The food industry has been changing dramatically over more than a century. However, the past few decades have seen dynamically evolving trends in food and beverage production, processing, retail, and consumption. As the New Year has taken off very well, we believe this is the right time to throw a light on the top trends that are likely to shape the food and beverages industry in 2017.

While consumers are increasingly picking organic products, the food and beverages industry is adapting itself to natural, organically sourced food and beverage products. This is however only one of the recent shifts that have been trending in the F&B industry since quite a while. People are also pointing fingers at existing product labels. The demand for ‘gluten-free’ is on the verge of reaching a peak. Conventional breakfast items are rapidly getting a makeover, and natural or organic will now be among the top choices of consumers. Ethnic food and beverage flavors are seemingly taking a U-turn, possibly marking an important trend in the market this year.

  1. ‘Healthier’ Is the New Pick

There was a time when a major consumer population was going gaga over glamorous foods, energy drinks, heaps of fast foods, and multi-ingredient exotic packaged foods. Today, the focus has been shifted well toward ‘healthier’ alternatives, which is even supported by a recent food labeling guideline by FDA. Consumers and vendors, both are meticulously striving to maintain a healthy track. This trend will hold a big impact over the industry this year.

Fermented foods, chocolate items for breakfast, plant waters, savory yogurts, power bowls, whole foods, protein-packed sprouts, hummus spread, good fat diet, and jackfruit – the list of healthy foods is unending. Moreover, there are healthier beverages, including coconut water and derived drinks, sugar-free brews, organic fruit juices, and much more.

  1. Ethnic Flavors’ Nostalgia Is Hitting the Bandwagon

The choice of flavors may come and go but the oldies have again hit the F&B bandwagon to continue this year. The revival of old, ethnic, rather traditional flavors is constantly transforming the product portfolio of leading companies. While bold, spicy flavors are gradually winning regional cuisines since the past few years, a trip back to ethnic tastes is also a growing trend among beverage manufacturers. Spices and herbs will top the list of flavors selected by manufacturers.

Rather than bombarding a host of splashy, exotic flavors on consumers, this new trend emphasizes reviving the same old ethnic flavors that will emotionally engage consumers. In addition to sound natural and healthier, such flavors also tend to compel consumers to delve into new regional notes. One of the leading brands in the Asian beverage industry, Paper Boat, focuses on maintaining the regional ethnicity in their beverage range. Naked Juice and Chipotle are among the top brands that consistently reflect traditional Mexican flavors through their products.

  1. Faux Foods Are in for Better

Soaring popularity of strictly vegetarian and vegan diets has given rise to one amazing food technology that creates foods that are disguised to appear something else that they are not. Ever imagined a cuisine that completely resembles your favorite meat dish but is actually made from veggies and all non-meat proteins? Faux foods is the answer.

Several food brands are amplifying investments in faux food technologies in a bid to cater to vegan and vegetarian food lovers, who were once crazy for non-vegetarian foods. Some forms of cheese and honey are also attracting a big vegan market since a while. However, a recent trend highlights a lot of carnivores too craving for such cuisines, as they contain relatively lower saturated fats and are maximum eco-friendly. The ‘meatless burger’ trend that dawned the last year will grow this year as well; a few additions to the list might be the coconut bacon, Sushi, cheese, fruit juices, and more.

  1. Simple, Transparent Labeling Is Pursued

Consumers are well aware of the ingredient and nutrition labels of the products they purchase. Fewer, simpler ingredient labels is what they are asking for in a bid to know better about what exactly they are consuming. A majority consumers prefer groceries and other consumables that have simpler, easy-to-understand ingredients. Shoppers are deliberately avoiding products that contain chemical-based, unpronounceable ingredients. They rather prefer products, which contain more common, familiar constituents that are readily seen in their own kitchens. This is, in a way, minimizing the use of preservatives, added sugars, chemical colorants, artificial taste enhancers, GMO ingredients, and unhealthy components.

Consumers are increasingly interested in product crafting and sourcing, which was first observed in beer, wine, and a few other alcoholic beverages. This trend is currently driving the mainstream beverages and foods as well. While several brands, including PepsiCo, General Mills, ConAgra, Haagen-Dazs, and Hershey’s have already started a major rework on their existing labels for products, such as ice creams, chocolates and chocolate syrup, snack bars, chips, frozen meals, and more; many others are expected to join the league soon.

  1. The Gluten-free Craze Persists

Till a few years ago, gluten containing and gluten-free foods seemed all same. Since some of the top specialty-food brands uplifted the gluten-free food trend, later followed by several hypermarkets and supermarkets; gluten-free foods have become one of the most sought after trends, especially across the US. But is it just-another-du-jour diet trend? Probably, yes. Gluten, a protein naturally present in wheat, rye, or barley, can possibly cause medium to severe stomach as well as autoimmune disorders only in celiac disease-inflicted people. Only around 6% of the entire population can be affected by gluten sensitivity (GS) and thus, not everyone else needs to virtually include gluten-free products in their daily diet.

In fact, a majority healthy foods and whole grain products contain gluten that specifically targets satiety and reduced risks of acquiring chronic illnesses. According to some nutrition experts, gluten-free diets are unnecessary and can be a major cause to undernourishment in non-GS population. Scarcity of some critically important vitamins and fiber further support the fact that it is needless. The necessity of adopting gluten-free diet cannot be justified unless it is the population suffering from celiac disease, wheat allergy, ADHD, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. Today, a majority US shops have dedicated aisles for gluten-free products and a sizeable consumer population is running after the gluten-free trend even without knowing whether or not it is necessary to consume products that do not contain gluten. Price is another big constraint.

  1. Zero Waste Is Giving Organic a Second Life

Though put forth a couple of years ago, the trend of elimination of food waste is likely to strengthen in 2017. Zero waste primarily addresses everything that ends up in bins – after a culinary dish pops up on the table, a sizzling hot brownie is served to dessert lovers, a drink is brewed, a veggie salad is prepared, or simply a dinner is over. Leftovers always get trashed and bruised supermarket produce is often tossed into dumpsters. Zero waste marks a sustainability trend that aims to give organic a second life and achieve using everything that goes into the ingredient list.

Chefs will rediscover several ways in which they could incorporate in actual menus, the components that would otherwise be wasted. Vegetable waste, canned product juices, fowl fruits, and much more can now become a part of the zero waste movement. Overall, this is expected to observe significant adoption this year, as a healthy, environment-friendly, sustainable trend across the food and beverage industry.

About the Author

Malar kodi

Malarkodi M comes with a vast experience in food & beverage market research, with a special focus on emerging trends in the ingredients sector. A well-known figure in the global F&B sector, Malarkodi M has helped both large-scale and small-scale food & beverage companies develop business strategies through her research and consulting expertise. Malarkodi has been at the forefront of discussions on the evolving F&B ingredients landscape and has voiced her opinions at international forums. Her international presentations at the ‘Agrochemical Business Strategies and Opportunities’ at Berlin (2014) and Vitafoods - Asia-Pacific Heart Health Functional Food Market, Hong Kong (2016) was widely appreciated, serving as a strong foundation for further discussion on emerging trends. Malarkodi’s insights are regularly covered by reputed food & beverage journals, including Food Navigator, Nutraingredients-asia and DairyReporter.

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