Bitter political climate could curb consumers' sense of food adventure in 2017

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Political climate could curb consumers' sense of food adventure 2017

Related tags Mintel 2016 Marketing research

The acrimonious political climate has many consumers looking for comfort rather than adventure in their food and beverage choices, and as such in 2017 they likely will reach for products that are "recognizable rather than revolutionary," according to Mintel.  

But the trend toward trusting tradition does not mean manufacturers can skate by without innovation or that new products will face an additional hurdle, the consumer market research firm argues in its new Global Food and Drink Trends 2017 report published Nov. 14. 

Instead, the trend "emphasizes the opportunity for manufacturers to look to the past as a dependable source of inspiration,"​ as in the case of alcoholic root beer, which offers a new twist on an much loved classic, the report notes. 

Companies also can meet this demand by using heritage ingredients or by explaining to consumers how the production or manufacturing techniques are rooted in tradition, the report adds. It also notes this strategy likely will appeal to the 18% of adults who say it is important for international packaged foods to have an on-pack history of the product.

Likewise, the report notes the number of products self-described as "ancient"​ increased 265% globally in the year starting September 2015 to August 2016 compared to five years prior. 

"These 'ancient' products include ancient grains, but also ancient recipes, practices or traditions,"​ Mintel notes. 

Other trends that likely will emerge or continue to dominate the food and beverage landscape in 2017 include:

* A growing interest in plant-based products -- ​Consumer interest in healthier diets continue to push people to eat more fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains, which in turn is prompting manufacturers to launch more vegetarian and vegan-friendly products. Mintel Global New Products Database tracked a 25% increase in vegetarian claims and a 257% rise in vegan claims globally on products launched between September 2015 and August 2016 and the same period five years prior. While these claims still currently apply to only 11% and 4% of products in the market respectively, the upward trend likely will continue in 2017 with increased consumer awareness, the report notes. 

* A focus on eliminating food waste -- "In 2017, the stigma associated with imperfect produce will begin to fade,"​ predicts Mintel. For support, it points to a growing awareness about the extent and impact of the 133 billion pounds of food wasted annually in the US and the government's corresponding goal to halve the amount of food wasted in the US by 2030. Mintel sees potential for delivery services that bring "ugly"​ produce to people's door, like Hungry Harvest​, and public awareness campaigns, such as the Ugly Fruit & Veg campaign​.

* Time management -- ​Timing will be everything in 2017 -- whether it is faster or slower, according to Mintel. The research firm says that consumers continue to be pressed for time and as such will want more on-the-go options or products that save them time with prep, such as meal kits or products with Amazon Dash buttons. At the same time, shoppers increasingly value "slow food."​ Mintel recommends marketers balance both by telling consumers exactly how long something took to create and how much more time consumers will need to invest before they can enjoy the product. For example, a pre-made pulled pork sandwich slow-roasted for six hours but which only takes minutes to reheat.

* New nighttime eating occasions -- ​With 56% of women and 46% of men in the US citing stress as a health concern, according to Mintel data, the market research firm sees significant potential for functional nighttime products that help consumers unwind and relax. In addition to relaxation, potential claims include curbing cravings until morning, speeding recovery for athletes overnight and creating calming bedtime routines, Mintel says.

* Affordable better-for-you options for everyone -- ​Consumers increasingly are aware of the price difference between healthy options and less nutritious choices and they increasingly are less comfortable with the divide, Mintel said. It notes that while everyone wants to save money, consumers who can afford to pay more likely will do so to support companies that provide healthy options to consumers with lower incomes at a lower price. 

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