Consumer-led disruptions are compounding the challenges of stagnant growth in the food and beverage industry. According to retail and manufacturing executives, consumer behaviours are rapidly evolving. The modern consumer has now made an obvious shift towards an unprecedented ability to access information about food and beverage products and share this information via social media, making it more challenging than ever for manufacturing companies. Today, the food industry has to cater to not only an increased demand of food for the increasing population but also to the changing consumer preferences for transparency regarding fast and convenient foods that promote immune health. Nowadays, clean labels with premium ingredients and high ethical values are in significant demand. The following are top customer trends that are driving these major changes in the food industry.
Health and Wellness
Nowadays, the food industry is drastically evolving and progressing to keep up with the latest food trends and rapidly changing consumer preferences and demands. There are new consumer insights and expectations on food and beverage choices. Health, nutrition and wellness have always encompassed a major trend and have been key drivers of changes in the food and beverage industry worldwide. Food companies are now focusing on product innovation and have successfully created various healthy alternatives to popular products that contain fewer or no preservatives, no sugar, no saturated fats, no artificial coloring and are GMO and gluten free. The demand for plant-based, vegan food products and functional foods that contain probiotics, collagen and protein has substantially increased in recent years as well. The three drivers of this trend include:
- Consumers becoming more educated on the benefits of healthier food and beverage choices that support a robust immune system.
- Retailers taking positions with new, smaller, more innovative companies out of a need to diversify and drive higher margins.
- Companies recreating healthier options for food products that have been popular and in great demand for years.
Another obvious trend that has been observed in the food and beverage industry is the significant increase in the consumption of fresher/healthier foods. This is creating problems for retailers and grocery stores that have limited fresh/healthy options. On the other hand, retailers that are providing options for these popular consumer preferences are seeing an uptick in sales. Food cultivators and manufacturers are motivated by these trends and are trying to improve their cultivation and production methods to achieve the highest level of consumer fulfillment.
According to a CEO of a green vegetables and herbs producer, consumers are now making educated and informed decisions regarding their immune health and food intake and there is a growing need for fresh and healthy produce. The above mentioned company grows a variety of leafy vegetables and herbs in a closed loop hydroponic environment. Their goal is to provide fresh, pesticide and chemical free vegetables grown locally in a sustainable environment.
In recent years there has been a great increase in the level of consumer demand for vegan and vegetarian food. Netflix documentaries like Cowspiracy and Okja have played a major role in bringing awareness to consumers regarding the nutritional and health benefits of plant-proteins and veganism. Even those that don’t turn to veganism for ethical reasons might still buy similar products to achieve the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Just Eat, for example, noted a 94% increase in the percentageof healthy food that was ordered on their platform and acknowledged veganism as the top trend for 2018. While veganism was historically treated as a fad and often cast in a negative light by mainstream media, global attitudes are now changing, and it seems like this trend is here to stay. Businesses offering plant-based diets can now expect to see a greater demand for their products as their target market expands. Grocery stores and food retailers should expect the vegan and plant-based meal market to expand even further in years to come.
We are living in the digital age now, with the world at our fingertips. Consumers prefer to do a lot of their everyday activities like socializing, accessing health services, shopping etc. online. A study conducted by Nielson and the Food Market Institute shows that almost 50% of Americans buy their groceries online and around 61% of millennials are online grocery shoppers. This suggests that such consumer behaviours fueled by new technology and market innovation will continue to gain popularity in decades to come. Keeping this shift and evolution in mind, food and beverage retailers should now aim for a strong online presence, and ideally a competentonline sales platform too.
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