The next high value functional opportunity 

The rapid emergence of turmeric as the next big “naturally functional” ingredient is a perfect example of how you don’t need health claims to succeed. It’s also a perfect example of how consumers’ desire for foods and ingredients that are naturally healthy keeps on creating opportunities for new product development.

Today’s health-conscious consumer does their own research and more and more people have been discovering that turmeric has health benefits that are backed by plenty of science – particularly in relation to fighting inflammation (see New Nutrition Business 10 Key Trends, key trend 5).

Bloggers, dietitians, chefs and others are all leading the most health-aware people towards turmeric. And they are also the reason why sometimes Europe’s health claim regulations seem to be terminally irrelevant. Why would you go to the effort of securing an European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-approved health claim for your product if what people really want is something that they learnt about on the internet?

Look east

Turmeric is a natural partner to dairy. In India it’s blended with cows’ milk to make a health-giving beverage called Golden Milk. And if you think that Indian habits are far removed from European ones, think again.

Australia has become a major crucible for turmeric beverage brands, with cafés and entrepreneurs turning the island continent into the West’s most concentrated experiment in the mainstream appeal and staying power of turmeric – and so far the experiment is going well.

For example, in Melbourne the Watts family own a café and they began serving what they called Golden Lattes: a mix of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper. Requests boomed in the café from five per week to about 200 per week in just 18 months.

The Watts family turned a simple idea into a packaged product for foodservice and retail. From early 2016 to late 2016, distribution of Golden Grind grew to more than 400 cafes and retail stores in Australia.

“The reason it is gaining so much popularity and traction is that it’s easy, convenient, social and a tasty way to consume enough turmeric to enjoy those health benefits without having to take a pill or supplement or another multivitamin,” a spokesperson told New Nutrition Business. “It’s a really fun way of getting your turmeric fix.”

If you’re worried that there may not be enough science behind turmeric to justify an new product development effort of your own, think again. Turmeric is one of the most researched spices, with hundreds of human studies, relating to digestive health, inflammation, cancer and others.

And while it’s true that turmeric probably couldn’t secure an EFSA-approved health claim, why would you need one when the most health-aware consumers have already made up their own minds about it? Just add the word “turmeric” in the product name and consumer knowledge will do the rest.

Go urban

As is so often the case with new products with growth potential, the target consumer is the health-conscious, higher income urban consumer. So if you want a turmeric latte to succeed, you should focus your distribution on convenience stores and on-the-go locations of all kinds in a few major cities. This is not a product for mass-market supermarkets in small towns. As with the coffee lattes that have proven so successful for Emmi, it’s a high value, low volume opportunity.

You might want to sit back and wait for a competitor to launch turmeric lattes first and see what happens. If I were you, I wouldn’t. Thanks to the rapid diffusion of ideas through everyone’s phone or other personal device, consumer trends move faster than ten years ago or even five years ago, even in Europe. This looks like one of those cases where if you are not one of the first two brands to market then you are choosing the route of failure.

There’s one more reason to get your skates on, which is that fast-growing non-dairy brands can also compete. Coconut milk lattes already exist in the US.

It takes a certain degree of can-do attitude and some courage to connect to emerging trends. For the turmeric and inflammation trend, nowhere is that more in evidence than Australia. The question is, do Europeans have the same commercial courage and can-do attitude?


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