The food industry is one industry that is constantly changing. Economic downturns, the changing demographics, conscious consumerism, and many other factors impact the food industry differently.
Indeed, chasing every consumer’s fad is not sustainable. And not all trends stay around for long. Some food trends have come and gone; others have lived to become mainstream. Not one food trend fits neatly into a single calendar year or years, and there isn’t any guarantee of how long a new food trend will stick around. But events of previous years tend to add a degree of predictability that we believe will shape consumption patterns for a good number of years.
With so much happening so quickly, it is more than essential for food companies to stay updated. Otherwise, planning becomes tough. While some trends may not seem so new, they have continued to develop and evolve from the previous years and will continue to influence the food industry greatly. To run a successful food business, you must continuously innovate and create new products, come up with new recipes to cater to the consumers’ demands and their changing dietary and lifestyle preferences.
Enjoy the read as you discover the trends that will enable you to set yourself up for food business success!
A hugely growing percentage of the population is actively choosing to eat less meat, dairy, and poultry products. More consumers are looking for vegan, vegetarian, and cruelty-free options. Generation Z’s propensity to eat and live clean continues to grow. A new category of people called flexitarians has emerged. These are people who choose particular days or meals to avoid eating meat. Statistics state that almost 1 out of 5 consumers in North America consider themselves ‘plant-forward’ meaning, they are not vegan or vegetarian, yet about 70% of them prefer to have plant-based meals.
Last year, we saw a rapid growth in the demand for plant-based burgers in the US. Even though the plant-based burgers were kind of the first plant-based meat alternatives to gain popularity in the US, more meat alternatives are becoming popular, and demand for plant-based alternatives for the likes of chicken and fish are on the rise. Plant-based dairy products are also gaining popularity very fast. These dairy and meat alternatives are being created using protein sources like soy, peas, cashews, mung beans, almonds, oats, and many others.
As more food companies get more capital and plant-based products on shelves and menus, we believe that consumers will gain more exposure to this category. Consumers will continue to look for different meat alternatives to fill their plates, and plant-based proteins will continue to be the future of meat. Oat and nut-based milk will continue to reign the yogurts, beverage, and frozen dessert sector.
The technology behind plant-based flavors is improving rapidly. The plant-based innovation in the food and beverage industry continues to flourish due to consumers’ interest in health, sustainability, and ethics which ties into broader consumer lifestyle trends towards cleaner living. We expect this revolution to continue growing.
Consumers are no longer oblivious to the fact that their food choices and consumption behaviors impact the environment in one way or another. As the topic of climate change continues to make headlines, consumers are increasingly aware of how their personal choices impact the environment. Consumers want to help the planet more than ever. Zero waste initiatives are gaining more popularity.
Consumers continue to demand eco-friendly, better, and sustainable methods of production and packaging by manufacturers. Consumers are adding environmental impact as a key consideration for every lifestyle and purchase decision that they make.
Food and beverage packaging makes up much of the plastic waste that ends up in our landfills and oceans. Policies have been set and more are being established to reduce negative environmental impacts that arise from the food industry. Many food businesses have banned disposable straws, plastic water bottles, and single-use coffee cups. Single-serve plastic packaging is at risk as the industry evolves from a linear approach of create-use-recycle to create-use-reuse-sustain. Some companies have even come up with edible packaging in the search for sustainable forms of packaging.
Food businesses are developing new ways of processing and distributing food leftovers. Upcycled products are becoming more prevalent. Practices that help sustain biodiversity and health of the land are coming more into focus for consumers. After all, what is eating clean if it is not healthy for the environment?
Everyone across the food production chain needs to be mindful of the environment. The food and beverage companies should replace single-use cups with compostable or eco-friendly packaging materials. For brands to win in the food space, they have to adapt to the shifting consumer lifestyles and preferences that require responsible food production and packaging processes!
Technology has made so many things readily available and accessible. The food industry has not been left behind in the journey to embrace technology. That is why we see a significant rise in online shopping for food products. With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to lockdown and movement restriction measures being put in place in most countries, the food industry has seen a significant increase in online purchases for groceries and other food products.
Many food companies have been forced to develop e-commerce strategies. If you are hoping to grow your food business, you cannot ignore the e-commerce market. Businesses are now integrating technology to automate their operations and deliver personalized solutions to their customers. The shifting trend towards online food shopping offers a unique opportunity to create excellent customer experience by optimizing packaging, facilitating easy and fast deliveries, improving consumer’s unboxing experience, and facilitating smooth and efficient returns.
Dining out, followed by a movie night out used to be aspirational. Nowadays, we are doing the same thing. Dinners are being delivered from restaurants to our homes by food delivery services like UberEats and Just Eat, with the movie playing in the living room courtesy of streaming services like Netflix. Even those who want to cook at home can now have all that they need to prepare their meals, delivered to their doorsteps.
Delivery services like Instacart and Shipt have become more popular, and we believe that more food delivery services will emerge as online sales are expected to increase by 80% in the next five years.
Even as more foodservice locations continue to launch, home deliveries are booming! Therefore, food businesses must find a way to incorporate e-commerce in their operations in order to capture the enormous online market.
Consumers are demanding food products with fewer and familiar ingredients. Consumers want safe, ethically produced, and high quality products. That is why more consumers appreciate brands that are very transparent about the contents of their products. People are returning to times when we knew what was in our food and where it came from.
Health and wellness continue to remain a massive determinant of what ends up on our plates. After all, health is wealth! In the previous decades, consumers picked their food products based on characteristics such as; how it tasted, how it looked, or how it smelled. People have now woken up to their food ingredients and are increasingly basing their food choices on the role the food plays in decreasing diseases and promoting good health.
Functional foods are increasingly on trend for consumers. Consumers want to reclaim control of their health and therefore want to know what they are consuming. Clean labels on commodities are a trend that dominated the food landscape in the previous years, and consumers will continue to demand food businesses to put clean labels on their products. The time for more story-telling by brands is now! Food businesses have got to try harder to demonstrate their health and wellness credentials. There has never been a better time to win with words like now.
Simplicity seems to be winning more customers now. Choice fatigue and consumer confusion have proven to be significant roadblocks to purchase, and brands are now focusing more on placing very clean and simple labels with recognizable ingredients on their products. This has proven to drive brand importance among consumers.
Consumers disregard big brands that do not consider the health and wellness of their consumers as a matter of great importance. They are acknowledging that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Consumers now prefer local brands that are capable of offering them something new and of nutritional value. Physical, mental, and emotional well-being is at the forefront of consumers’ concerns. Consumers continue to reject products with too many additives and, instead, embrace the local natural ingredients. Since sugar has been declared a public enemy, we have seen people start liking things that are less sweet; for example, drinking kombucha instead of regular soda. Fermented foods with gut-healthy probiotics are also continuing to grow in popularity.
As consumers continue to demand healthier and cleaner products with clear and recognizable ingredients, food companies are forced to adapt to this trend and meet the demands in order to stay in business. We believe that this trend will continue to impact and shape the food industry in the coming years.
Back in 2017, the phrase, “the phone eats first” was coined. This phrase has since gained popularity and shows no signs of fading away. Millions of people around the world take pictures of their foods and drinks to share online. Social media is the major contributor to this trend, and we believe that as long as social media is around, this trend will stick around. As people share their travel and dining experiences with family and friends, they increase interest in new dishes. Colorful and interesting new foods and drinks catch on quickly and can generate buzz overnight. A few years ago, few consumers had heard of chia seeds, sea vegetables, and aquafaba. Now they are gaining popularity among consumers very fast.
As the world continues to become more connected through social media, various ethnic and cultural foods and flavors are gaining appeal. Seeing food can shift one’s moods in multiple directions. The multisensory impact of food, including appealing colors and creative plating, ranks nearly as high as taste. Brands that can set up a plate of food that is worthy of being posted on a consumer’s social media page have an edge in the food business. The only challenge for the food operators is making sure that no artificial colors or additives are used to achieve a dish’s visual appeal; as that will be against the efforts towards healthy eating by consumers.
The growing need to take pictures of our foods before eating, with the intention to share them online for our friends and family to see, spells a great opportunity for brands to provide consumers with share-worthy experiences. Food is no longer just food, but a whole experience. Brands wanting to impress this lot and capture this big market are pulling out all stops with their unique product innovations and packaging/presentation methods to provide their customers with show-stopping dining experiences.
Food companies will have to continue coming up with more creative and appealing products in order to sustain the demands of this growing market.
As consumers continue to seek more healthy lifestyles, a move towards less or no alcohol consumption becomes a natural progression for them. Part of eating and keeping healthy means scrapping alcohol-fueled party nights. A new culture of drinking less alcohol or not drinking at all is being seen among young people. New cultural views towards not drinking are being developed. In fact, studies show that more young people are living alcohol-free lives.
The food and beverage businesses have decided to hop onto this trend by offering healthy beverages; low or no alcohol drinks. This is evidenced by the steady rise in no or low alcohol options like non-alcoholic beers, hops-infused sparkling water, and recreation of non-alcoholic classic cocktail flavors.
As the big beer brands have witnessed a shift to the smaller brands, acquisition of those smaller breweries have become more common as the big brands try to find ways to adapt and tap into the market of non-alcoholic drinks. Bars have also had to adapt to this trend so that they are not left behind. You can now walk into a bar and grab a few non-alcoholic drinks. How amazing?
As times keep changing and consumer behaviors and preferences continue to evolve, we expect new trends to emerge and the existing ones to continue impacting the food business landscape. The food and beverage industry is one that is in a constant state of flux and we expect it to remain so.
It is, therefore, important for the food companies to stay up to speed with whatever is happening in the industry and find a way of adapting and positioning themselves to meet the developing and ever-changing demands of the industry, and consequently achieve success!
Published by Healthy Food & Beverage Group Contributor Calvin Wasambla