without compromising on quality or taste,” Melanie Leech, FDF Director General, suggested. “The recession is clearly forcing companies to reprioritise their investment decisions, and Government does need to be realistic about the pace at which our members can be expected to keep delivering new innovations in such competitive market conditions.”

“Nevertheless, our report clearly shows that our members remain totally committed to helping consumers eat more healthily – and reformulation is just one of the ways in which we will continue to make a real difference.”

The report highlighting the need for reformulation and the chnages being made by a number of leading manufacturers can be found here.