1. 2019 Trend Predictions Come to Life: We conducted a mid-year review of some of the most highly discussed food, beverage and nutrition topics to see exactly how these trends have played out:
- Digestive Health: The microbiome offers a new paradigm for health. Research shows that when the microbes that make up the digestive system are healthy, mental and physical wellbeing follow suit. Industry players are responding with in-market products to support consumers in their pursuit of a healthy gut. Kefir, Kvass and fermented products, which may be linked to improved health of the gut microbiome, continue to pop-up on shelves. Technology is also evolving to help analyze and identify pathologies in the microbiome and metagenome.
- Plant-based: New milk and meat alternatives continue to rise in popularity. Oat-based drinks and yogurts are the newest non-dairy darlings. Grubhub’s State of the Plate survey found orders of vegan-friendly foods on Grubhub were up 25% between January and May, and orders of the Impossible Burger rose 82% nationwide in one year. That said, warning flags have been raised concerning this growing trend. For example, Today’s Dietitian recently cautioned that plant-based alternatives can be highly processed, which may increase levels of sodium, saturated fat, additives and artificial colors. Additionally, plant-based meat alternatives can be expensive and often lack important nutrients, like vitamin B12. From a policy standpoint, another growing issue with conversion to plant-based alternatives is the growing dialogue on standard of identity. Despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating it would enforce standard of identity labeling in 2018, the agency has yet to make strides in this realm. The National Milk Producers Federation put pressure on the FDA earlier this month to enforce these standards, and restrict the labeling of milk to avoid confusion over the nutrient composition of plant-based dairy alternatives, an initiative that has received support from health professionals. Authoritative organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, have commented that the lack of a standard of identity when it comes to non-dairy sources of milk is misleading – causing many consumers to believe non-dairy sources of milk are equivalent in nutrient composition to the dairy counterparts they are imitating.
- Snacking: Typical eating occasions are no longer black and white. The lines between meals and snacks are blurring, as consumers continue to insert regular snacking into a formal meals structure. The trend is not expected to slow down anytime soon. Of note, consumer research shows breakfast snacking is growing in popularity – as breakfast is already an on-the-go behavior.
*DYK? Research from Frito Lay suggests Independence Day as the biggest snacking opportunity of the year.
- Value-based Choices: Food and beverage choices are becoming an extension of an individual’s personal beliefs. Consumers – especially millennials – are looking to make conscious, responsible purchases that benefit themselves and their environment.
- Cannabis and CBD: CBD has gained and continues to gain momentum. It is now waiting for FDA approval to take over food and beverage shelves. Many cannabis companies are pushing FDA to ease regulatory hurdles.
*DYK? Research from Mintel suggests that edibles, such as chocolate and candy, are the most popular way to consume CBD.
Bottom line: Both large and small players in the food and beverage environment are adapting more efficient and nimble product development processes. Expect to see trends move more quickly from paper to store shelves.
2. Global Conversations Influence Sustainable Conversations; Local Forces Creating Action: Consumers and companies alike are making strides toward decreasing our carbon footprint, but there is also opportunity to deepen the conversation and commitment to food-related sustainability activities, such as decreased food waste. While conversations on sustainable nutrition are occurring at a global level (i.e., EAT Lancet), local bodies are taking actionable steps to create changes in their environment. That said, sustainability can mean different things to different people. According to IFIC’s 2019 Food & Health Survey, consumers define sustainable products as locally-produced, products labeled as sustainably-produced, non-GMO/not bioengineered or organic, having recyclable packaging, and having minimal packaging. Almost two-thirds of consumers (63%) noted they would purchase more sustainable products, if easier to identify on shelves.
Bottom Line: Consumers look for on-pack support to guide decision making processes. More education and information will improve consumers’ consumption of sustainable products.
3. Just-For-You Nutrition: Genetics-based, personalized nutrition has replaced the one-size-fits-all nutrition approach. Improvements in technology have translated into reduced costs, improved ease of access, and explosion of direct-to-consumer testing. The most apparent benefit of genetic testing is its potential as a motivator for change, inspiring patients and clients to change lifestyle behaviors based on professional advice that fits them, and not just the general population. However, recent research points to our environment as being the most important factor in how we metabolize food including sleep habits, stress levels, and exercise routine, as well as the diversity and population of our microbiome. As exciting as genes are, they are only one part of a much bigger picture. Research needs to catch up to the demand for personalization and precision, in order to make genetics-based nutrition more applicable.
- Gatorade has put advancing technology into practice through measuring sodium loss through exercise to “prescribe” replenishment.
- DuPont and BioMe Oxford plan to co-develop smart capsules to sample gut microbiota, providing a non-invasive, easy access way to assess different substrates’ effect (such as probiotics or specific carbohydrates) on the microbiome.
- The Federal Communications Commission Connect2Health Task Force is working to raise consumer awareness on the advancing technology and accessibility of ingestible, wearable and embeddable devices to measure things like heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.
Bottom line: Health professionals and consumers alike are eagerly waiting on researchers to fill in the gaps needed, in order to make personalized and precision nutrition more useful and reliable in practice. While some organizations are dabbling in the technology, more research is warranted. Read more here.