We’re more than halfway through 2016 so we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit some 2016 trend predictions and forecast which trends will continue to rise in 2017. Let’s get started!
New Consumer Habits
In the past 24 hours, 92% of US adults had a snack. When you stop to think about that stat, it’s staggering. Not only are consumers snacking more than ever, but they are also increasingly looking for healthier and more portable options. Busy, on-the-go lifestyles create a demand for quick, nutritional meals. Snacking occasions are also evolving, many becoming small meal replacements. Because of this, consumers are looking for high-carb and high-protein snacks to keep them full. Plant-based proteins continue to do very well in the marketplace as a protein alternative to meat. There is a variety of snacks currently available (and more coming in 2017) with the main protein source coming from beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and nuts.
Customization is also a huge trend for consumers. They want to be able to customize their eating experience to their personal taste preferences and dietary restrictions. You’ll see more about stores shifting to meet these customization demands when we discuss the changing industry landscape.
A big trend for 2017 will be the continued growth and importance of brands’ digital presence. Millennials and Gen Z in particular turn to digital devices for education about the brand and products they want to engage with. In-store education can no longer be the norm.
Consumers continue to want clean foods and simple labels. The more they can’t recognize ingredients on nutritional labels, the less likely they are to buy the product. In a large majority of cases, the absence of ingredients is more important than the addition of them.
In a recent Nielson study, snacks with all-natural ingredients are rated very important by 45% of global respondents – the highest percentage out of the 20 health attributes included in the study. Other nutritional attributes that are important to consumers include:
- Absence of genetically modified organisms: 43%
- High fiber: 37%
- Low sugar: 34%
- Low salt: 34%
- Low fat: 32%
- High protein: 31%
- Low calories: 30%
- Low or no carbohydrates: 25%
- Caffeine-free: 23%
- Gluten-free: 19%
The healthy snacking initiative is moving past being a trend and becoming more of the industry standard that consumers are demanding. Expect to see more niche brands emerge in 2017 with specific healthy snack verticals with the big brands removing artificial ingredients and rolling out new more natural product lines.
Changing Industry Landscape
The need for convenient snacks continues to grow and is changing the industry landscape in a lot of different ways. The grocery industry is responding with more grab-n-go options as shoppers are stopping in more frequently for snacks or ready-to-eat lunches in addition to their weekly grocery shopping trips. More and more snacks are moving into the fresh meat and produce sections for easy access and cross-merchandising.
Convenience stores are looking toward quick service options as snack buying is shifting to other retail locations. The customization options for beverages and lunches have exploded with consumers wanting to design their own made-to-order meals. Where years ago, convenience stores were known for quick and mostly unhealthy snacks, there is now a huge desire for healthy and fresh grab-n-go options for lunch and dinner.
There has been an explosion of QSR concepts in the marketplace these last few years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Consumers are looking for quick grab-n-go options beyond lunchtime so QSR’s are accommodating with longer hours and more options. Healthy is still a big trend in this sector with new concepts popping up everywhere that have a focus on healthier eating and featuring nutritional information. Bold flavors are also a focus with Mediterranean and other ethnic flavors becoming popular chains.
Even fine dining restaurants are feeling the effect with diners expecting similar experiences there. Healthy options and dietary restrictions are big trends that restaurateurs have had to answer. An influx of small plate options have helped with these needs and also let the diner customize their experience by trying lots of different options. Local ingredients also continue to be important to chefs and diners alike.
Stay tuned for more on how our industry will continue to grow and change in 2017, affecting consumer eating habits, healthy ingredient desires and purchasing decisions.