Once again, it is the task of this New Products Annual to ferret out what’s hot, what’s not, and what types of products may succeed in the near future.

The article, “Nutritional Product Opportunities,” notes a surprising trend in how marketers are linking their products to cancer prevention and research. Although FDA has allowed cancer risk-reduction health claims to be associated with foods for some time, the industry’s use of them has increased sharply in the last few years. Proteins, omega-3s and antioxidant-touting products also remain “good sellers.”

In the article, “Economics and Flavors Define Salad Dressing and Sauce Trends,” it is noted Asian flavors, such as sesame, and fruit flavors, like raspberry, gained ground this year. Interest in antioxidants drives opportunities through use of Superfruits and spices, and herbs, such as oregano, cinnamon, yellow curry and red peppers.

In-store bakery sales of bakery breakfast foods have done well, according to the “Baked Foods Thrive” article, which notes this is due largely to more breakfasts being consumed at home due to the recession. Sales benefited from the whole-grain trend, although the writer predicts consumers seeking lower priced products will soften that market a bit.

One author notes, in “Ready to Eat Cereals and Health Bars,” that health claims in granola bars saw a sales surge, suggesting an interest in more general bar offerings, rather than those positioned for specific health-related reasons. Also, bars offer a perfect delivery system for nutrients and functional ingredients, leading to an increased emphasis on ingredients over functional claims.

William Roberts, Prepared Foods’ business editor, says there are more products touting “natural” or “from a natural source” sweeteners. Additionally, the low-sodium claims firmly entrenched themselves in 2009, and those initiatives will continue. One big surprise was the drop in new product launches. “Compare the number of introductions that Mintel GNPD recorded in 2007 vs. 2009: dairy down more than 40%; meals down nearly 35%; and beverage launches dipped over 35% since 2008.”

In the soup and side dish categories, it was noted comfort foods have benefited from the recessionary mindset. Strong growth was particularly evident with rice, macaroni and cheese and baked bean products. As for salty snacks, the big trends include natural and organic, lowered sodium, whole-grain and baked/no-fat snacks. Hot and spicy flavors are growing in the potato chip, tortilla chip, snack mix and nut segments. pf