Consumers drive market, says book

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Product development, Food, Nutrition

A new book has been published examining how consumer desires shape
the way that food manufacturers develop and market their product

As consumers, especially in Europe and the US, are more demanding about what they eat than ever before, the fate of successful companies depends on catering for specific and changing consumer tastes. "New product development (NPD) is a ubiquitous activity in the food and beverages and personal products industry. Many companies see it as the source of their future expansion plans, some view it more realistically as the means by which they will stay afloat in a fast changing world,"​ said Hal MacFie, editor of "Consumer-led food product development." According to MacFie, consumers are often attracted to new products that come about due to a new technology, such as freeze drying, or the introduction of a new ingredient, like artificial sweeteners or plant sterol products. However, he added, it is usually the consumers who drive product changes because of their own expectations, forcing manufacturers to make changes to existing lines. Greater personal wealth has given consumers a lot of power in the second half of the 20th​ century, and globalisation means that they demand a wider level of choice as well as good quality products. The authors address product development in light of consumer issues, such as opportunity identification, concept development, difference testing and preference trials, as well as the use of techniques such as just-about-right scales and partial least squares methods. "The 21st​ century consumer in affluent countries is a sophisticated animal who is ready to spend good money on products that cater to his or her particular needs. Food and beverage companies need to understand what makes these consumers tick, foresee their future needs, and start to develop products several years upstream of launch,"​ MacFie said. The book also examines how food safety concerns are currently affecting the industry, as certain crises such as BSE, salmonella in eggs and Foot and Mouth affect the way that products are viewed. Companies have also had to seriously change due to the current fad for health and wellness products. Consumers are increasingly worried about health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and so are turning away from fatty or unhealthy foods. MacFae points out that the industry needs to respond to perceived, rather than scientifically proven, unhealthy products. For example, consumers still buy large quantities of sandwiches with high levels of salt. Other controlling factors discussed in the book include consumer opinion on animal cruelty, the environment and ethics.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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