Over a decade ago, the term “fresh” was only used for produce and meat products and it wasn’t a term that consumers would go out of their way to search for. However, if you take a look at the modern-day food industry, you will notice that many refrigerated consumer packaged goods (CPG) products are sporting the term on their packaging as “freshly-made” claims have risen to become one of the top two attributes that are associated with healthier products. According to Mintel, this evolution in the food space can be attributed to modern consumers who are now more knowledgeable about healthy food options and have access to the power of the internet.
The market research firm’s report titled “The Future of Fresh” highlighted key consumer trends and behaviors that are driving the growing demand for “fresh” food options in the industry. In the report, Mintel associated the refrigerated perimeters of grocery stores as “fresh snacking” locations. This is because consumers perceive refrigerated foods as fresher alternatives to center-store CPG products.
Mintel’s data also found that millennials (between the ages of 23-40) and the iGeneration (between the ages of 11-22) are driving this growing demand for fresh food options in the refrigerated sections of brick-and-mortar stores. In a study, Mintel asked iGeneration and millennial participants what they look for most in food products when grocery shopping and freshness was found to be the top concern.
According to the research firm, consumer interest in fresh snacking initially began in 2005, when smaller food companies launched refrigerated snacks that boasted freshness. These companies wanted to stand out from traditional CPG snack producers by incorporating whole-food ingredients that required refrigeration for freshness rather than preservatives. As a result, consumers were exposed to healthy snacking alternatives that claimed to be better for them than other non-refrigerated snacks. Such products resulted in a new demand for refrigerated snacks and the acceleration of the fresh snacking trend in 2008. In fact, fresh-snacking product launches in the US increased by about four times between 2008 and 2016.
This growing demand for fresh snacking is still affecting the conventional snacking market which is worth $40 billion but is steadily declining by two percent annually. However, the health and wellness snacking category grew by six percent annually and Mintel claims that this growth is driven by the fresh snacking market which also grew by eight percent annually.
“In addition to its correlation to healthy, ‘fresh’ has been articulated to be a highly-sought attribute for snacks as well as food in general. It is the strong association between ‘fresh’ and lack of preservatives/additives that contributes heavily to the demand for clean-label and refrigerated products,” wrote Mintel in their report.
Terms such as “fresh,” “natural” and “clean” have been found to drive consumer purchases but Mintel found a deeper connection between consumers and refrigerated products made from whole-food ingredients. This is because consumers generally associate the need to refrigerate a product as an indication of freshness. Since consumers regularly use the refrigerator to store fresh produce and meat items, this makes them associate refrigerated items as fresh and healthy foods.
Social media has also been found to be a huge influencer in this trend as consumers continue to post and view pictures of healthy food products and recipes that incorporate colorful whole-foods. However, while fresh foods are aesthetically pleasing on social media, consumers are often too busy to create colorful, yet healthy, works of art out of their foods every day. This is why social media merely acts as an influence that drives the purchases of fresh foods that incorporate similar whole-food ingredients.
Mintel identified six major product segments that are currently driving the growth of the fresh snacking trend: refrigerated protein/energy bars, protein snack packs, drinkable soups, bottled smoothies, yogurts and other (hummus or guacamole with crackers/chips). The unifying qualities of all these products is that they include protein and plant-based ingredients. These fresh snacks exhibited a strong growth over the past three years and are set to continue to grow in the future. In fact, health and wellness snacks are expected to reach a value of $20 billion by 2020 with fresh snacks leading the way with a CAGR of nine percent.
Fresh foods are redefining the food industry as consumers continue to look for foods that are good for their health. As this trend continues to grow, grocery store perimeters will become the ideal destination for health-focused consumers.
“Let’s be clear ̶ the food world is moving to the perimeter. The center of the physical store is going to continue to get hollowed out as things are set up on automatic replenishment or shipped to home. The brands of the future are those that are moving to the perimeter and offering a fresh proposition,” said Mintel in their report.