The world’s food and drinks industry is an ever-evolving, dynamic and competitive landscape, and our clients have always changed with the times; keeping pace with new developments, creativity and innovation. One thing hasn’t changed though: they, and we, are always looking at what’s around the corner. We continuously ask ourselves: How will consumption habits and preferences change in the future? How will those trends shape product development? And how can we best connect and communicate with ever-expanding, increasingly complex audiences?
With consumers demanding more than ever, offering foods and drinks that stand out from the crowd and tap into their ambitions – or help alleviate their concerns – is becoming more of a prerequisite than a “nice to have”. Here’s a summary of the hottest trends for 2017 in the food and drinks industry:
- Reformulation prevails
Reformulation has already become a constant for many established brands and will continue in 2017. This will be driven by:
- Ongoing reduction of salt and saturated fat in, for example, sauces, bakery and dairy
- The sugar backlash, which will impact sectors outside the soft drinks arena and many countries beyond the UK. According to Mintel, 37% of UK consumers say they will switch to low / no-sugar options when the sugar tax comes into force
- The natural trend: formulating out artificial colours, flavours and preservatives
- Legislation: expect EFSA, the FDA and other authorities to extend action on specific ingredients and categories
- Cost concerns: inflation, discount retailers and thriving competition mean manufacturers’ margins will remain tight and savings need to be found elsewhere.
- Meat under pressure
Although a core part of the human diet for thousands of years, red meat consumption will fall in mature markets, primarily in light of health concerns. Other highlights include:
- The US, China, Brazil and Europe will remain the world’s biggest meat eating nations
- We’re still to see the full impact of the WHO’s 2015 report into the link between processed meat consumption and cancer
- This category’s biggest challenge for now is cleaning up labels while ensuring adequate shelf life
- In developing markets, per capita meat consumption will continue its growth.
- The power of plants
In line with the natural and sustainable trends that will dominate in 2017, we expect an even greater focus on plant-sourced food and drink ingredients. Plants can be healthy and appealing sources of nutrients and characteristics that we want in our food today, such as:
- Protein, which can be obtained from algae
- Colour, from vibrant vegetables like red beet
- Acidity, from crop ferments
- Sweetness, thanks to stevia or fruit concentrates
- Cosmetic benefits like those offered by botanicals
- Also, veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism are all still on the rise
- Plant-sourced ingredients will increasingly replace artificial additives, animal-derived ingredients, allergens and unhealthier options like fat and sugar.
- Expansion of the sugar war
Where soft drinks started, other sectors will follow:
- Already some chocolatiers and confectioners are cutting sugar levels in their products
- Dairy foods, especially those aimed at children, will come under the spotlight too
- As will breakfast cereals
- With sugar reduction affecting both taste and texture, creative solutions are needed, especially in developed markets where natural alternatives are the preference
- New packaging solutions to attract audiences.
The free-from market began with the need of some consumers to avoid certain allergens. This is still a major driver, with allergies being diagnosed in more and more people each year.
- But free-from now has a more ethical dimension too and is gaining popularity among the “worried well”
- Double-digit growth is being forecast in large markets, helped by major improvements in quality, taste and choice
- Opportunities are even bigger where manufacturers tap into other trends like the power of plants, experimentation with foreign cuisine and health & wellness.
Other trends to keep an eye out for include the growth of organic options, scrutiny of labels, and beauty food, to name but a few. If you’d like to know how we can help your business make the most of these opportunities, please get in touch.