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Food for thought: hot topics in 2017

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Free-from

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.

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