The new research from UK-based Leatherhead Food International found that 97 per cent of products launched between January 2003 and June 2004 could be described as either 'convenience and snacking' foods, products for 'health and wellbeing', or designed for 'pleasure and indulgence'.
But the report is disheartening news for health food makers - of the 4,323 products launched during the period, most (2,945) fitted under the 'pleasure and indulgence' cateogy.
This was however inflated by the inclusion of entire product categories, such as alcoholic beverages and confectionery, under this segment.
Around 1,150 products were classified as 'health and wellbeing' lines, including the new generation of low carb products, such as the low-carb Kit-Kat, and 2,536 products were classified as 'convenience and snacking' lines, with single-serve packs, mini versions of established products, and quick-cook or microwaveable lines all being included under this heading.
Overall, a total of 2,120 products could be categorised under more than one of these headings and a total of 304 had elements of all three.
Some of these included Wrigley's ExtraThin Ice, which offered health through its breath-freshening activity, convenience through its portability and pleasure because of its lifestyle benefit.
The new low-carb Kit-Kat also fits under all three themes as well as the Richmond ice cream Skinny Cow. One of the more traditional foods meeting all three criteria is Kellogg's new Rice Krispies Muddles for children. It is fortified with the prebiotic inulin but also appeals to children through its fun shapes and surprisingly, "tastes quite good", said Susie Johnson, business manager of Leatherhead's Market Intelligence unit.
"Some of the health products being launched now are taking more notice of taste, with companies realizing that consumers are not going to sacrifice the taste," she told NutraIngredients.com.
"But the strong consumer demand for indulgence means that health food makers need to look at other things. People always want more, its not basic shopping any more. More and more people are travelling and they want more from their purchases," she added.
Leatherhead said these three themes have been driving development in the market since the 1980s and there is unlikely to be any change in this situation. However, it is thought that health and wellbeing could increase its importance within the overall picture as the links between health and diet become more widely recognised and understood by consumers.
The report, 'Food & Drink Innovation in the UK', is available from Leatherhead Food International, priced £695 (member rate £625).