Data released by Mintel confirms that, indeed, consumers of food and beverages saw fewer new product launches during the recession-plagued 2009 calendar year. According to a recent Mintel review of its Global New Product Database (GNPD), the number of food and drink product launches declined nearly 30 percent from 2008 numbers.

“In the last decade, Mintel GNPD has only tracked occasional, small declines in new product introductions for the U.S. market — never a decline as strong as this,” said Lynn Dornblaser, leading new product expert at Mintel, in a company release. “We see that a number of small companies, which typically introduce a wide range of products, have been stopping or slowing their introductions due to the economy. Additionally, some categories have simply become so over-saturated that there is little room for new products.”

Despite this declining trend, there are some categories and claims that found a hidden niche in which to excel. Ethical and environmental claims increased from 9 percent of all product launches in 2008 to 17 percent in 2009. Specifically in this category, the environmentally friendly packaging claim nearly tripled, growing from 3 percent of all products launched in 2008 to 9 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, in clear correlation with the recession, products boasting an economy claim have increased by 72 percent from 2008 to 2009*.

In addition, the side dishes category was one of the few in the food and drink sector that saw an increase in 2009, with 16 percent more launches than in 2008*. This increase is most likely due to more people eating in and the introduction of products that offer convenient solutions, such as vegetable steam bags.

Still, most categories saw decreases due to the down economy, notes Dornblaser: “Natural and organic products, which saw large increases in 2008, took a few steps back in 2009 due to their higher price points.”

Food and drink introductions with an all-natural claim decreased from 15 percent of all launches in 2008 to 13 percent in 2009.

*These numbers are based on a percentage difference from 2008 to 2009, not based on a percentage of total launches.

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