EXPORTERS in the agriculture and food processing business should take note of opportunities arising from six major trends set to impact the global food and drink market in 2017, ranging from traditional products like ancient grains to plant-based foods enhanced by technology, according to a new report.
The “2017 Global Food & Drink Trends” released on November 11 by market research service provider Mintel predicts that in the coming year, consumers will increasingly look for products that are healthy, convenient, and trustworthy. They will also search for food and drink that are recognizable, save time, and contain beneficial fruits and vegetables.
In addition, there are new opportunities for functional food and drink designed for evening consumption, progressive solutions for food waste, and affordable healthy food for low-income consumers.
Mintel identified the first emerging trend as the continued trust in the traditional and the familiar. Consumers “seek the safety of products that are recognizable rather than revolutionary,” even as they are willing to try “modernized updates of age-old formulations, flavors and formats.”
Manufacturers are thus encouraged to look to the past for inspiration, as ancient grains, as well as ancient recipes, practices, and traditions are forecast to continue to be popular.
At the same time, “potential also exists for innovations that use the familiar as a base for something that’s new, but recognizable, such as cold brew coffee,” the report said.
In 2017, the food and drink industry will also see the growing use of plants as key ingredients, said the report. The growing preference for natural, simple, and flexible diets is seen to drive the further expansion of vegetarian, vegan, and other plant-focused formulations.
Consumers’ strong health and wellness priorities will spur the introduction of more packaged products and recipes for home cooking that abound in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, botanicals and other plants associated with good health, said Mintel.
Technology will play a part in this movement, as can be seen in the use of artificial intelligence to develop plant-based alternatives to animal products, including milk, mayonnaise, yogurt and cheese.
The third trend is the global focus on minimizing food waste to align with efforts on sustainability, which is changing consumer perceptions.
“In 2017, the stigma associated with imperfect produce will begin to fade, more products will make use of ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, such as fruit snacks made from ‘ugly’ fruit and mayonnaise made from the liquid from packaged chickpeas, and food waste will be repurposed in new ways, such as power sources,” the report said.
Also a significant trend among consumers in the new year is to consider the “time investment” required in cooking or preparing meals.
“Time is an increasingly precious resource and our multitasking lifestyles are propelling a need for shortcut solutions that are still fresh, nutritious, and customizable and already we have seen so-called ‘biohacking’ food and drink that offers complete nutrition in convenient formats,” the report added.
In 2017, the time spent on — or saved by — a food or drink product will become a clear selling point, inspiring more products to directly communicate how long they will take to receive, prepare, or consume.
The study also finds new opportunities for functional food and drink designed for evening consumption as people try to calm down before bedtime, sleep better, and restore their body.
Products like tea can be enhanced with chamomile, lavender, and other herbs as a way to achieve a sense of calm before bedtime. Chocolate, on the other hand, can be positioned as a way to wind down after a stressful day.
Looking ahead, the study forecasts greater potential for more evening-focused innovations formulated for relaxation and satiety. And taking a cue from the beauty industry, food and drink for the evening can be infused with functional benefits while the consumer sleeps.
Finally, healthy food that is affordable to low-income consumers is enjoying a surge in market demand.
“Many lower-income consumers want to improve their diets, but the access to-and the cost of-healthy food and drink is often an impediment,” explained the report.
This will fuel campaigns and innovations to make it easier for lower-income consumers to fulfill their healthy ambitions, including apps to help people make use of ingredients that are on sale, including “ugly” vegetables.
“Opportunities abound for companies around the world to capitalize on these trends, helping them develop in new regions and more categories throughout the course of the next year and into the future,” Mintel said.