The Wizard of Lightbulb Moments

The Wizard is constantly scanning industry news to maintain our trend forward stance. These “Lightbulb Moments” are quick insights on critical shifts in trends, research, and other happenings impacting food and beverage companies.

Cocktail conversations: Social media influencers and their impact on spirit, wine and beer brands

Traackr analyzed how alcohol brands are engaging with the new trend.  To drive consumers to the premium products, brands are utilizing social media promotion and influencer partnerships.  Engaging by the numbers Traackr analyzed cocktail trends, gin, whiskey and vodka brands, mass-market beer, hard cider brands and wine varietal along with 9,000 social media influencers working in these categories with audiences in North America and Europe.  According to Traackr, martinis and manhattans lead the cocktail conversations among influencers, but margaritas get the most engagements.  Gin and whiskey are the top types of spirits garnering mentions and engagements. 


Lightbulb Moment: It is more complicated than who has the loudest voice or best personality.  It is about who has empathy and can form a meaningful, positive connection with consumers.  No, not empathy for drinking, but for the celebrations, milestones, friendships, and memories that connect the consumer to the brand. 

Motivated by health, Americans turn to plant-based meat alternatives, yet gaps in taste and texture persist

52% of consumers claim to be eating more plant-based foods, while 63 percent say they are increasing their use of plant-based foods, according to a HealthFocus International study.  In 2018, sales of plant-based meats grew 24 percent compared to just 6% percent in 2017, according to Nielsen.  And 42 percent said if options are available, they prefer to include more plant-based foods in their diet.  The main health benefits people cited were heart health (63%), illness prevention (60%) longevity (59%) and strong bones (54%).  A 2019 MotiveQuest analysis of three million internet conversations focused on plant-based eating found taste and texture concerns discussed as hurdles to eating meat alternatives.  People often commented that textures were too dry and crumbly instead of juicy and chewy.  Another recurring theme was consumers seeking more variety or options in the meat alternative space.


Lightbulb Moment: The good news is there is only one way to go … up.  For now, consumers are willing to forgive taste and texture weaknesses due to the perceived benefits plant proteins offer.  However, this won’t last forever.  Taste and texture will override brand loyalty as well. 

Stats revealed: Women’s sports nutrition fails to pack a punch

Women’s sports nutrition products lack transparency and receive poor reviews, according to Lumina Intelligence. From the over 4,000 products captured, just 2.1% targeted women.  In sports nutrition overall, women get less engagement overall, they get lower scores, and the majority of products aren’t really connecting with their target audience.  The research shows that women’s pre-workouts are less likely to announce ingredients levels eg.  6% of pre-workout blends state beta-alanine levels, yet only 37.5% of women’s products do this.  Another issue revealed is that smaller serving sizes are leaving women wanting more. 


Lightbulb Moment: O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.  Do I need to say it again? I thought not.

What’s in a name? 25% of consumers object to meat-related words for vegetarian products

A survey has revealed that one in four consumers support a ban on traditionally meat-related words being used for vegetarian products.  Ingredient Communications commissioned a survey of close to 1,000 consumers across the UK and US, including vegetarians, pescatarians and meat-eaters.  Of those surveyed, 25% disagreed that words like ‘sausage’, ‘burger’ or ‘steak’ should be used in isolation for vegetarian offerings.  Vegetarians were the least likely to disapprove of meat-related names, with just 18% supporting the ban.  Of the meat-eaters, 26% disagreed that meat-related words should be used for vegetarian products, and 33% of vegans supported the ban. 


Lightbulb Moment: One of the most interesting finds was that vegetarians were the least likely to disapprove of meat-related names for meatless products.  This is the sort of survey that will capture the attention of government labeling bodies. 

Gene editing used to fight virus hiding inside bananas

The banana streak virus can not only be spread from plant to plant by insects which also integrates its DNA into the banana’s genome.  Genome editing has been used to destroy a virus that lurks inside many of the bananas grown in Africa.  When these plants are stressed by heat or drought, the virus emerges from dormancy and causes outbreaks that can destroy plantations.  But the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Kenya has now used the CRISPR genome editing method to target and destroy the viral DNA inside the genome of a banana variety called Gonja Manjaya.  The plan is to use these plants to breed virus-free plants for farmers. 


Lightbulb Moment: This is a fabulous use of GM and is the sort of story consumers need to become more familiar with to combat fear laden misinformation on what and how GM can be utilized.

Consumers Seeking Better Living Through Beverages

According to the Hartman Group’s Modern Beverage Culture 2018 report, 65 percent of consumers says that the meaning of health and wellness is “feeling good about myself.” More than four in 10 (44 percent) consumers say that it is important “that my beverages do something for me,” like provide energy, nutrients or other benefits.  Another key benefit of performance that consumers are seeking is energy.  The report found that while 59 percent of consumers say “having enough energy for an active lifestyle” is important to meeting their wellness aspirations and goals, 29 percent of consumers view their energy levels as urgently needing improvement.


Lightbulb Moment: Beverage can be pigeonholed by specific benefits instead of looked at as a more holistic approach to how it affects consumers.  The battle is calories.  But if seen as a snack or meal or snack complement you could have a win-win.  Self-care is not a privilege and is expected now.

US consumers remain wary about eating cannabis-infused foods at restaurants

A new survey of 2,000 US consumers conducted by Culinary Visions explores these consumer preferences and finds that while more consumers would like to enjoy cannabis-infused foods and beverages at home, there is still interest in ordering these items in restaurants.  The survey results reveal that 47% of consumers want cannabis-infused foods and beverages to primarily serve functional purposes; however, 48% of them also expect them to taste good.  In fact, 37% of the consumers surveyed said that they would consider ordering a cannabis-infused menu item at a restaurant.  The research indicated that this emerging product category is more likely to gain acceptance as part of an experiential dining experience in a full-service restaurant (36%) than in quick-service venues (26%). 


Lightbulb Moment: Cannabis has several obstacles it struggles to overcome.  It is a pure drug, not consumed for its flavor and also doesn’t have a flavor that compliments other common flavors.  It is competing with alcohol for its THC effects and competing with big pharma for its CDB effects, yet it has no allies in flavors.  It also has the stigma of being the former bad girl who now has legitimacy from the government but that doesn’t mean consumers will forget her previous taboo nature and invite her in immediately.

Ethos Chocolate: Can consumers accept a ‘pro-GMO’ food brand?

A brand of chocolate inspired by success stories of GM farming is aiming to change perceptions of genetically modified crops.  The organization – a coalition of more than 1,600 farmers – has launched a new campaign that centers around a line of pro GMO chocolates called Ethos.  The nonprofit is giving away 4,000 of the bars in total, with visitors to Ethos’ website being encouraged to mail samples to loved ones in the US.  There are four flavors based on cacao, papaya, orange and apple – all crops that have been made more sustainable or more viable by genetic engineering.  For example, GMOs saved Hawaii’s papaya industry after it was decimated by ring spot virus.  A Fresh Look is encouraging consumers to re-evaluate their perceptions of GM food.  They created a product to illustrate the benefits of a technology that is often misunderstood.


Lightbulb Moment: Consumers need to be educated on GMO instead of being ruled by ignorance and fear.  Past studies have shown that if consumers are anti-GMO and are educated for just 20 minutes on what GMO is and why it is utilized, the majority not only favors GMO, they will also pay more for it.  This effort by Ethos is well timed and strategic.

Lab-grown meat could spur global warming more in the long-term than some types of cattle farming

Lab-grown meat could spur global warming more in the long-term than some types of cattle farming according to a study published by the Oxford Martin School.  The researchers found over a 1,000-year period, production of cultured meat could increase global warming more if the process depended heavily on high-carbon energy.  However, growing meat in urban laboratories could free up land for storing carbon in vegetation or other ways, The Oxford research highlighted a huge difference in the amount of time for which different greenhouse gases influence the climate.  Methane, released from cattle manure and flatulence, is more dangerous in the short-term but fades fast.  Methane has a larger warming impact – however, it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for millennia.  As a result, the researchers found over a 1,000-year period, production of cultured meat could raise global warming more if the process depended heavily on high-carbon energy.


Lightbulb Moment: This is an interesting look into the future but until there is acceptance of lab-grown meat both by government and consumers, 1,000 years is a long way off.  The technology is not there to produce lab-grown meat in any significant amount and consumer taste studies show lab-grown meat is no match for the real thing.  The price, taste, and production methods are barriers.

Food and mood: Study showcases how losing weight could ease symptoms of depression

The study found that nutrient-boosting and fat-reduction diets had a “small but significant” effect on women.  There were no benefits of dietary interventions for depression or anxiety in men, however.  Moreover, when dieting was combined with exercise, a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced.  Researchers suggest highly specific or specialized diets are unnecessary for most people. 


Lightbulb Moment: The researchers emphasize that while diet does indeed affect mood and depression, it is not a panacea.  It is balanced and true to the results.  Beware of so many trendy diets that make claims well beyond their abilities.  Consumers and companies should weigh their over reaching claims against the harm they do to consumers by villainizing foods or food groups. 

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