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Taking a Look at What Consumers Want

June 27, 2017

Girl eating doughnutWith Gen Z set to become America’s largest generation and a Millennial baby boom underway, foods and beverages aimed at babies, toddlers, kids aged 6–12, and teens will be back in vogue, which is a demographic trend that food company product developers and marketers should be aware of. Packaged Facts predicts kid’s food/beverage sales will reach $42 billion by 2019.

Families with kids, who account for 40% of snack sales, and Millennials are driving a new early morning snack occasion, per IRI. Six in 10 consumers want snacks that deliver an energy boost; 57% want vitamins/minerals; and 52%, benefits beyond basic nutrition.

While cleaner labels are boosting sales, it is minimal processing and the process itself that’s stealing the spotlight. Cold-pressed/cold-brewed, slow/low temperature pasteurization, and hydroponics are among the latest processing trends that are attracting attention.

Organic food/beverage sales reached $43 billion in 2016, up 8.4%, per the Organic Trade Assoc. The Food Marketing Institute’s 2017 Grocery Shopper Trends reports that 33% of consumers look for low sugar claims; 32%, low sodium; 24%, natural; 23%, non-GM; 30%, whole grain; and 28%, high fiber.

Heavily fortified nutritionals (e.g., meal replacements, bars, and protein drinks) were among the 10 fastest-growing CPG food/beverage products last year, per Nielsen. Six in 10 adults tried to get more protein; among those aged 25–39, 37% sought more vegetarian/plant protein, according to Packaged Facts. Sales of plant-based fare topped $4.9 billion, per SPINS.

High protein, along with low sugar/low calorie, probiotics, and energy-boosting are among the top beverage trends for 2017, per Beverage Industry. Last year nearly half of adults tried to get more potassium; 37%, omega-3s; and 33%, probiotics, per IFIC.

The $37 billion sports nutrition market continues to move mainstream. Gallup reports that half of adults exercised three or more days per week last year.

America’s new nationalism is driving unprecedented interest in American regional cuisines, flavors, and U.S.-based ingredients. Barbecue is Americans’ favorite regional cuisine.

African, ethnic fusion, Middle Eastern, and Latin American top the list of trendy flavors for 2017, per the National Restaurant Assoc.’s annual chef survey. Street foods, replacing carbs with vegetables, and ethnic breakfast items are other hot culinary trends.

Brown bagging is back. Lunch needs a culinary upgrade, and nearly half of all meal occasions are snacks.

The Specialty Food Assoc. reports sales of gourmet foods/drinks topped $127 billion in 2016, up 15% over the past two years; the incidence of home entertaining is up 19%, per the NPD Group.


A. Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, a professional member of IFT, is president, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif. (lizsloan@sloantrend.com).