Technology and trust are shaping food trends

A Mintel report shows that transparency around product claims is essential for brands to connect with consumers.

Mintel has identified five keys trends shaping food and drink in its most recent Global Food & Drink Trends report, and establishing consumer trust is at the top of the list.

As consumers look for reassurance about the safety and trustworthiness of the products they consume, more companies have started using natural, ethical and environmental claims on their labels and during product launches. And they have been forced to do so in an open and transparent way. As the report puts it, “clarity is required because distrust is rampant.”

While Mintel’s global database shows that natural product claims (including being free of additives/preservatives, organic and GMO-free) appeared on 29% of global food and drink launches between September 2016 to August 2017, only 20% of Canadians trust the claims made on packaging.

Going forward, the report notes that not only will transparency be necessary, but manufacturers and retailers will need to “democratise transparency and traceability” by making their products available to everyone, including lower-income households.

Mintel also found that the negative tone in politics and the media, coupled with the pace and connectivity of modern life, have led consumers to be more cognizant of self-care, which in turn has impacted their food choices. Moreover, they have grown increasingly interested in what food offers, rather than what it lacks, as a result of advice that can often be contradictory.

Consumers view enjoying occasional treats as an important part of self-care, leading two-thirds of Canadians who eat baked goods to affirm that it is acceptable to indulge on occasion. This has created an opportunity for manufacturers to market products of various formats and portion sizes that meet consumers’ own individual diets.

Moreover, Mintel suggests that texture will become important for both companies and consumers, as they offer sound, feel and satisfaction.

“Colour will continue to be important,” the authors write, “but texture is the next facet of formulation that can be leveraged to provide consumers with interactive – and documentation-worthy – experiences.”

As one example, in Canada, 30% of  adults who eat baked goods said they are interested in “cookie and chip hybrids.”

Technology and new shopping channels are also having a significant impact. Consumers have started using ecommerce sites, mobile apps, voice control and other channels to save time and money. This has been aided by the growing adoption of voice-enabled smart home devices.

That said, retailers can use these channels to reinvent the shopping experience and leverage the trend by using tech innovation to appeal to the 39% of Canadian shoppers who would like to see supermarkets organized by meal occasion, for example.

Finally, manufacturers have been developing solutions to traditional farms and factories and promoting the health and environmental benefits of their scientifically engineered ingredients. As such, Mintel predicts that technology will continue to disrupt the food chain this year, as companies look for solutions in laboratories.

It points to U.S. company Beyond Meat, whose vegetarian burgers are now available in Canadian A&W locations, as an example. According to the company, when consumers purchase its prepared meals, they are “lending Mother Nature a helping hand and positively impacting climate change by conserving water, energy and land.”