Productscan, the new product development database published by analysts Datamonitor, has predicted an active year for new products in 2006, after a year of transition for many packaged goods marketers in 2005. There are some new trends to watch for.

New packaged goods launches in the USA were running 6.5% ahead of 2004's tally to 31 October 2005, as the demise of the low-carbohydrate fad has left a wide open market for other health and wellness-related trends to surface, it said in a statement.

Datamonitor has picked out some trends in new product development for 2006:

 Omega-3 is moving into the mainstream. "One food trend that gained momentum during 2005 was heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids," it said. "Found naturally in cold-water fish and in flax seeds, omega-3's began to penetrate a variety of product categories including milk, yogurt, bread, pasta and eggs.  Big names are also moving to fortify foods with Omega-3's.  Danone recently debuted an omega-3 fortified yogurt called Cardivia in Canada, a hint of what may be on the way in the US market.  Worldwide, launches of new foods & beverages containing omega-3's have more than doubled since 2002 according to Datamonitor's Productscan Online database of new products."

There are "superfruits," coming. "We all know that fruit is good for us, but within the fruit world some fruits have better health credentials than others," it said. "At the top of the heap is a Brazilian rainforest fruit called acai.  Renowned for its high antioxidant content, acai is nearing breakout status, buoyed by new product launches like Bossa Nova Acai Juice in the USA.  Other up-and-coming "good for you" fruits to watch include pomegranate, guarana, noni, mangosteen, goji berries, blueberries and even black currants."

There will be gains for whole grains. "According to researchers at Tufts University, an estimated 40% of Americans eat no whole grain foods at all," it said. "Expect that number to change in the wake of a deluge of new products that hit the market in 2005 that are almost certain to be followed by even more items in 2006.  2005's tally of whole grain food launches in the USA is nearly double that of 2004, per Datamonitor's Productscan Online database of new products.  Whole grains can now be found in numerous food categories including soup, pretzels, bread, chips, crackers, cereal, cupcakes and even dog and cat food.  Among the most recent foods to go "whole grain" are French toast sticks with Ian's Frozen French Toast Sticks from Lawrence, MA-based Ian's Natural Foods along with Yosa Non-Dairy Dessert, a new product entry in Finland based on whole grain oats and marketed like yogurt.  Consuming whole grains can help with weight management, promote good cardiovascular health and can even reduce the risk of contracting diabetes."

There are more energy foods on the way. "While there may be some dispute about whether or not an energy crisis exists, there is no disputing the fact that consumers could use more personal energy," it said. "Good thing that a growing number of packaged food and beverage products are there to help this personal energy crisis.  From energy drinks and energy bars to energizing jellybeans like Jelly Belly Sport Beans Energizing Jelly Beans and alcohol drinks such as Anheuser-Busch's Tilt, the variety of products that seek to revitalize the mind and spirit continues to grow.  Expect the energizing trend to reach out to a broader range of food and beverage markets in 2006."

There is a trend to smaller portions. "One reason that obesity is so prevalent these days is that consumers have lost all sense of what a reasonable portion is," it said.  "One answer to this problem could be calorie-controlled packaging like the new 100 calorie packs from companies like Kellogg and Kraft.  With this trend just getting off of the ground, we could easily see calorie-controlled packaging for a wide range of categories including frozen meals and entrees, soup and perhaps even alcohol beverages."

Organic food is becoming more important. "Once upon a time, if you wanted organic foods or beverages, you had to shop in stores that specialized in health and natural food products," it said. "No longer.  Organics are going mainstream and fast.  In 2005, brands like Ragu, Orville Redenbacher and Ocean Spray all added organic variants.  Expect to see even more mass-market brands take the plunge in 2006.  Organic introductions of new food and beverage products in the USA have nearly doubled since 1998 from 944 products launched that year to 2,369 that have debuted through the first ten months of 2005.  Moreover, the percentage of "loyal users" of natural and organic foods and beverages in the USA and Europe is expected to nearly double by the year 2009, topping 170m consumers."

There will be arise in gluten free products. "In the United States, it's estimated that up to three million people have celiac disease, a rare condition which is an autoimmune intestinal disorder triggered by gluten," it said. "Common in grains like wheat and rye, gluten is found in many processed foods like cakes and cookies.  But an increasing number of products are dumping gluten including everything from bread and cookies to beer.  The number of new gluten-free food and beverage products in the USA has more than tripled since 2001.  The trend should continue with retailers like Wal-Mart now requiring suppliers to identify foods that contain gluten."