Food Makers Keeping It Simple

Discussion
Aug 12, 2010

By Roy White

Simplicity is joining the ranks of natural and organic as an important
driver in food marketing today.

Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago of Mintel recently
spoke about the trend at the Institute of Food Technologies expo, as reported
by Food Navigator-USA. Mintel’s
research indicates that there has been a decrease in the average number of
ingredients in 56 percent of the food and beverage categories the research
company covers. This development has been propelled over the past couple of
years by product introductions such as Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Pillsbury
simply … Cookies
and Haagen-Dazs’ Five ice cream.

At heart, this is a health and wellness
development, as CPG manufacturers respond to consumers’ well-articulated
demand for more healthful, less processed foods. For example, Haagen-Dazs Five
contains only milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla bean. What is not present
on the labels on these types of products are lengthy lists of frequently
unintelligible and unpronounceable ingredients, whose effect on health may
not be well known.

The
move to simplicity reduces the risk of a health-conscious consumer picking
up an item from the shelf and being turned off by a lengthy list of ingredients.
Among the first ingredients to go is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). For example,
Pillsbury simply … Cookies do not contain this sweetener, nor have they any
artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. Indeed, the major difference between
Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup versus other products in the line is the removal
of HFCS and corn syrup. According to Ms. Dornblaser, 42 percent of consumers
think HFCS promotes obesity and 31 percent seek beverages that don’t
feature this sweetener.

Retailers are getting the idea, too. At a Stop & Shop
in Westchester County, New York, seven of the 21 facings of various sizes and
varieties of Heinz Ketchup went to Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup. In the frozen
case, five shelves were devoted to Haagen-Dazs 14 oz. ice cream selections
with 20 percent — or one shelf (and at eye level, in fact) — given to Haagen-Dazs
Five.

Discussion Questions: Is the move to simplicity in foods a trend or a fad?
How do you think simplicity will affect food retailing in the years ahead?

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14 Comments on "Food Makers Keeping It Simple"

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Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
7 years 3 months ago
We agree with Roy that simplicity is a big idea that will continue to change the retail game. The Interscope team thinks simplicity is far bigger than organic as a concept. Simplicity is a lifestyle choice that really emerged from the “quadfecta” of living with war, economic recession, our aging and fattening bodies, and the harsh reality that we better wake up and care for Mother Earth. Simplicity will impact retail with continued need to walk the talk that less is more–more healthy easy food, local produce, ongoing SKU rationalization especially in packaged categories, dramatically reduced packaging, fewer more effective… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

What is unfortunate is that the simplest of foods (produce) is in many cases less affordable than meat and highly processed foods. Rather than rant on the reasons why, I’ll just say that the simplicity movement, in food and beyond, is here to stay. Less is more!

Max Goldberg
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Hopefully it’s a trend and reflective of an overall desire to eat a more healthy diet. As long as manufacturers do not increase prices when they move to simplify ingredients, consumers will welcome the change.

Ian Percy
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

Carol hit the target. Simplicity will soon be the prevailing philosophy for almost everything including lifestyle. I’m oft reminded of the saying “Why do it the simple way when the complex way will work?” We’ve been duped by those who design things with totally unnecessary complexity just because they can. To paraphrase another adage: “The devil is in the complexity.”

Ryan Mathews
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

I think it is a trend as well. Too much complexity takes away from brand/product appeal. On the ingredient level concerns about health will push manufacturers to drop some ingredients but in general, the clearer the offer to the consumer, the better.

John Karolefski
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

The move to simplicity in foods is clearly a trend. Food makers are simply responding to shoppers who are reading the ingredient labels on packages more than in years past. Let’s face it: some labels read like a chemistry book. That turns off the growing number of consumers interested in health and wellness. Natural, organic, fresh, simple–they all combine to chart the path forward in food marketing and retailing for anyone paying attention.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 3 months ago
Food makers keeping it simple is a return to basics in many ways. Is this a trend? Yes. Will it be long lived? I don’t know. We are a fickle consumer willing to try what the popular trend of the time happens to be. The move toward organic is still a part of what many people tell us we should be doing. But it is not what the consumer tastes really want long term. Mothers wanting to give their young children and family the best chance to stay healthy appears to be the strongest driver to consumer purchases. But what… Read more »
Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
7 years 3 months ago
Simplicity is definitely a trend that will continue to change thinking within the food industry. Consumers definitely are on board with natural, authentic products. As health and wellness continue to be at the top of list, shoppers are looking for nutrition in terms they understand–simple ingredient lists, no perceived harmful or nutritionally empty additives, no complex chemicals. Brand marketers like Heinz and others have taken out HFCS and similar, many are reducing sodium, and working on nutritional appeal. Some retailer private brands are taking this to the next level–like Loblaws Blue Menu–“all natural…”–hundreds of products across categories easily identified, Safeway… Read more »
Brian Joyce
Guest
Brian Joyce
7 years 3 months ago
This movement is right on target with the direction consumers are taking. High marks for moving in this direction! Consumers are becoming more educated on the value of proper nutrition and the impact it has on their health and wellness. When a manufacturer starts to stick with basics and less additives, it would seem to me that the consumer will be better able to relate to the ingredient label. When you relate better it is easier to calculate if is this product is right for me and my family. The manufacturers are recognizing their responsibility for what is inside the… Read more »
Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
7 years 3 months ago
Simplicity is more than a just a trend; it is the lead design criteria for food distribution in the 21st century and an imperative for business survival. As has been mentioned already, the results of simplification are evident today in retail assortments, promotions, and pricing, and Roy makes the important connection to what consumers are looking for in terms of healthier eating, where I am sure we will see a lot more in the future. The place where we see some of greatest potential gains from simplification is in our internal and trading processes. Too many of these are overly… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
7 years 3 months ago

This is not a big idea. It is another version of healthy/nutraceutical/organic foods and a manufacturer’s desire for addressing brand line extensions and a retailer’s desire for trimming the number of brands offered. Consumers want information clearly presented so they can make informed choices.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
7 years 3 months ago
Camille Schuster is right. “Consumers want information clearly presented so they can make informed choices.” Be assured that food manufactures would not list ingredients on packages if it were not the law. An informed and educated shopper is not what they want. Which of these ice creams would you buy:Ingredients: SKIM MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, EGG YOLKS, VANILLA (VANILLA BEAN FLAKES, VANILLA EXTRACT). OR Ingredients: MILK, SKIM MILK, SUGAR, CREAM, CORN SYRUP, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), WHEY, CAROB BEAN GUM, ANNATTO (FOR COLOR), BETA CAROTENE (VITAMIN A),WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, GUAR GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL FLAVOR. Yes, they call the second sample “ice… Read more »
Mikael Lindell
Guest
Mikael Lindell
7 years 3 months ago
We have had this debate in Sweden since 2002. It all started with a book called “The Secret Chef.” It is has since then been the strongest trend in our country parallel to the organic trend. Several companies where named in the book and have now made rigorous programs to make their food more genuine and “simple” as you call it. Most retailers here have now their own private label claiming just this argument. Additives are being cut to a minimum and all consumers now look at the ingredients to make sure there are as few as possible of them… Read more »
Geoffrey Igharo
Guest
Geoffrey Igharo
7 years 3 months ago

I would echo John Karolefski’s comments: consumers are reacting to the current state of affairs where these days you almost need a degree in chemistry to decipher what’s on the ingredients label on what is sold as “food” in stores.

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