The Power of Near-Real Time Food Trend Volatility Analysis

Is your food company busy addressing rising Vegan, Vegetarian, DASH, Anti-Inflammatory, ABS or Paleo diet trends today? If not, why not? These are among today’s top-10 diet trends driving consumer food choices.

Although Internet and social media analysis techniques are still in their infancy, these “big data” bases should not ignored: they best reflect what consumers think and say about their food choices. Think of the Internet as a very large consumer survey population that can be sampled at-will, at very low cost and on a near-real time basis. Internet chatter analysis also reveals trends not easily discernable using conventional analysis techniques, such as retail product scanning, new product placement tracking and consumer surveys…in near-real time! There is the problem of information clutter, however: the Internet has a very low signal-to-noise ratio and it can often be difficult to discern between what is important or relevant and what is not. Also, Internet search engines are fickle and just finding the most applicable search terms can be challenging.

This post references work undertaken at BEST VANTAGE Inc. (www.bestvantageinc.com) to establish new tools for consumer trends analysis, drawing on techniques developed by the financial industry. Previous work undertaken on this challenge is referenced here and here. In this posting, we demonstrate how volatility analysis, using our VIC™ internet chatter volatility indices, can rapidly prioritize emergent trends not readily detectable using conventional market analysis tools. The earlier warned, the faster that companies can adapt to and capture the high ground of new consumer opportunities.

Why volatility? Volatility is a leading indicator of change. Whether in nature, societies, economies or financial markets, “volatility” marks rapid exchanges of material and information that signal impending change. Internet chatter surges or wanes as individuals adapt to new information and adjust their demands and expectations accordingly. Internet chatter volatility denotes activity and information exchange: it does not explain the underlying reasons for change, which requires a more forensic analysis of the Internet database. Thus, a surge in Internet chatter signals that change is pending and that a more in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons for volatility is likely warranted.

In the chart below, the VIC™ volatilities of the top 9 diet trends (out of 40 analyzed) are presented together. It is clear that, already in late-2009 (six years ago), interest in vegetarianism surged, followed by a surge in vegan diet-related chatter beginning in 2013. These are the markers that should have signaled to the processed food, foodservice and food ingredient companies to closely track these diet trends and adjust their product lines and strategic plans accordingly. This period (2009 – present) also exhibited very significant spikes in Internet chatter volatility pertaining to high-protein, low-carb Paleo and ABS diet-related Internet chatter.

Top-9 Trend Volatility

A look at annualized growth trends in Internet chatter suggests how rapidly these four trends will remake our industry. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, BEST VANTAGE observed the following growth rates (i.e., velocity) in Internet chatter, presented along with 5-year annualized growth rates as benchmarks.

  • Vegan Diet (1-yr: 590%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 89%)
  • ABS Diet (1-yr: 315%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 115%)
  • Paleo Diet (1-yr: 159%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 101%)
  • Vegetarian Diet (1-yr: 152%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 85%)

Internet volatility and velocity analysis should not be used in place of conventional market tracking techniques. They do offer powerful early indicators of emergent trends, helping companies to know where to look and how to respond to the most volatile index of all, consumer behavior. In a future posting, I will explain the value of using Internet chatter volatility and velocity analyses as strategic decision-making tools.

Pulse Ingredients in Extruded Snacks and Other Products

Two cooksThis final of four, highly-acclaimed FREE WEBINARS sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, through a grant provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture will be presented Thursday, November 7th.

In the first three “how to use pulses as food and beverage ingredients” WEBINARS, we reviewed:

  1. Growing consumer concerns about food allergens
  2. The ability of pulse ingredients to substitute for expensive and allergenic ingredients such as wheat gluten, nuts, dairy and eggs
  3. Formula cost benefits of using relatively low-cost pulse ingredients
  4. How to use pulse protein ingredients to boost nutritional value and improve ingredient functionality in foods and beverages
  5. How to apply pulse ingredients to specific food and beverage formulations

Already recognized for their nutritional and culinary value in much of the developing world, pulse (i.e., dry pea, lentil and chickpea) ingredients have been gaining interest among food, beverage manufacturers, nutritional product suppliers and foodservice companies as food ingredients. Among the consumer benefits driving this trend are their:

  • Uniquely rich nutritional profiles (high protein, high dietary fiber and low fat content)
  • Relatively low cost
  • Lack of allergen-labeling requirements
  • Functional versatility as ingredient in a wide variety of products
  • Their role in ethnic foods with popular appeal.
  • Environmental benefits (they are non-GMO and produced using sustainable agricultural practices)

In sum, peas, chickpeas and lentils are developing quite a culinary cachet that conforms well with many consumer expectations regarding nutrition, food and beverage product formulation, food ingredient safety and integrity and social values.

This FINAL 45-minute WEBINAR will focus on the carbohydrate components of pulses and discuss how pulse selection and processing variables can affect the performance of pulses in extruded pastas, snacks and breakfast cereals.

Also to be addressed will be the very low glycemic index (GI) value of pulses as compared to other grain and seed ingredients, its implications for public health and nutrition and how best to protect the low glycemic index value of pulse ingredients in your food formulations.

Finally, the WEBINAR will summarize this WEBINAR series, including a quick review of product formulation guidelines for bakery, beverage, batters & breaded products.

To learn more about this WEBINAR and to register for this event, visit this link:

http://www.pea-lentil.com/webinars 

(Note: WEBINAR registration is limited to 250 participants)

 

Pulse Ingredients as Egg and Dairy Ingredient Alternatives

RandDTrends3smallEgg and dairy ingredients contribute critical nutritional and functional benefits, including adhesion,
gelling, aeration, binding
and emulsification, to a broad spectrum of
products. However, they
do come with some negatives that warrant consideration:

  1. Their use in American food products requires allergen-warning statements to be posted prominently on the front panels of food package labels.
  2. They are also expensive and subject to considerable price volatility.

In this increasingly cost-sensitive food industry environment, the relatively new pulse-ingredients category offers cost-effective alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients, either as partial replacers or 100% substitutes in formulations.

“Pulses” refers to high-protein legume foods, such as peas, chickpeas and lentils. As food ingredients, they offer superior nutrition, functionality, non-GMO appellation, clean-label designation and sustainability appeal. Generally, pulses contain 20-30% protein and are high soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, from which much of the ingredient functionalities (e.g., emulsification, water management) of pulses derive.

On Thursday, August 22, 1:00 – 2:00 PM U.S. Central Standard Time (CST), the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and BEST VANTAGE Inc. will host the second of four FREE “Food R&D Trends” Webinars that offers practical “how-to” guidance on using pulse ingredients as alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients in food formulations.

Topics to be addressed in this webinar include:

  • Pulses as food ingredients
  • The role of egg and dairy ingredients in food product development
  • The advantages of pulses: formulation; cost savings; labeling and nutrition.
  • How to use pulse ingredients egg and dairy alternatives in food formulation

To Register:
Registration for this FREE Webinar is limited to 250 participants, so please use the following link for more details and to reserve your place:
http://www.pea-lentil.com/webinars

This Webinar has been made possible through a grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.