We're more discerning of product labels, empowered to improve our food system and seeking whole food sources to address specialty diet and health concerns. How will these factors influence the marketplace? Here's a closer look at five forces shaping tomorrow's food trends.
Trend 1: Convenience is (still) king
"More and more of our meals and eating occasions are happening away from home. In the real estate industry, it is said that ‘location is everything.’ In the packaged food industry this is also now the case. Brands that offer portable, convenient, resealable or single serve packaging formats will have a leg up." —Fresca Foods
Products that eliminate one extra step will reign. Think: nut butters fortified with 50 percent of your daily recommended vitamins and water bottles outfitted with citrus juicers for easy flavored water.
Along these lines, the inherently convenient bar category will continue to thrive. New products are reviving the market with a much-needed breath of fresh air as manufactures continue to move away from tasteless, solely functional sports bars toward products that promote functionality and flavor. Look for more gluten-free options in 2013 as well as category introductions for Paleo eaters.
Trend 2: Specialty diet snacking
We are spending more dollars and consuming more pounds of snack foods than ever before. According to The NPD Group, more than half of us are snacking 2-3 times a day, up from 20 percent just 3 years ago. As we eat more frequent, smaller meals, Fresca believes consumers will increasingly depend on snack foods as a source of nutrition as well as hunger satisfaction. As evidence of this trend, 7 out of 10 new snack foods launched this year make a health claim, such as 'all natural,' 'gluten free,' or 'whole grain.' – Fresca
Gluten-free, vegan and raw snacks were de rigueur in 2012 and will continue their upward trajectory in 2013. Flavor and nutrient-dense ingredients will be a top priority as well as tailoring snacks to appeal to more than one specialty diet – think gluten and diary free or vegan and gluten free.
Trend 3: True transparency
"Clean food labels are becoming increasingly important. The local and organic movements were just a beginning. Consumers are demanding more transparency for what is in their food and how it is made. More pressure will be placed on producers to make more wholesome, less processed foods. We anticipate that the non-GMO discussion will gain widespread momentum over the next several years." – Fresca Foods
In a world where bad news goes viral in seconds, the era of giving lip service to transparency is over. Already, many values-based brands are well ahead of this macro force and are building transparency into their supply chains, manufacturing processes and packaging.
Trend 4: Protein, please
"Protein will be one of the most sought-after nutrients in snack foods and meals. In particular, consumers will desire 'cleaner' forms of protein, such as nuts, seeds, legumes and yogurt. The explosion of high-protein Greek yogurt brands, such as Chobani, in the past two years is an example of this growing trend." – Fresca
Time-strapped consumers have long fantasized about the perfect meal in a pill—a product that could control calories while delivering nutrition and satiety with little fuss. We may never create a one-gulp meal solution, but protein-packed CPG products are the next best thing.
In 2012, we saw the revamping of the meal replacement category with new products ditching chemicals, artificial ingredients and fillers for whole food sources. The move will help these natural powders and shakes appeal to a wider audience. But this year won't just be about protein in expected places. Satiation will be a top priority for consumers across the board. Anticipate "[fill in the blank] grams of protein" front-of-pack labels on everything from condiments to baking mixes.
Trend 5: Ancient Wisdom
"Ancient grains and seeds will increasingly appear in mainstream products, such as granola, cereals, crackers and breads. Quinoa, flax and chia, among others, are packed with protein, fiber omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. While ancient grains and seeds have been popular among health-conscious consumers for years, they are breaking into the mainstream due to their high-nutrient content and versatility."
Backyard chicken coops, home gardens and beekeeping are suddenly considered 'cool,' and we're realizing grandma may have had it right all along. As Michael Pollan told Good Morning America last year, "The wisdom of your mother and your grandmother and great-grandmother has more to teach us about how we eat well than all the scientific studies in the world so far."