PARIS – Consumer interest in authenticity and transparency almost demands companies tell a story about their products, which is a main reason why Innova Market Insights ranked storytelling as the No. 1 trend among its Top 10 trends for 2020. Survey findings from Innova show 56 percent of global consumers say stories around a brand influence their purchase decision.

“Even if you make condensed soup, tell consumers why you make it like that,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova, in a Dec. 4 presentation at Food Ingredients Europe in Paris.

Consumers mostly want to know about the ingredients in a product and the origin of the ingredients. Food and beverage companies may focus on ingredient storytelling in several ways: detailing culture and tradition, explaining where the ingredients are sourced, or telling how they are processed. Williams pointed to Una Celebración, a Danone yogurt in Mexico. All the ingredients are sourced from Mexico.

While walking the Fi Europe exposition floor, Williams said she noticed how ingredient companies are telling stories, too. One booth promoted milk powder from Germany while another booth played up flavors from Turkey.

“That’s also part of the story, right?” Williams said. “It adds a layer of depth to consumer products as well. So now we’re saying you will win with words. You have to tell a story about your product.”

MEAT+POULTRY published a column in its November issue referencing Innova’s top trend and expanding it into other areas of the food production segment.

The No. 2 trend, plant-based products, shows no signs of slowing.

“This year it has absolutely exploded,” Williams said. “In my 25-plus years in the industry I’ve never seen anything pick up as fast as this. This has legs. It will be around forever.”

The average compound annual growth rate for food and beverage launches with a plant-based claim was 68 percent from 2014-18, according to Innova, which is based in Arnhem, The Netherlands. Williams said promoting the products as plant-based might work better than promoting them as vegetarian or vegan. She said vegan may be polarizing in that consumers may perceive that the product has problems with taste and texture.

Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives continue to rise in sales, but companies now should focus on formulating more clean-label items, she said.

Consumer interest in sustainability, the No. 3 trend, rose this year. In 2018, 65 percent of global consumers said they expect companies to invest in sustainability. The percentage increased to 87 percent in 2019.

Consumer interest in sustainability varies by geographic region. French consumers care most about organic, Williams said, while animal welfare is the top concern in Germany and food waste is the top concern in America.

“Consumers have really broken into little niches,” she said. “So you have to know your consumers.”

The right bite, the No. 4 trend, refers to consumers expecting many choices. Innovation should consider consumers who are managing careers, families and social lives while maintaining healthy lifestyles. One example is consumers wanting to relax in the evening and partaking in chocolate cake or alcohol to relieve stress, Williams said.

Consumers wanting richer experiences and a greater feeling of indulgence ties into the No. 5 trend — texture.

“Texture is a great way to tap into that,” Williams said.

Past examples of trend No. 6, macronutrients, include calcium-enhanced milk and bread containing extra fiber, Williams said. In 2019, it’s avoiding sugar.

“Sugar is definitely the demon,” Williams said.

The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, has taken advantage of trend No. 7, hybrid products. Coca-Cola brand beverages now include coffee, energy drinks and fruit-flavored Coca-Cola. Beverages containing a blend of dairy milk and almond milk alternatives are examples of hybrid products as are products containing a mixture of meat and plant-based meat alternatives.

A star is born, trend No. 8, refers to specific ingredients shooting up in consumer popularity. Probiotics once fit into this category, but now they are mainstream. Ashwagandha often is promoted at trade shows, Williams said.

“But it’s still quite low on the familiarity scale with consumers,” Williams said.

Cannabidiol (CBD) could be a hit at trade shows in 2020, Williams said. The US Food and Drug Administration, however, recently said it could not guarantee that CBD is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in foods, beverages of dietary supplements.

Nootropics, which are associated with mental health, show potential as a new star ingredient.

Eat pretty, which is trend No. 9, involves ingredients associated with muscle health, hair health and skin health, Williams said. She called these traits cosmeceutical.

Brand unlimited, trend No. 10, refers to consumers wanting more personalization in their products, which has led to a rise in seasonal and limited-edition items. Williams said two in five global consumers agreed with the statement, “I would love to design my own limited-edition product.”