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Mintel Forecasts Top Food & Drink Trends for 2017

November 14, 2016

Global trends to watch include the rise of ‘ugly fruit,’ the night time snacking occasion and plant-focused formulations

Trends to Watch

Looking ahead to 2017, market intelligence agency Mintel forecasted the six key trends it believes will impact the global food and drink market. The firm said the coming year will be a year of extremes, from “ancient” products including grains, recipes, practices and traditions to the use of technology to create more and better tasting plant-enhanced foods.

Mintel expects to see a rise in both “slow” and “fast” claims, as well as more products designed to help people unwind before bedtime, sleep better and restore the body while they rest. Further, opportunities may exist for more products to leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs in formulations as a way to achieve a sense of calm before bedtime. Mintel suggested there may also be a valid excuse for nighttime chocolate indulgence.

Other unexpected trends include fruit snacks made with "ugly" fruit, and mayonnaise made with the liquid from draining chickpeas, which has been dubbed "aquafaba."

Mintel’s Global Food and Drink Analyst Jenny Zegler discussed the top food and drink trends—highlighting both ingredient and food and drink product trends—set to make an impact on global markets. "This year’s trends are grounded in current consumer demands for healthy, convenient and trustworthy food and drink. Across the world, manufacturers and retailers have opportunities to provide more people with food and drink that is recognizable, saves time and contains servings of beneficial fruits, vegetables and other plants. In addition, Mintel has identified exciting new opportunities for functional food and drink designed for evening consumption, progressive solutions for food waste and affordable healthy food for low-income consumers. Opportunities abound for companies around the world to capitalize on these trends, helping them develop in new regions and more categories throughout the course of the next year and into the future,” said Ms. Zegler.

In Tradition We Trust

Consumers seek comfort from modernized updates of age-old formulations, flavors and formats, Mintel said. As a result people are seeking the safety of products that are recognizable rather than revolutionary. The trust in the familiar emphasizes the opportunity for manufacturers to look to the past as a dependable source of inspiration, such as “ancient” product claims, including ancient grains, as well as ancient recipes, practices and traditions. Mintel suggested potential also exists for innovations that use the familiar as a base for something that’s new, but recognizable, such as cold brew coffee.

Power to the Plants

Mintel predicted the preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations. In 2017, expect the food and drink industry to introduce more products that emphasize plants as key ingredients. More packaged products and recipes for home cooking will leverage fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, botanicals and other plants as a way to align with consumers’ nearly omnipresent health and wellness priorities, according to the firm. However, modern technology will have a role to play, as currently companies are using artificial intelligence to develop plant-based alternatives to animal products, including milk, mayonnaise, yogurt and cheese.

Waste Not

More retailers, restaurants and philanthropic organizations are addressing the sheer amount of food and drink that is wasted around the world, which is changing consumer perceptions. In 2017, the stigma associated with imperfect produce will begin to fade, according to Mintel, and more products will make use of ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, such as fruit snacks made from “ugly” fruit and mayonnaise made from the liquid from packaged chickpeas, and food waste will be repurposed in new ways, such as power sources.

Time is of the Essence

Mintel believes the time investments required for products and meals will become as influential as nutrition or ingredient claims. Time is an increasingly precious resource and our multitasking lifestyles are propelling a need for shortcut solutions that are still fresh, nutritious and customizable and already we have seen so-called “biohacking” food and drink that offers complete nutrition in convenient formats. In 2017, the time spent on—or saved by—a food or drink product will become a clear selling point, inspiring more products to directly communicate how long they will take to receive, prepare or consume.

The Night Shift

The evening is being tapped as a new occasion for functional food and drink formulations. The increasingly hectic pace of modern life is creating a market for food and drink that helps people of all ages calm down before bedtime, sleep better and restore the body while they rest. Products can leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs as a way to achieve a sense of calm before bedtime, while chocolate could be positioned as a way to wind down after a stressful day. Ahead, there is potential for more evening-focused innovations formulated for relaxation, satiety and, taking a cue from the beauty industry, food and drink that provide functional benefits while the consumer sleeps.

Balancing the Scales: Health for Everyone

Inequality is not just a political or philanthropic issue—it also will resonate more with the food and drink industry. Mintel explained that many lower-income consumers want to improve their diets, but the access to—and the cost of—healthy food and drink is often an impediment. More campaigns and innovations are to be expected that will make it easier for lower-income consumers to fulfill their healthy ambitions, including apps to help people make use of ingredients that are on sale and, in a tie-in with Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend Waste Not, a value-priced box of "ugly" vegetables.