Global Food and Drink Trends by Mintel
Friday, January 19th, 2024
Mintel Unveils Key Global Food and Drink Trends for 2024
Global Food and Drink Trends 1: Trust the Process
Clear communication will become necessary to help consumers make informed decisions about how processed and ultra-processed food and drink fit into their diets. This trend discusses how brands can focus on the positive aspects of food-processing techniques, such as enhancing nutrition, reducing environmental impact, or improving sustainability. Additionally, it explores the growing interest in less processed food made with upcycled ingredients rich in essential nutrients.
What’s Happening Now
Scrutiny of processing use in the food and drink industry is intensifying. Fuelled by discussions about highly, overly or ultra-processed food (UPF), feelings about processing will inspire consumers to look more closely at ingredients, nutrition and production methods. In light of this, ‘ultra-processing’ is the latest evolution of terms such as ‘junk food’ or ‘clean label’.
Starting in 2024, more consumers will become aware of different levels of processing from media reports, regulations and voluntary on-pack labels with ratings from sources such as NOVA or Siga. This will encourage them to consider processing levels when choosing food and drink and to reconsider how frequently and on which occasions they consume processed food and beverages.
While ‘all things in moderation’ is a saying associated with highly processed products, there’s growth potential for minimally processed food and drink that focus on the positive aspects of food-processing techniques, such as those that enhance nutrition, inhibit contaminant formation or improve sustainability. This is especially true when brands share the benefits of processing with language consumers can understand. Brands offering minimally processed products — such as frozen produce, fresh bakery items and natural canned soup — should share how processing improves their products in ways such as enhancing nutrition, increasing shelf life or reducing environmental impact.
At the same time, brands that produce highly, overly or ultra-processed food and drink products will need to remind consumers of the joy and comfort they get from these products. As has been shown in markets that have front-of-pack labelling indicating high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) content, giving consumers more information doesn’t necessarily result in them abandoning specific categories of food and drink, especially favourite treats such as salty snacks, biscuits and confectionery.
Enhanced transparency around processing over the next two to five years will create better-informed food and drink shoppers. While there will be opportunities for some ultra-processed food and drink brands to develop less processed, ‘better-for-you’ versions of their products, most consumers will continue to use moderation or make occasional exceptions in their diets for their favourite ultra-processed food and drink.
At the same time, minimally processed products that boast higher nutritional value and are easy to use will win over more consumers. Ongoing concerns about energy costs will lead consumers and retailers to increase their support for long-life, shelf-stable products made using processing methods that reduce the need for refrigeration or freezing. The demand for natural nutrition from familiar, less processed sources will also increase consumer acceptance of products that reuse nutritious ingredients and that might previously have been thrown away, such as misshapen vegetables. In the coming years, interest will grow in less processed food and drink made with upcycled ingredients rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and other nutrients.
Global Food and Drink Trends 2: Age Reframed
Healthy ageing will be redefined by debunking ‘old’ stigmas and prioritising extending consumers’ healthy years. Consumers aged 40 and over, who represent a significant share of food and drink spending in many markets globally, present an opportunity for brands. Mintel also discusses how brands can innovate to cater to the diverse lifestyles and health needs of this generation, including cardiovascular health, brain health and stress. It encourages brands to promote healthy ageing by making nutrient-rich food and drink affordable, accessible, and convenient for all ‘active agers.’
What’s Happening Now
Members of Generation X (Gen X), who are currently in their mid-40s-to-late-50s (born between around 1965 and 1979), are pioneering a new approach to healthy ageing that includes products that will help them thrive in their diverse lifestyles now and for decades to come.
The new focus for ageing societies will be an extended healthspan — the period of life spent in good health—which requires a proactive long-term strategy. Moreover, Gen X is openly discussing and leading conversations around ageing concerns that were once considered taboo.
Gen X is called the ‘Forgotten Generation’ because it’s often overshadowed by older Baby Boomers (born between around 1946 and 1964) and younger Millennials (born between around 1980 and 1994). In the future, while brands need to understand and focus on the needs of Millennials and the increasingly powerful Generation Z (born between around 1995 and 2012), it’s also crucial that they focus on the evolving needs of consumers aged 40 and over, who account for the most significant share of food and drink spend in many markets around the world.
In the next 12 months, brands will play an essential role in helping guide Gen X through transitional periods of middle and older adulthood by educating them about healthy ways to progress through different life stages. Learning from the ‘menopausal revolution’, brands should consider these consumers’ various nutritional, physical, mental and emotional health needs and innovate products and formulations for issues such as cardiovascular health, brain health and stress.
Food and drink brands can help promote healthy ageing by ensuring nutrient-rich food and drink are affordable, accessible and convenient for all ‘active agers’. Brands can support the diverse lifestyles of consumers aged 40 and over by offering appropriate, balanced nutrition that caters to individual needs.
Brands will play a significant role in shaping the self-care movement among consumers aged 40 and over. Food and drink brands can help meet the health needs of this demographic by providing products that, for example, proactively address joint health, fuel fitness routines and maintain healthy sleep patterns. A good night’s sleep is essential for improving overall physical and emotional health, and functional formulations—for example, innovating products that contain nutrients such as fibre and botanicals (including chamomile)—can reinforce healthy sleep patterns.
Many middle-aged consumers often care for multiple generations of family members. Brands can help ease the stress they may experience by offering convenient products and helpful tools for caregivers and those they care for. Brands must adjust their marketing strategy for products aimed at older consumers when adult children are the decision-makers for their ageing parents. In addition, brands can help combat feelings of loneliness by establishing in-person and virtual communities that connect people — both middle-aged caregivers and those they care for—with similar interests.
Global Food and Drink Trends 3: Eating, Optimised
A new era of convenience will emerge as technology streamlines meal planning, shopping and cooking. This trend highlights the role of technology, such as AI and AR, in helping consumers balance the desire for innovative dishes with the need for time-saving solutions. It explores how technology tools will become indispensable in the kitchen and discusses their impact on retailers in terms of real-time shopping assistance and customised vending selections.
What’s Happening Now
Convenience has always been an evolving concept, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumers’ desires to find shortcuts to quality food and drink experiences in their day-to-day lives. As more consumers become used to technology’s helpful role, they will be more interested in and trusting of emerging technologies to help them optimise their meals, snacks and drinks.
Brands have adapted their products to help consumers optimise their time in the kitchen, as shown by cooking instructions for multiple appliances and product lines designed to cook at the same time and temperature. Looking ahead, consumers’ experiences with these efficient products and tools will make them more open to new routes to time savings via technology. This will propel conveniences like automated shopping lists and meal-planning apps from ‘nice to have’ to integral daily tools.
Technology like AI and AR as it relates to food preparation and consumption will exist on a spectrum, offering consumers the right solution for where they are. It will help them find their ideal balance between the occasions when they desire to create truly innovative and engaging dishes, drinks and snacks and when meal planning, shopping, cooking, or even eating can be put on autopilot.
In the next two to five years, consumers’ daily experiences with technology will make AI, AR and other technology tools nonnegotiable time savers in the kitchen. This will pressure brands and retailers to ensure they make consumers’ experiences seamless.
For retailers, this will come in the form of real-time shopping assistance, such as push notifications, personalised alerts and AI that could help consumers find ingredients or products while in stores, in transit or shopping online. Localised data could unveil new opportunities for customised vending selections that respond to the needs within a community, such as the desire for quick, hot meals on university campuses.
Brands, meanwhile, will work with technology providers to optimise the relevance of their products in this advanced digital landscape. Marketing will shift from targeted ads to an evolved form of product placement, ensuring that AI, AR and other recipe generators suggest specific brands within consumers’ personalised meal planning. From there, brands will tap into the data these interactions create to develop products inspired by consumer feedback or engagement. The spectrum of consumer usage will continue as some consumers gravitate toward AI-created products that enhance time savings and convenience. In contrast, others will look to AI as a source of joy and discovery that reinvigorates their desire to stay creative in the kitchen.
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