Six food trends for 2018

Each year, the food and beverage sector seems to reinvent itself. Some trends, like mindful eating, rise slowly and have staying power, while others fizzle out just as quickly as they sparked. One thing’s for certain, staying on top of the latest food trends is a good way to separate yourself from your competitor.

Each year, Innova Market Insights brings together a team of analysts from around the world to discuss the next year’s big food trends. This year, they shared their findings in a presentation at Anuga FoodTec in Hanover, Germany. Innova Market Insights is a market research company focused on the food, beverage and ingredients industry. They combine market research with consumer data to determine the next big trends.

This year, said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation and head of the analysis team, the group spent a lot of time thinking about what will happen in the food industry. The industry has never faced more challenging times, she said, but there are plenty opportunities as well.

1. The whole picture

Following on last year’s trend of cleaner eating with a focus on farms, this year’s top trend, said Williams, is “mindful choices.”

“I don’t know if we want to call it Clean Label 10.0,” she said. “But consumers really do have a more holistic idea of what they eat. It’s peace of mind, but it’s also your body. People are thinking about sustainability and environmental issues.”

This “mindful choices” trend was apparent at both Fruit Logistica and Anuga FoodTec, especially in packaging, where companies presented more sustainable options to processors.

Williams pointed out that the definition of sustainability has evolved over the years, though, and has come to mean something more. Consumers, she said, are looking more closely at their food, assessing it in terms of animal welfare, packaging and overall health. To stay on top of this trend, products really need to appeal to that market. “Now we’re seeing that all of these products are incorporating elements of both of them,” said Williams. “It’s about finding balance between the two.”

In terms of the body, new product innovations are being driven by a secondary “better-for-you” trend. In 2012, for example, 42 percent of all products launched claimed to be healthy, free-from or clean label. In 2017, that number rose to 49 percent.

Products made with real ingredients are also quite attractive to consumers. “This can be a point of differentiation with your competitor,” Williams said.

2. The lighter side

Innova Market Insights sees the second main trend as “lighter enjoyment.” Diets are out of fashion, but weight management is not, Williams said. Along with low-alcohol drinks and thinner baked products, this trend has also led to growth in the plant-based waters and drinks.

3. A positive spin on processed

The third food trend is “positively processed” products. Processes like “raw” and “old-fashioned” are drawing attention, as they are perceived as being more natural. “There’s this whole idea that these new techniques promote better health,” Williams said, “like better nutrition through cold-pressed juices.”

4. Sustainable packaging

The fourth main trend for 2018 is driven by the circular economy. This is particularly evident in the growth of the number of products sold in ethical packaging – meaning biodegradable, compostable or upcycled packaging.

“There are so many ways to promote some type of difference around your product,” Williams said, pointing to these trends.

5. Eating as a communal experience

Sharing food through social media is also getting hotter and hotter. According to Innova Market Insights, consumers look to capture images of impactful foods with funky colors. Growth in products driven by this trend has been significant; food and beverage launches with coloring foods have shown constant growth over recent years with a compound annual growth rate of more than 11 percent. This trend presents opportunities for those who offer vibrant, naturally colored foods with a clean label.

6. Snacking doesn’t mean bad for you

The sixth trend falls in the healthy snack category. Changing meal times are propelling the convenient, healthy and more satisfying snack sector. The market research company reported that fruit and vegetable launches with a “snack” claim in 2017 more than doubled compared to 2012. This trend was especially noticeable at this year’s Fruit Logistica trade fair in Germany where single portion, healthy snacks could be found in all shapes and colors.

Innova Market Insights is based in the Netherlands. To learn more about other food trends for 2018, visit their website at

— Melanie Epp, contributing writer

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