Salad is firmly in fashion. Rather than a meal accompaniment, it often takes centre-stage as a main meal in itself so consumers want salads that are filling, healthy and delicious.
At Natures Way Foods our purpose is to meet these needs and to stay one step ahead of the trends to enable our retail and food service customers to embrace the new salad trends. These are exciting times, in a competitive, fast moving market. Gathering insights from consumer behaviour is crucial both to maintaining our market share and growing our business.
‘Walking in the shoes of the consumer’
We have two teams focussed on understanding consumers’ needs and wants: the Insight Team and the New Product Development team.
The Insight Team is constantly interacting with consumers using in-depth research from focus groups to immersion studies and online surveys. All this research helps to build a rich picture of the consumer, what they want from their salads, when they want it, where they get it and how they consume it. We call this process ‘walking in the shoes of the consumer’ and you can find out more about it in the story of the launch of our Food To Go products.
Alongside our consumer research our Business Development Chef, Simon brings cutting-edge food and restaurant trends into the business as he looks for emerging and exciting, new ingredients and flavour combinations, which can be incorporated into new product ideas.
The New Product Development Team then take all this research insight and work on developing new product concepts, which are then trialled and tested with consumers to see if they genuinely meet the needs identified by the Insight Team. We use insights to improve and evolve current products as well as to create entirely new products for our customers.
Forecasting tomorrow’s salad
What are the salad trends of the future?
Today’s consumers want inspiring combinations to make their salad a complete meal. This might include pasta, grains, nuts and pulses or ideas to transform their bags of salad or salad bowls into a tasty meal. Protein is a big trend that looks set to continue and protein-based salad meals are very popular. Consumers want products that deliver on taste, health and convenience without breaking the bank.
The changing trends in salad mean that salad based products are now found throughout a shop from the fresh produce section to areas that traditionally were dominated by cold meals like quiche, sausage rolls and sandwiches. Salad products have to stand out on the fixture, offer something different and hold their own against these convenient food competitors.
It’s not just what’s in the salad that counts, consumers expect packaging innovations too from re-sealable lids to easy to open packaging for quick access to their salad meal, particularly if eaten on the go. For time-poor consumers they also want to be able to see at a glance what goes with their meal, from dressings to additions like croutons or chia seeds.
A perhaps surprising outcome of our insights research is the importance of the fork! Consumers definitely want one included in salads packaged for an on the go meal option and they expect that fork to be robust and fit for purpose.
It’s this detailed understanding that helps us to create the best products for our customers.