The food and drink trends you need to know

Olive tea. Edible insects. Kefir. Seaweed seasoning and turmeric lattes.

You would be forgiven for mistaking this for a shopping list from a Harry Potter novel. While we sampled all of the above and more at the Food Matters Live conference, we were also contemplating and discussing what does healthy even mean, is sustainability really driving consumer choice, how do you get products onto the big retailers’ shelves, and how is technology shaping the future of retail?

Between picking which of the dozens of seminars to attend and tasting all of the awesome new food and drink products that ambitious start-ups and small businesses brought to the exhibition, we walked away with our heads buzzing and as excited as the exhibitionists about this industry.

So, what are the answers to these topical questions facing the food and drink industry today and what does it mean for your products (and, of course, what does an edible insect actually taste like)?

Health and well-being is here to stay

Health and well-being has gone mainstream. Not only is this consumer trend influencing the development of new products and bringing to the fore new ingredients and processing methodologies but it is also being kept in the spotlight thanks to these emergent products, ingredients and technologies, and the rise of influencers motivating you and I to make the right choices.

However, with these buzzwords appearing in the media on an almost daily basis, for the average consumer, it’s pretty hard to keep up. With regular amendments to what makes a healthy diet or lifestyle, and inconsistency in food labeling, it’s no wonder that consumers are confused and skeptical.

So, as consumers become more informed, and more skeptical, we’re demanding more than just nutritional information and the more forward-focused brands are responding, for example, with (digitally) connected labels that deliver detail on provenance and source, recipes and other information.

As for ‘what healthy means’, well, there is no clear answer on this one. To appeal and attract attention on the shelf, brands need to decide what their angle on health is (for example, diet versus strength-building) and with only a few seconds to grab attention, use various cues to communicate this. For example, using icons and imagery such as blue which is traditionally associated with dieting, versus black which cues power and thus suits a more active definition of health.

Consumers desire a premium experience

What was once a sub-industry pitched at connoisseurs and the wealthy, premium products are now a common sight on the shelf, physical or virtual. Consumers today seek experiences, they want to experiment and feel like they’re ‘in the know’ and they buy into brands with heritage or brand values that align with their own.

As one of the first brand experiences a consumer will have with the brand, packaging is once again pivotal to communicating what kind of premium experience it will be, for example:

  • Beautiful packaging that people would be proud to have out when guests visit
  • Raw cardboard cues a focus on sustainability
  • Black, silver and gold signals a more traditional type of luxury
  • Interactive labels offer consumers the opportunity to jump deeper into the brand experience

Premiumness is all encompassing. The size and shape of the packaging; the colours, iconography and imagery used; the tone of voice; and product placement, all talk to the consumer.

Consumers are arguably more open to the use of data for the advancement of their experiences

Tech entrepreneurs stood up confidently to say that if used to the advantage of the consumer and to the betterment of their experiences, consumers are increasingly willing to give their data to companies. This ranged from recommendations of products they might want to buy, to better targeting of adverts, personalisation of products and even to 1 hour delivery slots based on where you (and your mobile phone) are. Brands that get this right stand to win in spades, however consumers need to genuinely believe (and experience) the benefit.

Convenience is no longer a trend driving behaviour but an accepted behaviour in and of itself

Food-to-go is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors in the food and drink industry, but this isn’t the only format that convenience takes. Combined with the rise of online shopping, consumers are increasingly taking to doing supplementary small shops instead of big weekly/bi-weekly ones and smaller retailers and convenience stores are the retail format showing some of the strongest growth.

In increasingly pressured lives, consumers are looking to retailers and brands to make their lives easier, such as better categorisation of products according to lifestyle diets, tailoring choices, automatic re-ordering, subscription services and ‘smart’ packaging that shows when the product is past its use-by date. Brands should be considering what will make it easier and quicker for the consumer, but also what this means for new product launches and product discovery.

Yes, sustainability IS driving consumer choices

It may not be mainstream yet but increasingly, savvy consumers are demanding that we all join forces to look after this earth for future generations, whether that’s by going vegan, meat-free Mondays, environment-friendly packaging or better recycling. Brands successfully connecting with consumers this way are doing it through their brand story and heritage, innovative production techniques reducing waste, re-usable or edible packaging and by supporting or working with charities and adjacent organisations. What links these success stories is authenticity and consumers will see straight through brands trying to jump on the band wagon without a credible story.

In increasingly competitive spaces, brands need to consider all of these trends, what their response is today and how they’re futureproofing their sales for tomorrow. Questions brands should be asking themselves include:

  • Are they moving with these trends or are they intentionally bucking them?
  • How can they use technology to impact the consumer experience?
  • What messages is your packaging cueing and does it align with brand values and the values of the target market?

If any of these are questions you’ve been considering, get in touch to find out how we might be able to work with you to answer them (as a bonus, we’ll happily share more examples of the different ways packaging and communications can communicate the trends outlined above.)

Finally, what DO edible insects taste like? A little like nuts actually. If you don’t know where to find them, don’t worry, the people we spoke to are confident you’ll be seeing them in a snack jar at your local pub, alongside pork scratchings and peanuts, in the not too distant future.