With the new year finally here, consumers and companies are looking forward and making predictions of what is to come. In the world of food and beverages, the industry perspectives are in and 2018 looks like a year that blends progress and comfort.
Larger and loftier trends like health consciousness and sustainability are driving the focus on creating change with our food choices, while more tangible trends like the continued exploration of ethnic flavors or viral-worthy foods signal an increasingly insatiable curiosity the need for some levity in the year to come.
The year ahead is full of some delicious developments. Take a look at some of the top predictions in the industry below and some examples of a few products in CPG that are prime examples of the trends or could be in a position to benefit.
1. Product/Brand Transparency
2017 was a year that challenged our trust in what we hear, support and consume—pair that with the broader, ongoing shift towards “clean label” and you’ve got a consumer that is more questioning than ever.
The Hartman Group reports in their 2017 Sustainability Report that 69 percent of consumers want more information about a company’s personal, social, economic and environmental practices. Products that are made with simple, few and understandable ingredients and/or strive for a clear and true story may be just what consumers are looking for this year—something they can believe in and trust.
RXBar is a prime example of a CPG brand who is taking this concept to the extreme, with their ingredients listed boldly and simply on the front of their package and their brand promise listed right underneath: “No BS.”
But beyond the label, every company has the opportunity to be transparent by representing themselves with honesty. Vice Cream does so, and breaks through the clutter in the ice cream category by tackling indulgence head-on in their messaging, the zig to Halo Top’s zag.
Your brand must be true to your company’s history, values, and attributes, or consumers with a heightened interest will be able to sniff out your falsehood, label you as ingenuine and move on.
Who ID’d this Trend: Wholefoods, Specialty Food Association, Ranker, Mintel
2. Sourcing and Sustainability
The impact-consciousness is spreading to more and more consumers and is manifesting itself in many ways in CPG. “Local sourcing,” “fair sourcing,” and “sustainable sourcing” are becoming common buzzwords and companies who are able and inclined are looking for ways to implement more sustainable practices into their production process.
One hot topic under this umbrella for 2018 is eliminating food waste. Abeego, for instance, is tackling this by selling a reusable beeswax parchment, helping consumers keep their foods fresher while reducing their footprint. Some companies, like Imperfect, are seeking to break the taboo of tossing produce just because it doesn’t meet our traditional aesthetic standards. The “Stem to Root” trend is making its way into restaurants, by which chefs work to use every part of the ingredient to reduce their food waste and save money.
On the sourcing side, it’s predicted that food companies will start looking to the ocean for greens in 2018. The rise of seaweed, kelp and the like are expected, as they are a more sustainable, nutrient-rich option. Seaweed snacks are not new this year, but food companies are working to make products that have more potential mass appeal, like GimMe Snacks, which has seaweed thins and chips, or Beyond the Shoreline, a startup that is is exploring a kelp jerky. Whether or not the US consumer is ready to jump in line for ocean greens, companies who continue to explore new ways to support sustainability could be rewarded by loyalty from like-minded consumers.
Who ID’d this Trend: Specialty Food Association, Ranker, National Restaurant Association, Whole Foods
3. Minimal or Natural Processing
The alternate or reduced processing trend comes from an increasing consumer sentiment that “less is more.” Getting back to basics, back the natural way of things, and away from the overprocessed. Smaller companies who can deliver higher quality, no-preservative, low-processed foods can seize the opportunity to fill a space that larger, less agile companies who are tied to national needs and longer shelf lives cannot.
On a more product-specific level, the popularity of fermentables is rising, such as Kombucha as a new star in Beverage. Local kombucha production is having its moment, and national players like Kevita are touting minimal and natural production, as well as effects on gut health, as key benefits.
Who ID’d this Trend: Innova, Specialty Food Association, Unilever, Rabobank
4. Plant Based Shift Continues
While this shift isn’t necessarily new to 2018, it’s continuing with a force and it’s upping its game—with technology and innovation driving delicious change.
Beyond Meat brought veggie burgers that “bleed” into the spotlight last year (which meat giant Tyson bought a stake in), with other companies following suit.
Hampton Creek has made headlines with its condiment alternatives, and in 2017 debuted an egg substitute, Just Scramble.
Beyond tech-driven shifts, recipes that use veggies to replace carbs and meat are expected to continue to rise in popularity in 2018, including zoodles and jackfruit recipes.
Who ID’d this Trend: Specialty Food Association, Unilever, Whole Foods, Rabobank, AF & Co Hospitality Report, Mintel, Waitrose, Ranker, DMA Solutions, National Restaurant Association
5. New Ethnic Flavors to Explore
Consumers in the States have been looking East for new food inspirations for years, but in 2018 we’re expected to be introduced (and reintroduced) to a variety of cuisines from other places. The top prediction being cited is a deeper look into Middle Eastern flavors—now that the American palate has become accustomed to the entry foods (pita, falafel, hummus and the like) we’re ready to explore even more traditional dishes and new spice sets. Get ready to see more tahini, harissa, za’atar and more beyond our current vernacular via brands like Mina, which offers a variety of Moroccan sauces and is now available at Kroger, Fresh Market, Whole Foods and Target.
Another key trend commonly identified for the upcoming year is looking to Asian cuisine to introduce savory and umami-forward breakfast options. The chinese breakfast crepe, the jianbing, was cited by the Sterling-Rice Group to be a popular contender for our attention because it brings American consumers the savory flavors we’re looking for without alienating those who aren’t ready to jump into fishier breakfast options.
Other noted trends to look out for include Indian street food, East African Flavors, Japanese dude food, and Filipino cuisine—it sounds like 2018 could turn out to be a pretty tasty year.
Who ID’d this Trend: Whole Foods, Specialty Food Association, AF & Co Hospitality Trend Report, Waitrose, National Restaurant Association, Sterling-Rice Group
6. Keeping it Light
Though more of a cultural shift than simply an annual trend, the rise of snacking in years past and shoppers’ quest for more frequent and lighter options may translate to the onset of continued methods to lighten what we consume. Food and beverage companies could be looking to the garden for inspiration for lighter flavors, like Blossom Water, who debuted a line of floral-enhanced waters last year.
Other predictions for iterations of this fresh levity include floral cocktail mixers and inclusions (lavender, elderflower, hibiscus and more), lighter ABVs (think lighter beers, hard waters and other less alcoholic options), and a general lighter sweetness in things from desserts to teas and beyond (“alt sweet”).
Who ID’d this Trend: Whole Foods, Specialty Food Association, Unilever, Innova, Supermarket News
7. Eye-catching Foods Destined for Instagram
Last year we saw the rise of the Unicorn Food Fad, with all kinds of foods from toast to coffee drinks radiating with rainbow colors. Perhaps taking a cue from the tasty and highly shareable trend, 2018 is predicted to see more food products playing heightened aesthetics in order to get their brands and products into peoples’ social feeds. What exactly does this mean? Carefully organized breakfast bowls become too pretty to eat (but definitely pretty enough to take a picture of), brightly colored foods need #nofilter to get likes, adding black sesame seeds or activated charcoal to foods transforms them into snappable “goth” foods, and beautiful packaging as a selling point reaches a whole new level.
Califia Farms has a perfectly curated Instagram full of beautiful and aspirational product shots—and its followers have followed suit by sharing their own cold brew pics.
Califia Instagram Page
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, out of Brooklyn, saw a 50% sales increase after making a packaging change to ensure that their products, according to their cofounder, “looks good on social media.
Polar Seltzer used limited edition flavors and packaging to create brand hype—what started as an April Fool’s joke and a limited Jr. Can run created a “consumer frenzy” and demand for the whimsical tiny cans.
Who ID’d this Trend: Specialty Food Association, Unilever, AF & Co Hospitality Trend Report, Innova, Ranker, Packaged Facts Food Forecast, Sterling-Rice Group
Honorable Mentions—Other Identified Trends for 2018
Cauliflower as an Entree and Side
Clean Makeovers of Comfort Food
Expansion of the Taco
Micro-livestock (Cricket Flour)
Nutrition Label Evolution
Peter Pan Effect – Millennial Nostalgia
Puffed & Popped Snacks
Rise of Traditional Breads
Self Care enters Food
Texture in Food and Drink (i.e. Boba Tea)
There are dozens of predictions for what consumers will taste, buy and love in the coming year—only time will tell which of these possibilities will hold true. Have you seen any other interesting 2018 trends not listed here? Let us know in the comments! Want to keep tabs on food and beverage trends for 2018 as they emerge? Check out Produce Retailer’s or Global Food Forum’s running lists on industry news.