As we step into 2016, Wiley’s Innovation and Strategy Director Brandon Miller explores the trends that are driving this year’s consumer food industry.
The overarching theme across the food industry is the desire for consumers to be aware of what they are putting in their bodies. There is an increased interest from consumers in health and wellness goods, which is pushing bigger food companies to change or face the prospect of losing customers to smaller niche companies that are responding to consumer needs.
Consumers are also increasingly interested in how their food is produced heightening the focus on sustainability. As a result, consumers will be more drawn towards eco-friendly products this year.
Aquaculture represents one sustainable solution in feeding the world’s growing population and has been recognised as the fastest growing food sector. 2016 will be another big year in its advance to the top of the animal protein pack.
Ready meals and smaller, more frequent grocery shopping trips are also growing trends in the industry this year.
Health and well-being focus
One of the biggest demands consumers are asking of food manufacturers is for more ‘good for you’ products. This includes fresher ingredients, organic foods, local products and health positive foods.
Consumers desire transparency in the supply chain of products and they want to know exactly where their food has come from and what’s in it. Food manufacturers will be scrutinised by consumers for their labelling in particular and asked to provide more information such as what has been fed to their meat, poultry or seafood product. Health conscious consumers are prioritising foods that are natural, free of artificial ingredients and are organic. They are progressively becoming aware of pesticides and genetically modified food products. Food manufacturers will find favour with consumers if they can balance the obstacles of producing and supplying these products with consumer desires.
Green causes matter more and more to consumers, signifying an increased awareness in sustainability will continue into the future. Food industry players are well advised to implement green and transparent initiatives for production if they wish to gain consumer confidence.
Consumers want their products produced locally and there is a growing perception that natural food is the domain of smaller, independent brands. A way that global companies can combat this is to go ‘glocal’ and adapt their products for local markets while retaining global appeal. Similarly, customers are drawn to local and morally conscious foods – those that are perceived as being kind to the planet. In addition, the story behind a food product is increasingly important and a personal connection between food and the consumer will be a key focus in the future.
2016 is seeing a continued push for ready meals to be healthier and provide more in terms of vegetables, salads and gluten free options. Foods and beverages that deliver on health and convenience will flourish whilst fresh and refrigerated food options will expand. Consumers are not shy in spending more on wholesome and fresher meals which is a trend food producers can leverage.
Consumers are increasingly open to ordering meal start up kits as well as flocking to pop up markets and food truck events. These provide convenient and easy food options without having to resort to fast food outlets. An increase in new food delivery methods and drinkable food options are also likely to rise in 2016.
Supermarkets as the pantry
Dramatic changes in lifestyles, eating patterns and demographics are creating new rules in consumer preferences when it comes to shopping for food. Customers are more likely to shop multiple times per week rather than a single weekly shop. This generally comes down to convenience and a consumer’s desire for fresh products. Trips to the supermarket have become more of an extension of lifestyle rather than a chore, allowing customers to experiment with cooking and food experiences. Online shopping has also contributed to the demise of the weekly shop as it becomes easier for the bulk of items to be ordered online, with fresh goods being bought in store as required.
Immediate consumption of food on the same day of buying is now a part of normal food management. Snacking has also been an increasing food trend for consumers, allowing companies to capitalise on snack sized products. Healthy snacks are now in high demand as consumers search for easy food that is healthy and uses natural ingredients.
Growth in Aquaculture
Increased awareness about the health benefits of seafood has steadily increased its consumption and is often viewed as a healthier option to other protein foods. Seafood is the most consumed animal protein in the world and is set to continually increase as consumers learn the nutrition and health benefits of fish.
Aquaculture is stepping in to assist with feeding the growing global population which requires a source of sustainable protein. The aquaculture industry continues to grow due to its viability as a solution to maintaining seafood production in the face of declining ocean seafood stocks. As more seafood becomes farm raised, aquaculture will play a critical role in global food security. It is already one of the fastest growing food production systems, but will need to increase to meet demand.
The food industry in 2016 will revolve around trends of convenience, sustainability and consumer preference. A continued rise in easy meals, fresh products and healthier options will satisfy the modern shopper. Food producers will need to cater to these consumer desires to maintain and develop their competitive position throughout 2016.
This is the first of a two part piece on consumer trends in the food industry. The follow up article can be found here.