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Functional foods are firmly entrenched in today’s food and beverage landscape. What can one of the functional food trends that emerged at the beginning of the pandemic teach us about the state of the category? Let’s take a look at turmeric, and how it’s reception and use among consumers can elevate your product strategy.
For the uninitiated, it’s time to catch up: functional foods are ingredients that offer benefits beyond taste or alleviating hunger. Some ingredients with functional benefits have found cult followings among mainstream consumers - think kombucha for gut comfort - while others are emerging trends. What can one of the functional food trends that emerged at the beginning of the pandemic teach us about the state of the category? And most importantly, how can food brands tap into the data behind the trend to inform new product development, or existing product positioning? Let’s take a look at turmeric, and how it’s reception and use among consumers can elevate your product strategy. Throughout this analysis, we will use the Tastewise Insights platform to uncover the motivations behind the trend.
Turmeric is a plant endemic to Southeast Asia and related to the ginger family; it’s roots are dried and powdered into a bright orange spice that is historically used in a number of Eastern cuisines. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, the spice has emerged in recent years among mainstream American audiences for its health benefits. Over the course of the past year, social media influencers have led interest in the spice, followed closely by chefs. In January, 2020, influencers and chefs experienced an (relatively) slight increase in interest in the spice likely due to cyclical trend at the start of every year around health foods (New Year’s resolutions are for everyone!); however, interest in turmeric really skyrocketed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From February to April 2020, chef and influencer interest in turmeric jumped +63%; mainstream consumers followed suit only in April 2020, growing +65% in interest from the previous month.
Looking at the primary mainstream motivations behind turmeric consumption, we see that a full third of all discussions of turmeric focus on its health qualities. With this understanding in our tool belt, let’s take a look at the relationship between turmeric and immunity, one of the fastest rising motivations in the pandemic era (fun fact: in March 2020, people turned to food and beverage to boost immunity a full 501% more than in February; today, that interest has stabilized at a rate 109% higher than this time last year).
People associated turmeric with immunity from the very start of the pandemic; from February to March 2020, interest in turmeric for immunity increased a whopping +611%. Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the trend originated within and was driven by nutritionists; the audience group had its finger on immunity through turmeric for months prior to the pandemic, particularly in the winter months, and inspired rising interest among other audiences. Chefs, a major player in the turmeric trend generally, turned to turmeric for immunity already in January with interest peaking in February; general consumers followed only in March.
Now that we understand that turmeric for immunity has found fans across audience groups - some more than others! - how can we best understand how people are consuming turmeric for functional benefit?
By comparing social media discussions, we see that consumers talk about turmeric for immunity in the home space more than in the restaurant space; while this mad sense at the height of the pandemic when restaurants were closed, it is significant that the trend has continued in its original proportions. Menus appear broadly not to mention turmeric’s immunity benefits, which may contribute to the trend being firmly established in the home.
Given consumer interest at home in turmeric, how are people actually getting turmeric to their immune systems? Drum roll please… through beverages! Interest in immunity-boosting turmeric within beverages far outpaces that within dishes; today, interest in immunity-focused turmeric beverages is +92% higher than a year ago.
If we take a look at how people are making immunity-boosting turmeric beverages at home, we see a valuable white space: demand for beverage recipes (think smoothies, lattes, and more) that feature turmeric for immunity are higher than current available offerings.
By examining the data on how, where, and why people consume turmeric for immunity reasons, we were able to identify an area where the market is lacking. What does this mean for you?
Consider the following: