Food Retail Trends For 2017
Updated 6/30/2017 – 6th trend added!
We scour trade publications and research resources for secondary data on what trends impact retail, and therefore our clients’ businesses. Because we do a lot of work in the Supermarket category, retail food trends are of particular interest to us.
I recently read a summary report on 2017 top food trends done by Innova Market Insights and published in the Retail Dive e-newsletter.
I was fascinated by what the trends tell us about the intelligent, discerning, demanding, consumer of 2017. What was a fringe movement, like non-GMO, is now mainstream. What is now a mainstream trend will soon be a consumer basic expectation.
Each of these trends is a potential differentiator, a possible leverage point, for food retailers. This is especially relevant as we enter the January post-holiday fitness and diet period. Merchandised properly, retailers can drive home the fact that they are in lockstep with what consumers are beginning to want and expect.
Doing this before competitors do, means you stand a greater chance of capturing sales from these early adopter consumers, who will then evangelize the fact that you have what they now want. Together with a smart, well executed in-store marketing programs, you can set yourself apart from your competitors, which is an important step toward increasing sales.
1. Clean and Clear Labels
Consumers now want to know about all aspects of the food they purchase, from where ingredients are sourced to the sustainability of the packaging.
A new study by Innova Market Insights classified this next-level clean label movement as the top food trend of the new year, calling it “Clean Supreme.”
The study noted that last year about 20% of new products tracked in the U.S. featured some kind of “clean” label claim, meaning that they are free from artificial colors, preservatives, and was either natural or organic.
GMO-free ingredients are perhaps the most critical component for the clean label trend of 2017. Consumer focus is going back to the source of the product, which has a lot to do with traceability.
As demand for natural and clean label products continue to increase, there will be a huge impact on the supply chain, likely creating shortages.
2. Vegan and Vegetable-based Products
The study dubbed the second top trend “Disruptive Green,” which refers to consumers’ desire to incorporate more plants and vegetables into their everyday diets.
This means that interest in things like plant-based milk and vegetable-based meat alternatives will only continue to grow, as result of increased nutritional awareness.
This trend is also reflective of the rise in “flexitarian” consumers, who maintain a vegetarian lifestyle the majority of the time because of health and animal welfare concerns.
3. Sugar Alternatives
The third Innova study trend, “Sweeter Balance,” anticipates additional taxes on sugary beverages and foods, driving consumers to products that use natural sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and stevia to create indulgent flavors.
Check out my new article, “The Rebirth of Brick & Mortar Retail” where I discuss the current state of online vs. physical retail!
The fact that the World Health Organization has endorsed these soda taxes shows that this is something to follow, the study notes.
Manufacturers should be wary of a “sugar/clean label paradox.” Consumers want all natural clean label alternatives, but sugar can’t be replaced with stevia altogether without creating taste issues.
Consumers may also be confused about the amount of sugar new “lighter” products still contain.
4. Authentic, Exotic Ingredients and Flavors
“Kitchen Symphony” is the fourth study trend, reflecting the interest in unique and exotic flavor profiles.
Innova attributes consumer interest in foreign flavors to the fact that “the connected world has led consumers of all ages to become more knowledgeable of other cultures,” and that has resulted in “growing demand for greater choice and higher levels of authenticity in ethnic cuisines.”
5. Personalized Nutrition
The final food retail trend, “Body In Tune”, centers on the health benefits that consumers see in certain products; whether or not they have any true impact on their personal nutrition, is up to you.
It is really down to how you act in your day-to-day life, and this is especially the case with “free-from” products, such as items that are gluten-free or lactose-free.
The new consumer favorite in this category is low-FODMAP drinks.
FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols, Low-FODMAP products are supposed to be better for your digestion by cutting back on carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and cause severe abdominal pain, bloating and constipation.
Consumers now desire transparency in food packaging and marketing. Although they describe it in terms of “openness,” “honesty,” things being “public,” “clear,” “visible,” and “not hidden.” This means they want more than just information, they want assurances of food safety, a pursuit of social responsibility, and most important of all – they don’t want to be tricked! Consumers are more savvy than every. If you have a sugar filled product you are trying to market as healthy because there are “zero grams of fat” you won’t get far with today’s consumer.
About the Author
Steve Thomas – WMG’s Chief Marketing Officer
Steve Thomas is a 30-year consumer marketing veteran, who specializes at building differentiated brand stories that grow business. Thomas was previously Chief Marketing Officer for franchise companies Green Home Solutions and Edible Arrangements International, having helped grow the latter to its current position as a major gift category retailer, with almost 1300 locations worldwide. Thomas brings a unique perspective to WMG, ensuring that we continue to push to “walk the walk” in terms of client effectiveness and innovation in merchandising. Under Thomas’ marketing leadership, the WMG story of placing clients’ success above all else, is being spread across the nation. Follow Steve on Linkedin here.