The following are predictions by Mintel’s Global New Products Database for what will be hot or not in 2004.

Ingredient of the year – Pomegranate
Traditionally, pomegranates are only seen around the Thanksgiving holiday, but that’s about to change. Because of their health benefits (they are high in potassium and vitamin C and loaded with anti-oxidants), we are about to see a surge in products touting pomegranate as an ingredient. The leader in this charge is POM Wonderful, which manufactures the first refrigerated Fresh pomegranate juice, available in five varieties. Other companies such as Nantucket Nectars and SoBe are also jumping on the pomegranate juice bandwagon.

From the non-food perspective, pomegranate is also gaining ground. It is being prominently featured as an ingredient or scent in skincare and cosmetics products. Aveda will feature it in its new lip tint collection that launches in February, and Fresh will soon launch a pomegranate conditioner for hair.

Ingredient of the year runner-up – Lemongrass

Package of the year – Bottle Can
This new packaging concept has taken Japan by storm, and slowly entered the North American marketplace in 2003. Now the manufacturer, Tokyo’s Daiwa Can Corporation, has entered a distribution agreement with Ball Corporation to more readily bring this package to the US. The bottle can is an aluminium bottle-shaped container with a screwtop cap. It chills beverages faster and keeps them colder longer, and is resealable, unlike traditional aluminium cans. The aluminium packaging also keeps light and oxygen out, unlike plastic bottles. Only a few products in the US today use the bottle can, including Kraft‘s Capri Sun Island Refreshers and Coca-Cola‘s Raize and Psych drinks.

Package of the year runner-up – Easy-open packages for the aging baby-boomer population

Scent of the year – Indulgent food scents
Why smell of flowers when you can smell like a chocolate Frappuccino? Indulgent food scents will be the hot topic when it comes to vanity categories in 2004. The Jaqua Girls Bakery Collection features products that all smell like fresh-baked goods with ingredients like brown sugar and cinnamon. Fresh cream, chocolate, and honey scents are beginning to deluge the market. Maybe our concerns about consuming such calorie-laden goodies have made us decide to put them on our skin instead.

Cuisine of the year – Indian
Indian food is making inroads. Prepared foods obtainable through the gourmet market and supermarkets like Trader Joe’s are featuring frozen Indian meals and prepared curry sauces.  Also, products like Preferred Brand’s Tasty Bite line are being packaged in ways that makes them ready-to-eat, suiting the convenience buyer.

Old brands are new again
Did you ever think you’d have Black Jack gum again? Consumers are getting nostalgic for their favourite brands from the olden days, and companies will continue to revamp and relaunch old favourites, like Black Jack, which was reintroduced in 2003. Familiar brands will also capitalise on their brand recognition and be applied to product categories outside the original.

Limiting consumption for kids
With concern growing about the weight of children in America, we think this is a sure-bet prediction. We’ve already seen products like weight loss pills for children. The next approach on this topic will be to resize product packages, formulations, and serving sizes to suit children’s needs without overdoing it. For example, Shasta Beverages recently launched Shasta Shortz, a line of carbonated soft drinks in short, eight-ounce cans, and Hawaiian Punch is now offered in a lower-sugar formulation.

Is beauty only skin deep?
It is always said that it is what’s on the inside that counts, but can what’s inside make you look better on the outside? A rise in so-called “cosmeceuticals,” or beauty foods, is about to emerge. Expect to see beauty benefits from the juices you drink, and glossier hair from the supplements you take.

Health initiatives
McDonald’s has added salads to combat its junk food image. Expect more proactive changes from major food manufacturers as they scramble to avoid I’m-fat-and-it’s-your-fault lawsuits. They’ll provide better formulations, healthier snack options, eliminate trans fats, and more.

Health positioning claims
Largely unmarked on US packaged goods are health claims for consumers with specific dietary concerns. However, we expect such markings to appear for diabetics similar to the Low Glycemic Index claim that has developed in Australia, which measures the effect of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. The marking helps diabetics and others with related concerns (e.g. low carb dieters) quickly identify the foods that are scientifically evaluated as being suitable for their diet, without having to rely on ingredient statements. Another claim that will gain ground is Gluten Free, for those with Celiac disease who have an intolerance to wheat products.

Naturally rich vs. vitamin fortified
Instead of adding vitamin fortification to foods, the focus will be on the nutritional value inherent in the ingredients themselves. Some of the healthy ingredients we are likely to see added include fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are carbohydrates that promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system, inulin, and probiotic fibre. Probiotics are live, active cultures that promote “gut health” and can be found in a multitude of products outside the US.