Recession Slows Tide of New Products to Marketplace

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Recession Slows Tide of New Products to Marketplace

Fewer new products are showing up on supermarket shelves this year as companies cope with the changing economy. New data from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows total food and drink product launches have been cut in half since last year (a 51 percent decline from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009).

Compounding the annual decline is the fact that new product introductions dropped sharply from the last quarter of 2008, by 32 percent. Manufacturers typically release fewer new products during the first quarter of a year, but 2009’s reduction is higher than in recent years, reports Chicago-based Mintel.

"Faced with low consumer confidence and reduced spending, many food and beverage manufacturers cut back on product development and new product launches," said Lynn Dornblaser, leading new product expert at Mintel. "Many companies face internal budget cuts that affect everything from new product ideation to development and marketing."

In certain categories, manufacturers have pinched new product launches even more tightly. Compared to the first quarter of 2008, Mintel GNPD saw higher-than-average declines for nonalcoholic beverages, chocolate, sugar and gum confectionery, and dairy product launches (56 percent, 55 percent, 64 percent and 60 percent, respectively). It should be noted, however, that confectionery launches could show a greater-than-average decrease due to Easter 2009 falling in the second quarter.

Still, Dornblaser believes lower new product launch numbers won’t last. Pointing to monthly data from Mintel GNPD, she notes that while food and drink introductions declined steadily from October 2008 to February 2009, they increased in March. “Consumer confidence has leveled off for the time being, which marks an opportunity for manufacturers,” she observed. “Now is the time for ideation and innovation for products that answer shoppers’ desires for value, quality and pleasure.”

Dornblaser adds that Mintel has tracked new products through three major recessions, consistently observing that new product launches decline somewhat in the beginning of a recession, then quickly increase once the economy begins to recover.