Trending: Protein, Popcorn and Yellow 5

Three trends blooming across the CPG world

This trend season has been all about ingredients—eliminating some and enhancing others. Protein-laden products continue to fill the new-product pipeline, promising energy and sustenance for CrossFit fanatics and cube dwellers alike. Confection companies meanwhile are joining the clean-label movement, and ready-to-eat popcorn is making a comeback through better-for-you ingredients and bold flavors. Read on for details on these big trends hitting c-store shelves.

Liquid Protein

Beverages by nature are functional: We need water to survive—how much more functional can you get? But manufacturers are taking the concept to new lengths with the amount of enhanced-beverage products on the market. The latest trend to stem from this growth is protein-enhanced milks, shakes, juices and waters. Manufacturers previously found only at GNC are making inroads at c-stores, including New Whey Liquid Protein with its NuAquos water-based protein drink. Protein2o promises low calories and a variety of flavors, and even MilkPEP, the marketing firm behind the Got Milk? campaign, is getting in on the trend with advertisements and promotions touting the energy and protein found in chocolate milk. It’s sampling Wheaties and chocolate milk for marathon finishers.

The real question is just how much protein one’s supposed to consume in a day. According to a recent NPD Group study, 71% of consumers said they want more protein in their diet, yet 71% also said they don’t know how much they should be getting in the first place. Retailers and marketers must ask themselves: Will more education lead to a slowdown in demand?

Popcorn’s Reawakening

A sleepy category typically reserved for movie theaters and microwaves, popcorn is experiencing a rebirth.  Manufacturers are finding ways to make it fresh, healthy and millennial-friendly through trend-forward, ready-to-eat varieties.

“New popcorn players are finding ways to appeal to changing lifestyles and tastes, revitalizing popcorn as a healthy and convenient snack,” said Nicholas Fereday, executive director and senior analyst of food and consumer trends for Rabobank Group.

The global financial services firm recently released a report on popcorn’s rise, citing innovative companies, spicy varieties and better-for-you claims as factors driving the growth. Brands such as Sinfully Thin, SexyPop and Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop are among the names bringing new life to bagged popcorn, delivering flavors such as Maple Sea Salt (Boom Chicka Pop) and Pineapple Habanero (SexyPop) to an otherwise conservative category. Meanwhile, traditional brands such as Popcorn, Indiana are riding the momentum and delivering line extensions such as Popcorn Bars.

As the Rabobank report points out, this reawakening can serve as inspiration to other tired categories and brands in search of a rebirth.

Confection Goes Natural

Building on ongoing initiatives around responsibly sourced ingredients, the country’s biggest candy companies are making strides towards cleaning up their ingredient labels. The Hershey Co. in February announced the beginning of a transition to “simple” ingredients, “like fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar,” said John P. Bilbrey, president and CEO, in a statement from the company. It also pledged to make ingredient information more transparent and easy to find.

Meanwhile, Nestlé USA announced it would remove artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors from all of its chocolate candy products. By the end of this year, more than 250 products and 10 brands including Nestlé Butterfinger, Crunch and Baby Ruth will be free of artificial flavors and certified colors. For example, in Butterfinger’s signature center, annatto, which comes from seeds found in the fruit from the achiote tree, will replace Red 40 and Yellow 5. Products will begin appearing on store shelves by mid2015, identified by a “No Artificial Flavors or Colors” claim.