The number of products launched in the US food and beverage sector fell by 30% last year, research from Mintel has found.

According to the company, the credit crunch discouraged many smaller firms from introducing fresh offerings in 2009, while several sectors were also nearing "saturation point".

One area that did see an increase in activity among brand owners, however, was goods carrying "economy claims", as companies attempted to appeal directly to price-conscious shoppers.

The number of new lines in this area rose by 72% year-on-year, showing how profound the impact of the downturn has been on both manufacturer and consumer thinking.

Mike Duke, the chief executive of Wal-Mart, has argued that rather than moving towards a recovery, a "new normal" is emerging, in which shoppers will spend less on their wants and concentrate more on their needs.

Time will tell, of course, but for the moment the challenge appears to be producing goods that are "must have", rather than "nice to have".