Food trends: the decade ahead

As the world’s population heads towards the 10 billion mark, there are a lot of challenges that lie ahead – whether it be health, housing or employment. Then there is the question of food. The world has to figure out how to make enough food to feed what could become an insatiable demand. How will this demand be met? What are some of the current trends? What will food companies have to do to make sure they meet those demands?

Mintel is a company that specialises in market intelligence in the food and beverage sector. It recently conducted internal research and spoke with a number of external stakeholders to see what the coming issues over the next decade will be and how companies can get on board.

Sam Moore is one of Mintel’s global food and beverage analysts who has looked at the trends to see what the experts think will happen over the next 10 years.

“One thing about the food and beverage industry is how fast everything changes,” she said. “That is why we decided to look at the trends for 2030 and the long-term analysis and take a more strategic approach and think about what the food and drink industry is going to be like in 10 years’ time. We also wanted to see how businesses can prepare for that future so that there are fewer surprises.”

One of the outcomes of the research was the aforementioned population boom and how it would affect the supply chain of food.

“We are seeing that just having animal agriculture on its own won’t be enough to feed everybody,” said Moore. “We are going to have to figure out how to do that and that is why we are seeing a trend with high-end technologies being used. For a start, we are going to see more lab-grown food and that trend is all about how much consumer trust there is in food science and technology. That trust will strengthen as these things become vital conduits to save our food supply.”

Moore acknowledges that food created in the lab – especially meat – is in its infancy, but because of how fast things can change, it probably isn’t as far away as everybody thinks.
“Lab food hasn’t become commercial, but we are starting to see a lot of investment and interest in it and it is seen as a solution,” she said. “We do see it as becoming something that will strengthen our food supply. When we think about animal agriculture, 34 per cent of Australian urban internet users have said that they have environmental concerns relating to meat and we’ve seen a lot of investment in that and being able to provide a solution to this. It is something that we do predict that consumers will look more positive on in the future.”

The other problem that lab-grown meat might have to overcome is perception.
“With the lab-grown meat, a lot of the marketing strategy is about positiveness in the future,” said Moore. “I think the term ‘lab-grown meat’ can sound unappetising, but it can be sold with positive messaging around it. Potentially, it can be sold by mentioning its benefits. If they are educated about how it is produced, that could help ease that perception and make it sound more appealing.

“One of the positives we are seeing around lab-grown meat is that a lot of the companies are already investing in it. There are a lot of benefits, like being more ethical and affordable. Lab-grown meat is clean, has no hormones and is free from animal cruelty.”

As well as the issue of trying to provide enough food for the planet’s population, another emerging trend that food producers need to take heed of is how the younger generation is looking at how food and beverages are sourced in terms of being farmed and processed.

“What we predict is that success for some companies will come from those that are invested in improving the health of the planet and its population – if they are really trying to make a difference and really trying hard to help,” said Moore. “We are seeing a rising sense of urgency from people who are frustrated by this lack of action.

“We can see that there is going to be interest in that. Around 44 per cent of UK adults consider how ethical a food or beverage brand is before buying the products. Therefore, companies that do invest in the health of the planet and its population are going to do well. Generation Z consumers are being more frustrated and we can see that they are getting more and more into activism. The food sector is no different.”

And it’s not just the actual production of the food, and how it is processed that consumers are looking at when buying from the supermarket. More customers are going in-depth into as to what goes into food. Some of these issues have been around for a while, but they are still on consumers’ radar, according to Moore.

“When we think about how food is being produced, we see a fair amount of waste and that is definitely going to be addressed,” she said. “There is also a lot of concerns around antibiotics and hormones in food. Also, things like animal cruelty are on peoples’ minds.”
In summing up, Moore said there are three main planks that will help a lot of companies navigate through the ever-changing expectations of a public that is more informed than ever of where its food and beverages are sourced.

“First, successful companies will be those that invest in improving people and the planet,” she said. “Second, consumers’ trust in food science and technology will strengthen when it comes to choosing what food to buy. The third point is also around technology and how it is going to enable consumers to construct hyper individualised approaches to physical and mental health.”

Finally, according to the research released by Mintel, the food and beverage industry ‘will be compelled to elevate the role of nature, and humans, in the storytelling of these new, modern solutions. Transparency of information is essential to building trust in a future where scientists play as integral a role as farmers. And championing the people behind the food – whether it is grown in a laboratory or a field – will remain a timeless way of building trust with consumers’.