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Why accurate data is fundamental to business success [Interview]

Rick Miller, Associate Director, Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, explains why having accurate data is absolutely essential, from product development right through to targeted marketing.

Global economic trends, technological advances and changing consumer tastes all have an influence on global markets. Understanding these trends – and being able to anticipate new opportunities – are critical components of business success. Rick Miller, Associate Director, Specialised Nutrition at Mintel, explains why having accurate data is absolutely essential, from product development right through to targeted marketing.

Talk us through the sort of analyses and surveys that are conducted to arrive at Mintel’s conclusions.

"Put simply, we use a unique combination of data and expertise. Via 10,000 carefully chosen questions per year, we collect and publish over 3.7 million data points from 1.3 million consumers in 35 countries. Through this scrupulous process – and collecting data on a wide range of topics ranging from personal health and care choices to food and drink and trending diets in all age brackets – we are assured that the data Mintel has is clean; it’s simply the best."

"Our analysts are leading experts in their respective categories, often with years of senior experience in the industry before joining Mintel. It’s this combination that allows us to confidently say our conclusions are not only eye-opening but convincing to our more than 5000 global clients."

Are there any clear over-arching economic/social trends that are influencing current trends?

"Everyone, of course, is asking about the economic and social impact of Brexit and what consumers are saying. When we asked consumers about this and published the findings in our Brexit: Future Hopes and Fears – Ireland September 2019 report, 67% of Irish consumers felt that it will be more important to support local food and drink producers after Brexit."

"Yet similar trends around the subject of trust are being seen across all food, drink and supplementation categories. Trust is falling in big brands. For instance, 29% of US consumers aged 18-44 say they don’t trust large food companies. Instead, consumers are shifting their focus towards smaller, in some cases local brands who place an emphasis on transparency and ethical considerations. This was first noted in Mintel’s cross-category trend Prove It. Successful brands need to be caring and align with their target consumers‘ values not just their health and lifestyle."

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How has consumer demand/taste evolved in recent years – can you give examples?

"Yes, it has. A good example is the emphasis on sugar reduction in food and drink and how this has shaped consumers’ acceptance of bulk sweeteners. Across the categories, consumers want low sugar and lower carbohydrate options and this, in conjunction with pressure from health authorities has meant that in 2018, 29% of European carbonated soft drink launches contained an artificial sweetener."

"Yet, consumers are concerned about the safety and healthfulness of these sweeteners, for instance, only 24% of French consumers said they trusted the food industry to only use sweeteners if they were safe. This poses a tricky dynamic for manufacturers and is one of many trends in consumer taste and perception that will continue to evolve in the years ahead with innovations in food science."

Have there been any surprises; anything that perhaps might not have been predicted a year or so ago?

"Mintel’s trend Locavore, a movement which predicted the change in consumer purchasing from extensive food chains and foods flown from across the globe to a realisation that this consumption model is unsustainable and more local purchasing is necessary for sustainability; has been accelerated in the wake of socio-political movements around climate change such as Extinction Rebellion. There’s no doubt that this has influenced manufacturers to bring forward their business development plans for sustainability and the trend has shifted to developing markets faster than might have been anticipated."

How can manufacturers use market intelligence to inform their business strategies?

"Mintel’s clients understand that the more clean data they have at their fingertips around cross-category new product launches, emerging social trends and consumers’ thoughts, the better decisions that can be made surrounding product development and precision-targeted marketing to the right consumer, at an earlier stage."

What are your predictions over the next 3-5 years – which trends will continue; which will end; and what new trends are we yet to see?

"Certain trends such as the consumer demand for more plant-based integration into established food and drink categories, with more sustainable and ethical production methods and cleaner labels are well-established trends that will only likely strengthen in the years to come."

"The increasing use of wearable technology and greater availability of personal health marker testing, such as microbiome testing will lead to further personalisation in food and drink. Despite the plethora of information available, consumers simply want to cut through the swathes of data and understand what their nutrition needs are. Certain dieting trends such as paleo and keto are merging with the plant-based trend as manufacturers are better able to craft lower carbohydrate, plant-based proteins."

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