More favorite foods going mobile

Manufacturers focus on ‘handy, portioned and personalized’

As American lifestyles continue to accentuate mobile consumption, food and beverage companies are raising the stakes on the breadth and depth of portable foods to meet consumers’ growing desire for on-the-go consumption.

In an annual list of 10 top food predictions, MSLGROUP food experts envision that “favorite foods”— ones that may not currently feature a portable version—will soon be made more “handy, portioned and personalized” to meet North American mobile lifestyles.

Based in New York, MSLGROUP’s mission is to create economic value for the North American food and beverage industry. Representing several leading food and beverage brands, the organization houses a Culinary & Nutrition Center, serving as a so-called laboratory to test new food and beverage formulations and applications.

“Products like single-serve coffee pods, one-liter boxed wine and high-protein snack packs will  come on stronger to add more portability and accommodate our snacking mania,” Steve Bryant, director, Food & Beverage, MSLGROUP North America, said in the group’s report on these trends. “In many cases, these innovations will also prove more sustainable, thanks to less food spoilage and lower energy demands for transportation.”

Experts on MSLGROUP North America’s specialized food PR and marketing team watch trends, follow industry research and counsel America’s food industry from “farm to fork.” They also lead the industry in tracking how social media influences food and beverage choices. The agency’s Clicks & Cravings study earlier this year verified the long arm of social media and how it’s continually influencing the food landscape. 

 MSLGROUP’s Top 10 food trend predictions for 2013 reveal:

1. Coffee: healthy and single-serve

As the No. 1 source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, coffee has proven it has a wealth of positive health attributes. MSLGROUP calls coffee a “ubiquitous demographic” product that has recently enjoyed a more than 100% growth in the single-serve segment.

2. Trendy preservation

Cured, brined, pickled and fermented items are popping up on restaurant menus and in upscale groceries. The agency believes that offers such as Korean kimchi, brined Moroccan lemons, citrus cured Peruvian ceviche and pickled Mexican carrots are high in popularity. Surprisingly, MSLGROUP said “fresh” isn’t the “be all, end all,” and wonders if “a revival of frozen foods is far behind.”

 3. Stealthy healthy

Food scientists and chefs are stirring up palate-pleasing salt alternatives, healthier types of fats and new natural no-calorie sweeteners such as monk fruit. These ingredients will create better-for-you packaged foods that taste-sensitive consumers won’t even notice.

4. Wine-in-a-box explosion

Boxed wine offers savings thanks to lower shipping costs and eliminates the risk of oxidation found in “corked” wine, the agency states. Expect higher-quality wine producers to join the pack and single-serve options to multiply in order to cater to millennials and the vast solo-household market.

5. Fantasy food sharing

Actual consumption of food can be occasionally substituted by vicarious “food photo sharing,” which is skyrocketing on social media sites such as Pinterest (where food pins trump all other categories), Taste Spotting and Food Gawker. The “connected table” trend of 2012 will continue its momentum in 2013, according to the firm.

6. No-facts-barred food labeling

 Food and politics will continue to collide as consumers advocate for right-to-know food labeling transparency and ingredient disclosure around issues such as biotechnology (genetically modified organisms) and origin.

7. Protein on the go

With snacks accounting for half of all meal occasions, the agency forecasts an explosion of protein-fortified bars, beverages and salty snacks (such as bean chips). Next up: High-protein products specially formulated for men and women.

8. Bitter flavors

Bitterness—often a mark of antioxidants—adds balance, complexity and sophistication to foods and beverages. Bitterness is indigenous in whole foods such as endive and salad greens and in beverages such as coffee, cocktail bitters and liquors. A bellwether: Sales of the famously bitter liquor Campari are already up by 16% since last year.

9. White tablecloth yields to casual

The “casualization” of dining will expand, as gourmet street food and food-truck fare influence sit-down dining menus. People want more casual experiences, even at higher price points.

10. Coconut growth

Workout junkies love the natural electrolytes found in coconut water, while dairy avoiders are taking to creamy coconut milk beverages. Natural-foods retailers are stocking up on coconut oil. Even though it’s highly saturated, proponents claim it somehow “burns fat.”