Food Files: Top Four Trends For 2018

Words by Sarah Hyland, AIFST


IT IS AN INNOVATOR’S JOB TO UNDERSTAND where our society is going and to do the work that will solve the problems of the future; not just produce more of the same. Ultimately, this is what successful businesses do.

Identifying, evaluating and utilising large scale trends is essential for success in consumer markets. Without a doubt, driving sustainable growth for business means remaining relevant to customers and consumers as competition increases and new ideas disrupt entire industries.

Food trends are shaped by myriad influences, from social and political events, economic and geographical dynamics, through to generational changes and the resulting shifts in attitudes and behaviours towards nourishing ourselves and the next generation.

These are the top four trends in food, beverage and packaging NPD that are expected to gain further momentum in 2018 and beyond.

Along with other nutrients like fibre and healthy fats, consumers look to protein and its associated nutrient density to help them feel full – with a sense of sustained energy – throughout the day. A Health and Wellness study from Hartman in 2017 reports that there is strong demand for consumer protein – 60 per cent of consumers surveyed across a broad age and demographic stated that they are actively trying to increase their protein intake.

However, perceptions of protein are changing – it’s not just “the more protein the better”. Our traditional protein source, animal-derived protein from meat, is being more heavily scrutinised in terms of cost, health and consumer conscience. New protein sources are becoming increasingly important as more consumers make a conscious decision to eat less meat. Public views on protein consumption are shifting to include a focus on plant-based proteins, food quality and smaller portions.

A flexitarian is defined as “one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish”. Flexitarians focus on having vegetarian meals, rather than just not eating meat. Taking steps to reduce meat intake on three or more days a week is the conventional specification for being called a flexitarian. A mainstream version of flexitarianism is the Meat Free Monday movement launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009. The not-for-profit campaign aims to raise awareness of the environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people to help slow climate change, preserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meatfree day each week. This means eating more vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds as well as plant-based milks, cheeses, snacks and meat alternative products.

It is generally recognised that livestock production is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases and users of land, often subjected to tree-clearing for cattle to graze, on the planet. However, livestock also provides delicious foods many people don’t want to live without. The field of biotechnology has been instrumental in pursuing technologies that provide the same (or better) foods without using animals. There are various types of animal-free technologies evolving, but the cutting-edge solution is clean meat. This involves producing lab-grown or cultured meat, a process in which a small amount of animal cells are grown in a laboratory setting to create real meat without slaughtering animals.

As life expectancy increases, older population groups will be the fastest growing demographic globally. From 2018-2030, the number of people aged 65+ are expected to increase by 58 per cent, far outpacing the global population growth of 15 per cent. However, the middle-aged population (soon to be seniors) have never been fitter and healthier and, on balance, have the longest projected life expectancy. Companies interested in targeting this group segment the market in different ways, but the most common is chronological age. But it may be that there is no such thing as a single “older consumer”. Some argue that chronological age is a poor tool for segmenting the population, and some research finds that age has little impact on consumer demand if income is taken into account. Understanding this significant market is a key determinant of effective mid term and broader horizon NPD strategy and the investment required for the development of food, beverage and packaging for the ageing population.

There is a new breed of women over 40 and they don’t feel or act “middle aged”. A new survey conducted by UK marketing agency, SuperHuman, found that 96 per cent of women over 40 don’t feel middleaged at all. The study of over 500 women found that 80 per cent felt society’s assumptions about middle-aged women are not representative of their lives. Most considered themselves in the prime of life, felt as vibrant and young as they ever have, and don’t define themselves by age.

This “generational blurring” is in part driven by a strong focus on health and fitness and the crumbling of old stereotypes. SuperHuman co-founder Rebecca Rhodes notes that 84 per cent of the women in the survey used products and services aimed at younger women.

One company taking on board generational blurring is ice cream company, Thrive. While they might not feel middle-aged, the truth we don’t need as many calories to function as we age but older adults often suffer from a lack of nine nutrients such as B12, fibre and folate that are critical to keeping bones strong, minds sharp and hearts healthy. Thrive produces premium, fortified ice cream with superior organoleptic properties that is appropriately designed and messaged for its older market. 

Millennials are shaping attitudes to food that will cement as their purchasing power increases and they pass on their preferences and ideals to their children. Millennials may like the convenience of going out to dine but they are among the healthiest eaters of any generation. According to the Organic Trade Association in the US, more than half of organic shoppers are millennials with kids, with 52 per cent buying organic compared to 35 per cent of Generation X parents and 14 per cent of baby boomer parents. According to a report by global information company NPD group, millennials have increased their consumption of fresh vegetables by 52 per cent over the past decade while boomers have decreased their consumption of vegetables by 40 per cent.

While many millennials are second generation in terms of a more healthconscious attitude to food, they also grew up during a time when obesity rates in Western countries soared. Millennials place value on what they put into their bodies, educating themselves on the benefits of natural and organic foods. They also place great value on eating ethically. This is supported by shifts in diet – a staggering 40 per cent of millennials are reportedly adopting a plant-based diet. Millennials also shop for food differently than baby boomers. They buy online and shop at multiple venues rather than purchasing everything at traditional “onestop- shop” supermarkets. They also seek out specialty foods, including ethnic, organic and natural products, and are willing to pay more for the foods they value. They are also more aligned with key food movements, such as small-batch artisanal cuisine. Ultimately, millennials food preferences could be nutritionally advantageous to the rest of the population as highly processed foods with artificial additives and long shelf lives lose favour.

Globally, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food intended for human consumption is wasted each year due to inefficiency in supply chains and production harvesting, restaurant waste and because produce doesn’t meet the necessary cosmetic standards to warrant inclusion on the supermarket shelf.

Australian households bin $8 billion of worth of food a year, equal to one in five bags of groceries. This has not gone unnoticed by organisations such as OzHarvest and Foodbank, which have been very successful in growing public awareness of the issue. The ABC’s popular War on Waste program has also highlighted the impact of our failure to consider and manage waste across a number of sectors in the consumable landscape.

France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from binning unsold food in 2016 (the food now goes to charities and food banks instead), but there is growing movement of farmers and food manufacturers addressing waste at the beginning of the food chain.

Leftover fruit pulp, which is normally thrown out or composted, is being used in innovative ways to cut down waste in the food supply chain by Danish innovators Vesterhavsmost and Wish.

Family-owner apple producer and juice manufacturer Vesterhavsmost is transforming around 20,000 tonnes of dried pulp a year into apple granules that can be used by consumers in baking and as toppings on cereals and yoghurt and by other food manufacturers as a high-fibre ingredient.

While still in the development stage, Wish is transforming the pulp of pressed apples and oats into flakes that could possibly be used in cereals, chocolates and healthy
baked snacks.

Closer to home, Huskee Cup manufacturers reusable ceramic coffee cups made from coffee husk, which is normally discarded during the milling process and left to go mouldy. The idea originally came from Chinese farmers inundated with hundreds of tonnes of husk waste.

Killing two birds with one stone, this could help solve the problem of the 1.35 million tonnes of coffee husk waste generated globally every year and reduce the massive number of takeaway coffee cups that end up in landfill. As those who have watched War on Waste will know, Australians throw away 50,000 takeaway coffee cups every 30 minutes. That adds up to a sobering 2.7 million a day, or 1 billion every year.

While the food industry hasn’t been disrupted in spectacular Uber or Airbnb fashion, these trends will shape and inform how food is produced and consumed in years to come.

Sarah Hyland is AIFST’s General Manager of Industry Services.
If you are interested in learning more about trends in food and nutrition, please contact Sarah on +61 447 066 324 or email: