'Food minus' items lead 2006 food and drink launches

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — Almost 105,000 food and drink products were launched last year, or about 300 for every day of the year, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Sharply on the rise were "food minus" products, or items that highlight a reduced content of fat, calories, sugar and/or cholesterol. Launches of ethical or organic products also increased in number as did beverages with pomegranate.

"The significant shift to more products with better-for-you positioning helped boost new product launches in 2006," said David Jago, director of Mintel Custom Solutions. "The strong focus in many categories is on promoting good health, which can be seen in the most popular product claims."

Products claimed to be free of or featuring less of trans fat and gluten-free products drove the increase in the food minus category. Low/no trans fat product launches in 2006 rose nearly 120% from 2005, primarily because of regulations in North America, which accounted for 80% of the claims.

"This trend shows development promise, particularly in Europe," according to Mintel.

Gluten-free product launches increased 86% with strong growth in North America, Europe and Latin America.

Ethical positioning may refer to products that include ingredients linked to Fair Trade or sustainability, ecological claims or charitable concerns. Food and drink product launches with ethical positioning nearly doubled in 2006.

"The ethical movement has spread through more countries globally within the past year, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing in 2007," according to Mintel.

Pomegranate was one of the stars in the impact "superfoods" made on consumer product goods in 2006, according to Mintel. Acai, an antioxidant-rich berry, could make news in 2007.

"Acai lends itself well to premium, indulgence positioning, offering all of the health benefits of other superfood ingredients," said Lynn Dornbalser, director of Mintel Custom Solutions. "It has a strong exotic appeal, bolstered by its Amazonian origination."

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