Our eating habits have probably never changed quite so much as they have in the last few years. A multitude of events at both a local and global level, including the pandemic and economic fluctuations such as the current cost-of-living crisis has led consumers to form new behaviours, attitudes and values. Consumers have dealt with financial insecurity, restrictions and an undependable environment through the pandemic. After a period of lockdowns and mandates, making our own decisions has never been more alluring. There is a demand to see trust and a commitment towards public health, the environment and ethical production from brands and the products we consume. Let’s take a look at some of the food and drink trends that are growing in familiarity in 2023:
- Healthy eating
- Plant-based diets
- Local & sustainable food
- Lab-grown meat
- Food waste reduction
- Changing spaces
In recent years, we have seen a big shift towards healthy eating, with people consciously adding more nutritious foods to their diet. The pandemic has heightened our awareness of falling poorly and we have become aware of our penchant for sugary drinks and snacks – instead we are opting for healthier options that benefit our immunity, metabolism and mental state. The food and drink industry will see the demand for healthy, convenient and affordable options, particularly following new HFSS legislation due to come into force which will put restriction on less healthy foods when it comes to promotions such as multibuys, as the government aim to tackle the UK obesity crisis. Assisting the move to healthier snacking is the rising need for functional foods, which are enhanced with nutritional properties such as prebiotics, vitamins and minerals. Also high in demand are probiotic foods, ancient grains, healthy fats, superfoods, kombucha, and natural sweeteners to reduce added sugar and calorie intake. Many of these are good for the gut, have vitamins and nutrients or hold proven health benefits.
Plant-based diets will become even more mainstream, as we seek out options that are better for both our health and the planet. Increasingly, people choose to eat less meat and dairy, opting for a flexitarian diet, or eliminate them altogether. Following numerous lockdowns, more and more people are interested in cooking for themselves from scratch with direct-to-door meal kit recipe boxes surging throughout the last few years. The world has demanded new plant-based alternatives to support the rapid growth of veganism following on from a wave of environmental series such as David Attenborough’s ‘A Life On Our Planet’ Witness Statement and Zac Efron’s ‘Down To Earth’ which has driven vast awareness of climate change. Plant-based meats also tend to be lower in calories and fat than traditional meat and can be seen as a good source of fibre, this is ensuring more companies offering these products alongside awareness-raising campaigns such as veganuary and meat-free days such as ‘Meat Free Monday’ helping to drive a change in consumer habits for years to come.
The popularity of local and sustainable food has led to the development of new supply chains that reduce transportation-related emissions (or “food miles”). Home shoring and nearshoring are two examples of how supply chains have encompassed this trend. Home shoring is the practice of sourcing food from local producers, while nearshoring refers to food that is sourced from producers in nearby counties. Both home shoring and nearshoring have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, the key advantage of both approaches is that they offer a more sustainable and ethical option for sourcing food. As the world becomes increasingly globalised, the demand for locally produced food is trending upwards. There is an awareness for the importance of supporting local economies and a desire for fresher, healthier food. In many cases, eating locally grown food is seen as a way to support local farmers and SMEs, while also reducing our carbon footprint. Companies have a competitive advantage from a marketing perspective by sourcing their ingredients sustainably, but the cost to do so may remain higher for some time.
Lab-grown meat was once a niche market for vegetarians and vegans, yet now trends among meat-eaters too. So, what is lab grown meat? Also known as cultivated meat or clean meat, this trend is made by growing animal cells in a controlled environment. This process eliminates the need for raising and slaughtering animals, which is both humane and has a diminished environmental impact. This trend is also favoured by those looking for a healthier diet. It is generally lower in calories and fat than traditional meats and they can be a good source of fibre and other nutrients. Lab-grown meat is set to be one of the biggest changes in the food industry in the next few years and requires heavy financial backing, with the trend attracting billions in venture capitalist backing and interest from the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
Reducing food waste
One food industry trend that is gaining traction in 2022 is that of food waste reduction. A popular choice for adopting this trend in the food industry is by using less plastic. More of us are ditching plastic packaging in favour of reusable or biodegradable options. Refillables are one way that brands are now offering their consumers a new way to purchase their products while producing less waste. Supermarkets have trialled packing-free dispensers for items such as cereal, pasta and rice. Brands are trying to meet the increasing demand for sustainable products but changing ways of working is difficult due to the complex interlinking of supply chains.
Evolution of spaces
The food and drink industry will change the spaces in which they interact with customers. Just as homes became multifaceted in 2020, with home gyms and WFH, food retail may expand from merely selling products. Mintel forecasts supermarkets and cafes will become alternatives to the office for work and meetings. It also predicts supermarkets are going to host trivia nights and parties (eh?). Consumers will now seek a variety of physical and virtual spaces. Supermarket shopping is widely viewed as a weekly chore so retailers are needing to offer ‘destination driven’ cross-shopping functionality within their stores – think Aldi’s discounter middle aisle and Tesco’s F&F clothing collection. Food retail has proven to sell itself through storytelling but is there potential growth through NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and the Metaverse? For the food and drink industry, change is the only constant and retailers have to be prepared to embrace trends or perish themselves.