Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why, have identified three key trends that will shape global food and drink industries in the years ahead.
The firm said that in 2024, brands should focus on helping consumers live longer, healthier lives, balance their needs for health and pleasure, and unlock new conveniences from technology.
Jenny Zegler, director of Mintel Food & Drink, offered insights on how food and beverage brands can help consumers balance their needs for health and pleasure, prepare themselves for longer, healthier lives, and gain new conveniences from technological advances.
Trend No. 1: Age Re-Framed
Generation X (consumers born between around 1965 and 1979) is pioneering a new approach to healthy aging that includes products that will help them thrive in their diverse lifestyles now and for decades to come, according to Zegler.
Healthy aging will also be redefined by debunking ‘old’ stigmas and prioritizing extending consumers’ healthy years, according to Mintel.
“Consumers aged 40 and over account for the most significant share of food and drink spending in many markets globally, meaning brands cannot ignore this forgotten generation,” Zegler said. “Learning from the ‘menopausal revolution,’ brands should consider their various nutritional, physical mental and emotional health needs and innovate products and formulations for issues such as cardiovascular health, brain health and stress. They can help promote healthy aging by ensuring nutrient-rich food and drink is affordable, accessible and convenient for all ‘active agers’.”
Zegler added that consumers will welcome brands that ease the stress of caring for multiple generations, and the winners will be those who offer convenient products and helpful tools for caregivers and those they care for.
Trend No. 2: Eating, Optimized
A new era of convenience will emerge as technology streamlines meal planning, shopping and cooking, per Mintel.
“Convenience has always been an evolving concept, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumers’ desires to find shortcuts to quality food and drink experiences in their day-to-day lives,” shared Zegler. “Technology like AI and AR will exist on a spectrum, helping them find their ideal balance between the occasions when they desire to create truly innovative and engaging dishes, drinks and snacks and when meal planning, shopping, cooking or even eating can be put on autopilot.”
Zegler explained that AI, AR and other technology tools are set to become nonnegotiable time savers in the kitchen. “For retailers, developments will come in the form of real-time shopping assistance, such as push notifications, personalized alerts and AI that could help consumers find ingredients or products while in stores, in transit or shopping online,” she said. “Localized data could unveil new opportunities for customized vending selections that respond to the needs within a community, such as the desire for quick, hot meals on college campuses.”
Trend No. 3: Trust the Process
Mintel also noted that clear communication will become necessary to help consumers make informed decisions about how processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages fit into their diets.
“Scrutiny of processing use in the food and drink industry is intensifying,” Zegler revealed. “Fueled by discussions about highly, overly or ultra-processed food, feelings about processing will inspire consumers to look more closely at ingredients, nutrition and production. A growing awareness of different levels of processing will make way for greater potential for minimally processed food and drink that focus on the positive aspects of food-processing techniques, such as those that enhance nutrition, inhibit contaminant formation or improve sustainability.”
Zegler said that brands offering minimally processed products should share how processing improves their products, such as enhancing nutrition, increasing shelf life or reducing environmental impact. While those producing ultra-processed food and drink products will need to remind consumers of the joy and comfort they offer.
Expect to see a growing interest in less processed or non-processed foods and drinks made with upcycled ingredients that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and other nutrients, according to Zegler.
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