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Consumer Trend Spotting at the Food Expo

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What consumer trends should be front and center for IFT16 attendees as they canvass the floor of the food expo? Here’s a look at some that should definitely be kept in mind.

Woman preparing mealHalf of all consumers are now favorably influenced by the fact that a product has a high nutrition content, was produced with limited processing, is free from preservatives/artificial ingredients/hormones, and is organic/all-natural, according to research from Deloitte. One-third of adults are trying to avoid genetically modified (GM) ingredients, and four in 10 are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of clean labels.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified 11 nutrients consumed in less than optimal amounts. Calcium, potassium, vitamin D, fiber, and iron are considered of public health concern; vitamins A, C, E, and K, folic acid, magnesium, and choline are also below recommended levels, according to the guidelines. Six in 10 adults look for added vitamins/minerals on food labels, per the Hartman Group.

New fitness-focused lifestyles, a shift in health concerns (especially among women and Millennials) to products that affect everyday performance, and a desire for faster results from weight loss, energizing, and sports products have fueled a new mainstream food/beverage performance market.

In the past year, 26% of adults have switched to healthier breads, 22% switched to healthier oils, and 22% to healthier cold cereals. Healthy snacks continue to outperform their traditional counterparts, per IRI.

One in five consumers are regularly eating more meatless meals/meat alternatives, according to the Food Marketing Institute; 5% follow a vegetarian diet. Sixty-four percent are trying to get more protein, and one in five are trying to consume more plant protein, per Packaged Facts.

Two-thirds of consumers want more herbs/spices that deliver health benefits (e.g., turmeric). More than half are very or extremely interested in unique ingredient substitutions for natural sweeteners, grains, and flours, per HealthFocus.

Heart health, energy, digestion, cognitive health, and immunity are the top condition-specific benefits consumers look for when shopping for foods. Cholesterol-lowering, weight loss, high blood pressure relief, and digestive health are the top functional food opportunities, per Packaged Facts. Those looking for gluten-free on a label fell to just 7% in 2016, per FMI.

But it’s not all just about health. With 48 million Americans defining themselves as “foodies,” more unique and sophisticated flavors and ingredients remain in high demand. Sixty-one percent of adults buy specialty foods for everyday meals at home; 44% do so for everyday snacks, per the Specialty Foods Assoc.

Ethnic condiments and spices are the top hot ethnic culinary trend for 2016, ahead of any one specific cuisine, along with gourmet kids’ meals and ethnic breakfast items, according to the National Restaurant Assoc.

Lastly, four in 10 consumers say sustainability has a significant impact on their food purchases, up from 35% in 2015, per the International Food Information Council.

A. Elizabeth Sloan is president of Sloan Trends (lizsloan@sloantrend.com).


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