7 Up-and-Coming Trends In The Food Business
By Business Desk
Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
The food industry, like most industries, is seeing seismic changes. We’ve come a long way since everybody ate their meat and two veg and were happy with it. Instagram has changed the way we interact with food, and so businesses have had to adapt. As the conversation on social media changes, so too do the products that food companies have to offer.
Recently Research and Markets, a research company looked at the biggest trends in the food industry that we see today. Here’s what they found.
Consumers Want Functional Foods
Over the past decade or so, what customers want has changed a lot. They’re no longer clamoring for yet more boxed and packaged products that do them harm. They’re looking for foods that actively improve their health. Just take a look at what leading celebrities, like Daisy Ridley, have been up to in recent months. They’ve been covering their faces in turmeric, hoping that it will have some benefit for their complexion.
But these social media frenzies reveal a deeper, underlying trend. People aren’t just coming food for calories or taste; the traditional motivations. They’re consuming them for a host of other benefits. Some foods reduce the level of inflammation in your body, like berries. Some foods make you live longer, like nuts and beans. Some foods can fight off cancer, like cruciferous vegetables. Some foods get rid of constipation, like whole grains and fruit. Some foods help alleviate depression, like lavender and green leafy vegetables. Some foods make athletes perform better, like fenugreek and beetroot. The list goes on and on.
What’s so cool about the functional foods movement is that is it giving new businesses a chance to start up and take advantage of this trend. New businesses seem to be entering the market every month, disrupting the traditional offerings. In fact, the trend towards functional food is so powerful, that leading brands are having to change their messages. Just look at the change in emphasis we’ve seen in recent years on cereal packets. No longer is it all about how they’re fortified with vitamins and minerals. No - now it’s about how they’re whole grain, and they make us healthy.
Businesses Are Going Sugar-Free
Last year Coke launched its first new core product for over a decade. Coke Light was meant to take the world by storm. Why? Because it contains less sugar and is sweetened with stevia instead.
Stevia is actually a leaf. And unlike the other sweeteners used in the beverage industry, it can genuinely be classified as natural. For this reason, it doesn’t come with the baggage that sweeteners like aspartame come with. It just hasn’t been around long enough for people to make the link between it and, say, cancer. And for that reason, it’s enjoying a bit of a grace period in the minds of consumers. This is great news for businesses wanting to get in on the new sugar-free craze. Sugar is the current boogieman in the diet world. And so everybody is trying to get it out of their products for marketing purposes, without sacrificing on taste. This trend is epitomized by the new range of plant-based products by Hampton Creek. Companies are doing all they can to turn once unhealthy foods, healthy again.
A Newfound Love Of Fat
Ever since Uffe Ravnskov released a book on the benefits of fat in 2001, there’s been skepticism of official dietary advice. This then went into high gear when Gary Taubes of the New York Times released his bestseller on the subject in 2008. Since then, the world has been divided into two camps. There are those who believe the original dietary advice that Americans should eat less fat. And there are those who say it’s all a myth and that the real culprit was sugar all along.
The latter group now has a significant number of followers, fuelled by the current distrust of government. And it’s a great opportunity for businesses. Whereas companies used to market their goods by saying that they are fat-free. Now they’re marketing them as full-fat. Just take a look at the rise in coconut oil sales over recent years. It’s all been driven by consumer skepticism of official, government advice. A large tranche of customers wants high-fat foods to dominate their diet. They’re avoiding carbohydrates like bread and pasta and switching to meat and milk.
We’re also seeing a shift in consumer preferences away from meat shipped from overseas to meat shipped domestically. The businesses that will do best out of this trend are the ones who make it clear that their meat is locally sourced. Consumers see locally sourced meat as being better for the animals, better for the local economy and better for the environment. And they’re voting with their wallets.
But it’s not just meat that people want to be local. Market research firm Technomic has also found that this preference extends to other products too. The researchers found that consumers wanted grains, beer and produce to be from the local area. And if made reality, this would represent a sharp reversal in the trend of recent decades.
Of course, the problems for businesses trying to make this happen is the price. In many developed countries, there’s a price premium for going local.
But perhaps going local can be made less expensive. Some companies are now experimenting with selling misshapen fruits and vegetables. Though they’ve never been popular traditionally, now that there’s demand for the local, perhaps their time has come.
Around eighty percent of the world’s population eats insect-derived food. Pretty much the only places that don’t are rich, Western countries. But now there is a slew of firms trying to market insect food as a cheap and humane source of protein. They know that the Western palette won’t accept whole insects next to their potatoes and broccoli. So that’s why a lot of these new firms are powdering up their insects and using them like flour.
Insects are finding their ways into all sorts of different foods, from bread to burgers. And although it might sound offensive, once ground up, most consumers can’t taste the insects themselves. Thus, they’re getting protein at a much lower price than if it had come from a cow. And they’re eating in a far more humane way.
The Rise Of Peas
Peas have been a staple of dinner tables in Britain ever since the company Bird’s Eye started to freeze them. But in recent years, they have exploded in popularity for a different reason. Up until now, most Americans accepted that if they wanted plant-protein, they had to go to soy. After all, soy has a complete amino acid profile and is allegedly a good source of protein. But thanks to numerous scandals involving soy, not least the GMO debate, it’s lost some of its luster.
Step up the humble pea. Peas are legumes, like soybeans. But they don’t come with any of the baggage that soy does. Peas are seen as a genuinely healthy way for people to get protein. And so a lot of businesses have reacted by pushing out pea protein powders into the market. At the moment, their audience is quite niche. Their primary market is people in the fitness sector worried about the effect that animal and soy protein has on their health. But many industry insiders expect that the pea craze will have much wider appeal.
One day, it might be the case that even the elderly are using pea protein to push back against frailty.
Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of a stir on social media and news sites about the role of gut bacteria. Once a neglected aspect of nutrition, the gut microbiome is fast becoming a superstar. And businesses have taken notice.
The science seems to be saying that our gut bacteria are a major determinant of our health. They regulate everything, from our bowel movements to the chance we’ll get diabetes.
As a result of all of this, many businesses are experimenting with new products, designed to target the microbiome. It turns out that there are a whole range of foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in our guts. And so putting these into a compelling product proposition is a priority for the sector. So far, we’ve seen a lot of activity from keen amateurs wanting to boost their gut flora with things like sauerkraut. But now we’re starting to see businesses get on the gut bacteria train too.
So there you have it: the major trends in the food business this year. But what can we say about the overall trends here? Clearly, there’s been a sharp move away from foods that are unhealthy. It seems as if people are genuinely searching for food products that genuinely make them feel good. But there’s also a lot of confusion among consumers about what they should eat. It’s the businesses who address this confusion while selling healthy food who will succeed.