Nowadays, it feels like inflation is a topic that no one, businesses and consumers alike, can escape.
Further complicating the issue is that the current landscape hasn’t aligned with conventional wisdom or played out like similar situations from the past.
“The problem is people are almost afraid to make any predictions or say how they feel about the direction things are going,” says Brenda Dehart, Edlong CFO & Integrator, “We’ve had several years of positive outlooks that haven’t come to fruition, and it’s setting everyone on the back of their heels.”
This has led to conflicting perspectives on how to interpret the numbers and what they actually mean for the current state of the economy.
Still, the positive trend in these numbers isn’t reflecting the day-to-day reality for many consumers.
As of April, consumers perceived the rate of inflation for food consumed at home to be 22.6%. This is alarming when compared to an estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in April that found it was really closer to 7.1%.
This perception is most likely a reflection of how the compounding of past and present inflation is impacting consumer budgets in the here and now. In fact, an analysis of the data suggests that consumers are still paying almost 40% more for a number of common grocery items compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Businesses are acutely aware of the situation because they, too, aren’t immune to these economic-inflation pressures.
However, many of their responses have left consumers more than wanting.
According to a survey conducted by Barclays in the UK, 84% of shoppers have noticed “shrinkflation” in many products. Perhaps more damning is that 52% reported seeing a decrease in the quality of ingredients in their favorite products. This “skimpflation” is made worse by the fact that the cost of these products has stayed the same or, in some cases, increased.
“This is something consumers likely won’t tolerate,” explains Dr. Bernd Koehler, Edlong’s Global VP of R&D. As Dr. Koehler outlined in an earlier article on “Value-Driven Product Development”, consumers want that the products they are buying to deliver on their expectations. “If the quality degrades, you could be in trouble. They’ll see how they are no longer satisfied with what they are getting from your product, and if you lose them now you might not ever get them back.”
He adds that in a time of weakening brand loyalty due to the inflation pressures, it’s critical that companies play into their products’ strengths, “You need to achieve the quality that is expected of you despite the cost pressures. Distinction is the key word. Don’t lose your competitive advantage, your brand identity, and what makes you unique.”
That could seem easier said than done in these uncertain and unprecedented times. However, Dehart stresses that even in our current inflationary environment, this is absolutely still possible, “Today’s consumers are looking for authenticity. In other words, they have expectations. Flavors can help ensure that you are meeting them.”
She adds that in a market where commodities can be highly volatile, flavors can help you stabilize your costs and standardize taste expectations no matter what comes next.
She emphasizes how, with the right R&D team and resources, there are even more ways that you can further optimize your costs while also maintaining the consistent quality and taste your consumers have come to expect.
From an R&D perspective, Dr. Koehler believes that this starts by understanding what drives your consumer to buy your product in the first place.
“Product development is really about synthesizing consumer insights into product solutions. Once you understand those drivers of liking, you can never compromise on them. Let’s say crispiness is a key driver. Now that we know your consumers’ non-negotiables, we, as R&D experts, can help you optimize the remaining non-critical attributes and drive costs out of the product.”
For Edlong, being experts in flavor might start with authentic dairy profiles, but it means so much more for developers who choose to partner with us.
“It goes beyond just selling a flavor. It’s a holistic view of customer’s pain points and how we can help find a sustainable solution,” says Dr. Koehler. “Flavor might be our starting point, but it isn’t the end of our process. It could come from helping customers find ways to optimize their product design, manufacturing processes, or supply chain. Maybe it’s looking for ways to combine or use less flavor yet still deliver a positive experience at the end.”
Collaborating with Edlong allows you to develop food products that continue to provide for both the functional and emotional needs of your consumers. Showing a dedication to affordability without sacrificing quality or taste is the respect consumers deserve and something they won’t forget.
About the Authors:
Brenda Dehart, Chief Financial Officer & Integrator at Edlong Flavor Solutions
Hi, I’m Brenda Dehart! I’m the Chief Financial Officer & Integrator at Edlong. With over 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, I help businesses grow, optimize, and find beneficial financial solutions. My extensive acquisition background alongside my managerial experience and understanding of food science has allowed me to support customers as they seek to stabilize and grow their businesses.
Your business’s next era of excellence is on the horizon. I’d love to help make it as successful as possible!
Dr. Bernd Koehler, Global VP of R&D
Bernd has more than 20 years of international leadership experience in the food and analytical services industries, including Mars-Wrigley and McCain Foods. He is known for his ability to align technical capabilities with business needs using scientific methods, data, and creativity. He also has a passion for blending people and technical expertise to fuel growth and profitability. Bernd received his Dr. rer. nat. degree in Food Chemistry from the Bavarian Julius-Maximilians-University in Wuerzburg, Germany.