Nielsen has released its Total Consumer Report for Q3 2018, highlighting some nice tidbits about food trends. U.S. consumer confidence for the third quarter was reported at its highest level in years, good news for the retail sector, including grocery stores. And perhaps of particular interest to the food and beverage industry, consumers expressed greater near-term (next six months) concerns over health, food prices, and global warming than they did at the end of 2017.
Among the highlights:
Frozen meals—which offer portion control for people working on their weight and less food waste for singles and couples—have seen renewed consumer interest, with 52-week unit sales up 1 percent from 2017.
Fresh food sales were flat year over year by volume, though higher prices allowed for a $5.8 billion rise in sales value.
Beverage sales volume rose 2 percent year over year thanks to strong demand growth for value-added water, sparkling water, RTD coffee, and kombucha. Growth in these categories offset continued declines for juice drinks and coconut water.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that, like yogurt, is a good source of probiotics. In traditional production, brewers add yeast, bacteria, and sugar to black or green tea and ferment the mixture for at least a week; the longer the fermentation, the higher the alcohol content. Fermentation also provides light carbonation. Commercial production has changed the process somewhat in order to control quality and alcohol content, and manufacturers must add live bacteria cultures after the pasteurization process.
Non-alcoholic kombucha’s 52-week sales, both by value and volume, increased over 40 percent in 2018. Granted, sales started from a smaller base than water beverages, for instance, but let’s theorize why kombucha has attracted so much attention: It’s functional, well promoted on social media, and now more regulated (or safer, from most consumers’ perspective) yet also still seen as alternative. It is also a slightly sweetened beverage option for kids, with anecdotal accounts of improved digestion catching parents’ interest. Nielsen survey responses reveal that many people think of kombucha as a food due to all its nutritional benefits.
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