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’.

Opportunity for frozen vegetables in health-focussed diets

In Australia, producers of frozen vegetables are missing an opportunity to help consumers create high-quality, home-cooked healthy meals without sacrificing time. More Australians are starting to prioritise eating more healthily, and to do so, market research specialist Mintel has information from its surveys that points to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This is done by following a balanced diet, and cooking more at home, as key steps in this journey.

At the same time, Australians want to make room in their lives for other priorities, such as cultivating strong personal relationships and enjoying social occasions – activities that they understand are important to their health in other ways.

Currently, Australians tend to have frozen vegetables on hand for side dish emergencies. However, these products can actually be promoted to do more – frozen vegetables can act as a shortcut for consumers who are trying to balance many things in their limited time, including eating well. Frozen vegetables provide a solution for time-strapped, yet health-focussed consumers, to create semi-scratch meals that contain lots of vegetables, while still eschewing the processed foods that they seek to avoid. Frozen vegetables are the solution to helping Australians achieve their goal to cook at home more often.

READ MORE: Tool measures the reaction to food launch

While Mintel research shows that almost half of urban Australians say they like to cook, the time taken to prepare for cooking, especially when using whole, fresh vegetables, could be better spent on other pursuits.

Enter speed-scratch or “semi-homemade” cooking. This concept, championed in the US by Food Network host Sandra Lee, instructs home cooks to use partially prepared foods to create dishes that feel like they are scratch-made.

Frozen vegetables are suitable for this, especially as they are already washed, peeled and chopped, and often come without the need to be defrosted before being added to a recipe. Positioning frozen produce as a partially prepared ingredient offers consumers a way to prepare something convenient at home without relying on processed foods – something that over two-thirds of urban Australians say they are looking to avoid.

Frozen vegetables can help home cooks in Australia create inspired, intentional meals that are rich in plant-based ingredients by clearly showing consumers the different ways that they can be used. Adding recipes and usage suggestions on pack is an approach that has worked well for the frozen fruit category. For instance, frozen fruit brands have included recipes and usage suggestions for smoothies on pack. These suggestions give consumers more ideas on how to use frozen produce, and they position frozen fruit as a product that consumers would purchase for this purpose.

By taking on a similar strategy, frozen vegetable brands can encourage consumers to buy their products more often than just something to have at home as a backup or emergency side dish.

In addition to helping consumers see frozen vegetables as a speed-scratch solution, brands need to overcome the perception that frozen is lower quality than fresh. This is especially true as Mintel research indicates the importance of freshness to Australians, with over half of them ranking it as the top attribute they seek in food.

However, according to Mintel Purchase Intelligence, a tool that measures consumer reactions to and purchase intent of food and drink products, Australians are unconvinced by the freshness of frozen vegetables. This reflects how frozen vegetable brands are not telling a strong story that communicates the freshness that these products can offer. While many brands use snap-chilling, and do mention this on pack, most are not using their packaging to talk about the benefits of quick freezing in preserving the quality, flavour and nutrition of vegetables. Telling a more dynamic story about freshness and quality can raise the value perception of frozen vegetables, especially when combined with convenience messaging.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Goodness Kitchen offers a good example of how these types of vegetables can communicate freshness and quality. The product uses bright colours and a see-through cut-out that reveals the product inside, which are aspects that set this packaging apart from the many bags and boxes in the frozen aisle. In addition, it uses the back of the pack to tell a full and engaging story about the company and its practices.

Goodness Kitchen talks about organic farming, freshness, nutritional quality and how frozen veggies help to reduce food waste. In an aisle where low price drives purchase intent, communicating the added value one product offers over another could open consumers’ minds to the fact that price is just one element of the value equation.

Brands in Australia have not fully exploited the chance to communicate the freshness and quality of frozen vegetables. There is the potential for these brands to show consumers that frozen products can empower them to achieve their health goals by helping them eat more vegetables, avoid processed foods and cook at home more often with less effort.

Tool measures consumer reaction to food launch

Chocolate confectionery is considered a permissible indulgence, as consumers balance portion control with enjoyment. Manufacturers are providing pre-measured portions like bites, crisps or thins, to help consumers manage their portion sizes.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), chocolate bites have edged out crisps and thins in global product launches over the past couple of years, with a promise of “just enough” chocolate to serve as a reward, pick-me-up, or treat.

As Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trend “Self-Fulfilling Practices” highlights, more people find modern life to be hectic and stressful; so flexible and balanced diets will become integral elements of self-care routines. Mintel research reveals that seven in 10 urban Australians say that eating a balanced diet contributes to a healthy lifestyle.

Consumers who are seeking self-care solutions will continue to look for better-for-you (BFY) and flavourful treats because they can form part of a balanced lifestyle. Permission to enjoy treats, or satisfy cravings, is an integral aspect of self-care that particularly addresses the stress relief aspect of one’s wellbeing.

Mini chocolates outperform regular chocolate
Mintel Purchase Intelligence, a tool that measures consumer reactions to newly launched food and drink products, reveals that mini chocolates outperform regular chocolates on instant reaction and purchase intent in Australia. More importantly, mini chocolates outperform regular chocolates on attributes that typically drive purchase intent among Australian consumers.

The tool reveals that 24 per cent of Australians say that minis are good value while 20 per cent say the same of regular chocolates, which is interesting because mini chocolates –often command a higher price point.

The reason for the higher purchase intent could relate to how minis tend to come in innovative formats like tubs and resealable pouch solutions – that provide convenience to consumers.

In addition to convenience, Australian consumers rate mini chocolates as having more appealing packaging, are more fun, and being tastier than regular chocolates.

The verbatims provided by Australians on mini chocolates reveal that consumers feel bite-sized chocolates help with portion control, however, they are concerned with the use of excess plastic packaging. That said, they are willing to pay more if the packaging is recyclable.

With the intense focus on sustainability today, chocolate manufacturers may need to find new ways to reduce the excess packaging associated with mini formats to align with the one third of urban Australians who say that they prefer products that are sold in eco-friendly packaging. The Cherry Ripe Bites that retail in a cardboard tub are a good example of companies rethinking the need for plastic packaging in favour of a recyclable option.

One-third of Australians want eco-friendly packaging

A rejuvenated sense of purpose regarding environmental issues is now prompting many Australians to take positive action to be more sustainable when it comes to product packaging.

Mintel’s 2019 Global Food and Drink Trends reveal that when it comes to Australia, 32 per cent of urban Australians prefer products that are sold in eco-friendly packaging. The global market intelligence agency which surveyed 1,500 Australians aged 16+, also found that 34 per cent of urban Australians prefer to buy products that are produced using sustainable sourcing methods.

Mintel’s food and drink predictions for 2019 explore new trends in sustainability, health and wellness, and convenience, sharing insight into market forces driving growth and influencing consumer behaviour. It contains analysis from more than 15 countries and predictions based on insights by more than 90 Mintel analysts and thought leaders, representing expertise in food and drink industries across Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas.

Associate consulting director, ANZ for Mintel, Shelley McMillan, said the trends are largely being driven by younger generations. “Australian i-Gen consumers, more so than any other generation, prioritise the importance of sustainability and environmental practices of brand,” she said. “In particular, 16-to-34-year-old urban Australians have significantly higher purchase intent regarding food products with a carbon neutral claim versus other age groups.

“The definition of sustainability is changing to encompass the entire product lifecycle from ingredient sourcing to package disposal or reuse. This more circular approach will require companies, retailers and consumers to embrace their roles in the sustainability cycle in the near future.”

Sustainability will be one of the big three food and drink trends for Australia covered by McMillan in a keynote presentation at the upcoming Naturally Good Expo, on June 2–3 at Sydney’s International Convention Centre. The annual event is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest natural, organic and healthy products trade show featuring more than 360 exhibitors and 20 presentations from influential leaders.

McMillan will address the key issues of evergreen consumption – the circular view of sustainability spanning the entire product lifecycle; trends throughout the ages – how food and drink is building on today’s dialogue about wellness and solutions for healthy ageing; and elevated convenience – how upgrades in convenience to match the premium expectations of consumers in the on-demand age.

Regarding the issue of healthy ageing, Mintel research shows that compared to a year ago, 70 per cent of urban Australians aged 55 and older are now either spending more or about the same on healthcare products.

“Younger consumers are now looking for products that help them manage their stress and sleep better – new formats and ingredients show future opportunities,” said McMillan noting that half of Australian metro consumers are planning on getting more sleep in the next 12 months.


“The category of ‘edible beauty’, also known as nutricosmetics or ingestible beauty, is also one of the hottest concepts in the beauty industry and quickly moving from the supplement segment into the food and drink space. In Australia, 56 per cent of urban consumers consider diet to be a factor that can impact the appearance of skin.”


Another key observation is that consumers are now seeking to save time without any sacrifices. Some 57 per cent of urban Australians consider ‘healthy food’ products as one containing all-natural ingredients. McMillan said the packaged food and drink is being challenged to make improvements to keep up with a combination of modern preferences including healthy eating priorities, quests for “foodie”-inspired flavours, interest in personalisation, and competition from speedy delivery services.


“Meal kits and food service-inspired beverages have led the way for premium convenience food and drink with two in five urban Australians saying that convenience, as in ease of ordering, influences their decision to buy one everyday product over another.


“Today’s consumers need to save time throughout the day. This creates opportunities for brands to develop healthy, flavourful, customisable and quick products for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert occasions.”


Automation has also set new expectations for retail with 31 per cent of urban Australians having made a purchase through an online retail site or app such as Amazon or eBay. Online shopping and delivery have attracted consumers who need quick and easy food solutions. “A new generation of automated convenience stores is accelerating the pace of grab-and-go even more. Integration with technology makes automated retailers potentially faster than fast food, drive-thru or ordering for delivery.”