by Nourish President Jo-Ann McArthur
In days passed, that exciting new kitchen gadget you brought home stood a solid chance of ending up forgotten in the back of a cupboard because of a lack of support from food companies. Today, we’re seeing instructions for Instant Pots and air fryers appearing on packaging as producers play catch-up with consumer trends. And tomorrow? That depends on whether you’re looking in the right place to see which direction food innovation is heading — and where it’s coming from.
In our 2023 Nourish Trend Report, we wrote about how social media was redefining the food innovation path. Innovation in the food ecosystem had traditionally started in fine dining, made its way down to QSRs and, finally, onto retail shelves. TikTok had recently changed that path with the Dalgona whipped coffee trend started by a TikToker in South Korea. It moved from there to retail, with Starbucks promoting it using its VIA® Instant and Canada’s largest grocer selling a President’s Choice Dalgona Coffee Cake.
Just last week, we saw another innovation path emerge with the launch of Campbell Snacks’ Kettle Brand’s first-to-market Air Fried chips. The bag states, “We batch cook them in kettles, then air fry them for a light & crispy crunch with 100% bold kettle brand flavor,” using patent-pending tech. Air frying (air fryering?) comes to the commercial snacking sector after massive consumer gadget adoption, with 47% of US consumers now having one in their kitchens (Source: Hartman 2023). Popular since its introduction in 2010, the air fryer has seen an enormous surge of 3,000% (that’s not a typo!) over the past year thanks to rising energy costs and TikTok evangelists spreading the word.
Just as the popularity of the Instant Pot pressure cooker finally inspired Instant Pot-friendly meal kits, will we start to see meals ready-prepped for home air fryers? Both of these recently-launched kitchen appliances aid consumers in getting a simple, healthy meal on the table. In addition, we’ve seen the rise of blenders and smoothies launch the frozen puck category (that’s a good Canadian term) for simple one-step smoothie making.
Kitchen tech has stepped into the spotlight
If you need further evidence that the future of food is techy, look no further than this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The 2023 edition saw “Food Technology” make its debut as a category, alongside stalwart “Gaming & Esports,” suddenly topical “Artificial Intelligence,” “Crypto & NFTs,” and more. Be sure to add CES and similar shows to your source list for future food innovation ideas!
When I was a young marketer with Procter & Gamble, we conducted “Sights & Sounds” research, spending time in consumers’ homes to see how they actually did things and used products. Those insights advised our advertising, as well as our product development. When was the last time you observed a consumer in their kitchen? And your own family doesn’t count!
What inspiration can you take from recent kitchen tech products and the way people use them? Can you tailor your existing product, or develop a new one, to work with the most popular gadgets and trends to enhance convenience or remove barriers to healthy eating at home? Helping people eat better and saving their new purchases from relegation from the counter to the cupboard could win you grateful customers.