Health and convenience: the driving trends of the future

By Alice Richard
Wednesday, 27 February, 2013



Consumers just love convenience. That’s nothing new. But the extent to which consumers embrace time-saving products - and are willing to shell out extra for them - is highlighted in the results of the 2013 Product of the Year awards.

Everyone, it seems, has too little of two things: time and money. Consumers weigh up these two factors when it comes to buying food and, although times are tough, will often opt for convenience at a higher price for particular items.

“We saw a lot of products last year offering time-saving benefits, such as Nivea Express Hydration body lotion and V8 Smoothies, which are not necessarily the cheapest on the market but consumers feel the benefit is worth paying a little extra for,” said Product of the Year Director Sarah Connelly.

“This year again many products that will save us time have come out on top, showing that ultimately people are more inclined to pay a little bit extra to get the best and quickest solution to their problem.”

Health vs convenience

The need for convenience often sees consumers opt for products that are less than healthy. “Australians are time-poor and are looking for ways to cut corners, which means consumers are more likely to favour products that help make things quick and easy,” Connelly said.

53% of the more than 11,600 consumers surveyed by Product of the Year said they don’t have time to cook a full meal from scratch and so will buy something convenient, even if it’s not as healthy, and 41% said they think it is cheaper and easier to buy prepackaged meals rather than cooking for themselves.

“But I think this is happening less frequently than before and is becoming more of an occasional, rather than an everyday, choice,” Connelly said.

“We are also becoming more educated and more discriminating over the convenience options we choose, so manufacturers are slowly responding to this by reducing fat, sodium and sugar content, and, particularly in children’s foods, also reducing artificial colours and flavours.

“Change is a slow process but I firmly believe we will continue to demand healthier alternatives into the future.”

House brands - taking over the world?

Despite all the doom-and-gloom prophecies about the rise and rise of retailers’ house brands, brands are still important, Connelly says.

“People are still very loyal to brands in certain high-involvement categories and good, strong branding is key to making that all-important connection with the consumer.

“In low-involvement categories, certainly, branding is becoming less important, with 60% of respondents saying they can’t tell the difference between the house brands and brands.

“The consumer survey is designed to safeguard against brand loyalty, so it’s interesting that despite increased entries from house brands we’re still seeing brands come out on top in most categories. However, there have been some interesting wins this year for Woolworths and Aldi, which shows they are making inroads in some of the more involved categories.”

In fact, the list of winners reads like a who’s who of brand names, with established brands such as SPC, Cadbury and Kraft sitting alongside lesser-known names like Birch & Waite. House-branded products did make an appearance, however, with Woolworths’ Macro range topping both the Dips & Dressing and Sweet Snacks categories, ALDI Blackstone’s Tortilla Corn Chips winning the Savoury Snacks category and Woolworths’ Ready To… range taking out the Prepared Meals category.

Free-from

Interestingly, both of Woolworths’ winning Macro products were in the free-from category: its Gluten-Free Cookie Bars and Free From Dairy Dips obviously popular with consumers.

Products with a healthy or ethical edge over their competitors fared well in the 2013 Product of the Year. Safcol’s Responsibly Fished Tuna topping the General Grocery category, while VIP Petfoods’ Fussy Cat Grain Free product took out the Pet Care category. Apparently even the feline world isn’t immune to the Paleo craze.

The novelty factor

Queen’s Chocolate Mill clearly ticked all the boxes for many consumers, taking out the Cooking & Baking category. This is an example of novelty and convenience trumping price: the all-in-one chocolate grater retails for around $7.50 for the 100 g pack.

“The Queen Chocolate Mill is a great example of a fantastic innovation that has really resonated with consumers,” Connelly said. “They got it right - products like this really do get people excited due to the fact that they are entirely new and, more importantly, meet a previously unmet need.

“Value is obviously an important factor, but I think if you get it right and really hit the mark then it becomes secondary. Consumers will pay more if you give them what they want and need.”

Another product that impressed consumers with its novelty is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations, which features a redesigned block packaging and unexpected flavours and textures.

“New products are only new and interesting for a limited time, which is why companies have to continue to innovate and come up with something to trump the latest launch and spark consumer interest,” Connelly said.

“However, it is rare to see entirely new products and, over the last four years, we have certainly seen more variations on well-known products performing well in the awards than entirely new products.

“Marvellous Creations is unique as it demonstrates innovation in design, packaging and the consumer experience, so it will be interesting to see what’s next.”

The winning combination

While the prepared meals category was highly competitive this year, Connelly says there’s still plenty of room for growth in this market.

“People are time-poor but they are also more educated and are demanding more sophisticated and healthier offerings,” Connelly said. “The entries this year demonstrated there is lots of innovation going on in this area.”

Overall, Connelly predicts that convenience and health will be the two driving trends in the near future.

“I think there is a significant opportunity for manufacturers to come up with healthier alternatives to existing products, without compromising convenience. I believe that consumers are becoming more and more concerned with what they put in, and onto, their bodies and the environment.

“If you can tap into this trend, you’re onto a winner.”

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