I recently presented our latest trends report, “What’s on the Menu in 2018?” to colleagues and clients in the Asia Pacific region. It’s been interesting to see that the 15 trends we chose to highlight this year are as relevant in places like Indonesia and India as they are in New York and the Netherlands.
Developed with colleagues in 29 markets across our global network, the trends help us understand not only where the industry is today, but also what’s happening in regional and local markets and how that could impact the future for the industry, broader society and our individual palates.
Here are five key areas that exemplify what’s happening in the food and beverage sector today:
Climate Conundrum — Trend No. 3, “Endangered Foods,” shows that with climate change comes mounting pressure on our global food system. Mainstream consumers are starting to understand this dynamic and are shifting their consumption habits. Many of the regional foods that have become globally accepted in recent years are now at risk of disappearing from grocery shelves and menu boards. Meanwhile, trend No. 6, “Plant-based Palates,” demonstrates that the industry is making changes that are meeting both stakeholder expectation and consumers’ “greener” palates.
Quest for Health — With the help of science, we have a better understanding of the link between the foods and beverages we consume and our health. The result? Globally, we’re actively seeking health through food. This year, foods and beverages that are improving gut health, as seen in trend No. 5, “Follow your Gut”; contain lower or no alcohol, as in trend No. 7, “Healthy M(C)ocktails”; or contain numerous bioactive compounds, such as trend No. 10, “Functional Mushrooms.”
Disruption — Technology and market pressures have forced profound change in the industry, and we are seeing signs that the sector is shifting from playing defense to playing offense. Some have even been bold enough to predict that legacy players – in CPG/FMCG, agribusiness and grocery – might go away. We’re also seeing, as shown in trend No. 2, “Innovate or Evaporate,” that some of the more traditional industry players are taking on the role of disruptor instead of being disrupted, with the greatest disruption happening in the retail and grocery space.
A Feast for the Eyes (and for Instagram) — Our palette of food colors is changing; the more the novel, the better. Why? Trend No. 4, “Going Beyond Taste,” shows that we’re all looking for something to frame and share on social media. Something exotic, intense and beautiful. Intense pops of color – pinks, purples, oranges and even black – are “a must” on every plate coming out restaurant kitchens – and every post, pin, snap or story that accompanies them. According to Mintel, “Unexpected tactile experiences in food and beverage will be a new realm for manufacturers to explore.”
Personalization and Experience —The data-driven mindset is not only a disruption for the online shopper, but also an opportunity to offer consumers the best possible end-user experience. That is what brands are trying to do by offering engagement that delights the senses and offers customization. Trend No. 11, “Malls to Halls,” shows that when it comes to food, the experience rules. Differentiation will come from offering consumers what they can’t get online – letting them see, smell and taste their foods, and then take that experience home with them. Playing on customization, trend No. 14, “Purposeful Packaging,” underscores how purpose must not sit in a company’s CSR silo, but must be driven through brands and products in ways that engage consumers and help build both a trusted relationship and leadership.
It is important that we have a clear point of view on how events outside the day-to-day business present both challenges and opportunities for the food and beverage industry. This year’s trends provide a strong roadmap that offers experts new insights that can help the industry succeed not only today and next week, but in the coming few years.
Tish Van Dyke is global chair, Food & Beverage sector