New trends for 2005 from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) predicts a healthy focus for this year’s new products, while carbohydrates have been given the green light again.

Although Mintel expects to see more of those healthy, tasty and varied Mediterranean-style flavours, companies will also be looking to more as yet untouched parts of the world for inspiration.  In 2004 we saw a boom in North African flavours, but this year we may begin to see even more exotic flavours derived from sub-Saharan Africa – one of the few areas of the world that is still relatively unexploited in terms of ethnic cuisine.

“Overall, we should see more exotic flavours going into everyday products like snacks, often as limited edition flavours. Looking around the world for inspiration, PepsiCo’s snacks business already has plenty of flavours that are currently only available in one region, such as poppy seed flavoured Doritos on sale in Turkey, but this flavour could work elsewhere. Flavour blends will also continue to appear and we expect growth in sweet & spicy flavour combinations. Fruit and spice flavours, sweet and hot flavours such as chocolate and chilli, and sweet and salty should increase,” said GNPD director David Jago.

Carbs are back on the menu

The low-carb diet, which has been in the limelight for much of the 21st century, now seems almost passé as many dieters look elsewhere for ways to shed those pounds.  In simple terms, Japanese diners won’t forgo their rice, Italians won’t think of giving up pasta and the French won’t surrender their bisques. No doubt the Belgians and the English won’t give up their chips either.

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The low-carb craze will decline in the US and will not go much further in the UK, Mintel predicts. It has failed to make any significant impact in others parts of the world, and this is unlikely to change. Rather than looking to the US, manufacturers in Europe are following an alternative trend that has developed in Australia.  There has already been much coverage in the UK concerning the Glycemic Index (or GI) labelling, which measures the effect that carbohydrates have on blood glucose levels.

“This could be a difficult concept for many consumers to understand and so manufacturers may do well to turn instead to the Glycemic Load, especially in Europe. Glycemic Load takes into account both the amount and the type of carbohydrate, and so is a more ‘user-friendly’ term for dieters,” said Jago.

But if the Antipodean approach doesn’t suit perhaps a more Asian approach could be the answer – amino acids, the building blocks for healthy growth.

While you can visit a store in Japan and see hoards of products that name specific amino acids on the front of the pack, often even as part of the brand name, if you talk to consumers in the West they have barely heard of them. We have started to see amino acids being communicated to consumers via hair care products (e.g. the Pantene brand from Procter & Gamble), but not yet in food and drink. Will amino acids make the leap to food and drink packages in 2005?

Life’s a balancing act

In general, there seems to be a move away from extreme dieting towards a more natural, balanced approach.  Everything in moderation.  Mid-calorie products have so far been restricted to the US, but mid-positioned products could be an important area for the future. Half-caffeine coffee and soft drinks, for example, as well as mid-calorie foods and foods with reduced (rather than low) fat.

“Such products fit the growing trend towards ‘balance’, and represent a useful compromise between the luxury, full-fat end of the market and the fat-free or very low fat option, which often only appeals to the very health conscious,” added Jago.

In line with this, portion control will become a major new trend, first in the US and later in the UK and some parts of Continental Europe. Larger-sized products, e.g. King Size chocolate bars, may be relaunched as ‘Share Size’. Other products might also appear in pre-measured and labelled packs, like the Kraft Foods’ 100 Calorie Packs in the US, to make it as easy as it can possibly be for the health-conscious consumer.

After all this dieting talk, many of us simply want to sit back and relax. Today’s consumer is already offered a huge range of food and drink products that promise energy, revitalisation or a boost. But what about products to help consumers relax and de-stress? Is there a food and drink equivalent of aromatherapy, which has made an enormous impact in just about every non-food product category in recent years? Some ingredients, such as lavender and camomile, sometimes bear language regarding calming and relaxing, but more opportunity clearly exists.