By Kavita Sabharwal
Consumers are always changing, and so are their food and drink preferences. What they want and what is important to them continues to evolve, and the industry is keeping pace with those needs.
In recent years, health trends such as superfoods, pulses and smoothies have taken the world by storm, putting an emphasis on healthy foods that taste as good as they make you feel. At the same time, comfort foods are more popular than ever, as restaurants continue to serve different versions of fried chicken and waffles or macaroni and cheese. So why the contradiction? Because consumers want options.
Mintel recently released its Global Food & Drink Trends for 2017, which identified six trends that will impact the food production industry this year. Predictions include a focus on tradition and the importance of timing. Let’s take a deeper look.
Traditions remain important
Last year was a whirlwind of activity and news: some good, some bad. With major adjustments on the horizon, consumers are looking for comfort and familiarity in a changing world.
Products that are recognizable are seen as being safe, compared to products that are revolutionary, says Mintel. Consumers’ need for comfort and familiarity is why some manufacturers are looking to past successful products and presenting them in updated packaging to allow consumers to feel current and comforted at the same time. Think: a favourite childhood snack food in modern packaging that helps reduce waste.
Another way the trend of tradition is gaining speed is through ethnic households that prepare cultural foods based on family recipes. Mintel reports consumers are not necessary eating foods from their own culture, but are also looking to other cultures’ traditional foods in the form of a pre-packaged meal from the grocery store. Mintel found that 39 per cent of Canadian adults perceive fusion dishes as authentic and a good jumping-off point to expand on familiar recipes.
Authenticity is also prized, as claims such as craft, artisan and handmade foods help promote a product’s trustworthiness, according to the report.
Plant-based foods are formulated using healthy ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, grains and botanicals. Many consumers enjoy the feeling of health and wellness that comes by choosing vegetarian or vegan options as an occasional drink, snack or meal, which is known as being a “flexitarian.” Consumers are choosing to make small changes in this way rather than completely overhauling their everyday diet.
According to Mintel research, foods with vegetarian claims have risen 25 per cent over a five-year period, while vegan claims have skyrocketed a whopping 257 per cent.
In the future, vegetarian claims are set to make their way into the packaged food aisles of the grocery store, says Mintel’s trend report. It finds that 26 per cent of Canadian adults are especially interested in formulations that add the nutrition of vegetables to noodles, making the carb a healthier option.
Eliminating food waste
Sustainability and eliminating food waste is becoming a major issue, as approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted around the world per year.
Thanks to marketing efforts by retail, restaurant and philanthropic organizations, consumers are trying to avoid wasting food by selecting so-called “ugly” produce, which is just irregularly-shaped or bruised fruits or vegetables that still contain the same, if not more, nutritional value than the standard produce found in grocery stores.
According to Mintel, about 51 per cent of U.S. consumers that purchase vegetables are open to buying imperfect produce. A study recently found that bruised and blemished apples were higher in antioxidants than standard apples. The number of consumers willing to buy imperfect produce may only increase with more data supporting this suggestion.
On the other hand, consumers are also susceptible to “deals,” buying too much food and letting it spoil. Approximately 53 per cent of U.S. consumers who purchase vegetables allow the produce to go bad before they are able to eat it.
There has been a slew of new products that promote speed and convenience by using the word “fast” on the packaging, as occurrences of the word have gone up 54 per cent over the past five years. In fact, 30 per cent of Canadian adults that eat breakfast prefer foods that require little to no preparation. However, the use of the word “slow,” which implies careful preparation or something has been home cooked, has increased by 214 per cent.
Another fast trend is “biohacking” foods and drinks, which provides all the nutrients needed in a meal in one quick, easy-to-carry and consume product, such as a shake or protein bar. Products that promote these claims are on the rise. Although most consumers are unwilling to rely entirely on these foods for their complete nutritional needs, many are fine with replacing the occasional meal or snack with them.
With stress plaguing consumers during the day thanks to longer work days and the inability to disconnect from technology, opportunities exist for food and beverage products that help consumers relax at nighttime. In fact, Mintel finds that 88 per cent of Canadians believe relaxation is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Chamomile tea is common before bed to relax, as are the soothing scents of lavender and other herbs. These ingredients can be leveraged in other products to help promote a sense of relaxation and wellbeing in consumers before they go to bed.
There is also a new push for food and drinks that provide benefits while a consumer is sleeping, such as aiding with digestion or helping the consumer fall asleep.
More often than not, healthy foods are priced at a premium, making it harder for lower-income households to purchase and consume food that is healthy (or that feature claims such as natural, organic or free from certain ingredients).
According to World Bank data, 638.3 million people around the world were considered low-income as of 2015. In addition, many lower-income people are at risk for food-related health issues such as diabetes or obesity, since more often than not, the lower priced foods that are available tend to be convenience foods that are loaded with unhealthy ingredients.
Recently, there has been a push to launch healthier foods at a lower price point because lower-income households require more access to affordable healthy foods. Solutions are needed for people that can’t afford to pay premium prices for healthy food that should be available to everyone.
For more information, please visit www.mintel.com.
Kavita Sabharwal is the online editor of RestoBiz.ca.