Emerging food trends that will take a bite out of 2019

By Rebecca Vella, Head of Insights and Innovation, Kraft Heinz Australia
Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Emerging food trends that will take a bite out of 2019

As consumer needs continue to rapidly evolve, propelled by convenience and food experiences that are setting the bar higher and higher, there has never been a more crucial time for food manufacturers to innovate to survive and thrive.

It’s imperative to understand the lifestyle, culture and values motivating consumers’ food choices and the consumption trends emerging as a result. The food companies bound to thrive in 2019 will be those that are innovating based on consumer needs, despite the temptation to opt for short-term financial gain or operational ease. It’s all about creating products, experiences and brands that resonate with the consumer by aligning with their world.

In today’s environment, being truly consumer-led is challenging, but it’s our core focus at Kraft Heinz. Consumer-first is one of our values, and consumer insights are at the forefront of everything we do. There is nothing more powerful than the voice of consumers so we make it our priority to talk to our retailers and shoppers as often as we can.

Here are some of the key trends impacting food manufacturers as we move into 2019.

Sugar avoidance

As people work to keep pace with today’s connected, fast world, a healthy diet is becoming an increasing priority. According to a global study conducted by Nielsen, 64% of consumers follow diets that limit certain ingredients — with fat, sugar and sodium top of the list. Research by Nielsen also shows that over one-fifth of sugar-conscious Australians are willing to pay more for low-sugar products.

Food companies need to respond by reducing sugar while ensuring their classic products remain full of flavour. We’ve seen sugar replaced with artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners and more recently with naturally occurring sugars such as honey and maple syrup. This is a result of consumers becoming increasingly informed about the difference between natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners devoid of nutritional benefits. Looking ahead, we will continue to see a move towards sugar reduction, rather than replacement. Many beverage companies are gradually reducing the added sugar content of their products, and we also reformulated our Heinz tomato ketchup to include 50% less added sugar, which was incredibly well received. As this trend continues to grow, it will be crucial for food manufacturers to also ensure their products keep the sensory profile consumers are used to.

Work hard, play hard

The Australian ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic sees consumers with a holistic, healthy lifestyle embracing treats occasionally, meaning their place on grocery shelves remains solid. These products respond to the emotional and functional needs of consumers — indulging in an occasional sugary item isn’t broadly perceived as threatening to a healthy diet. But when they do want to be bad — its bad to the bone! Phrases like “not worth the calories” have never been more common.

Looking ahead, we will be seeing further polarisation in new product development particularly in the snacking space as consumers take indulging to the extreme while still embracing healthy lifestyles from Monday to Friday. Enter a world of experimentation and next-level thinking for food manufacturers, as they’re truly given permission to go calorie crazy for the ‘work hard, play hard’ consumer. This trend influencing the food space poses great risk to products that are on the fence and halfway on the health spectrum. Food manufacturers will need to either meet extraordinary indulgence needs, or go down the opposite route and pursue nutrition-packed products with reduced sugar, and functional benefits for clean eating needs.

Power to the plants

As consumers navigate many contradictory messages around healthy ingredients, solace is being found in the certainty of plant nutrients and associated ‘clean eating’. Manufacturers are fast responding to this trend with the integration of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, botanicals and seeds into more food products.

The market also experienced over double the number of vegan food product launches in the past five years, growing by almost twofold between July 2013 to June 2018, while vegetarian product launches remained relatively stable, according to Mintel. We can expect to see a further rise in plant-based products in 2019, driven by a dramatic rise in vegetarian, flexitarian and vegan lifestyle choices. At Kraft Heinz, we’re increasing plant protein in more everyday products such as soups as well as baby foods, to adapt to the changing culture of consumers.

As more people move away from meat, there will be trendier takes on vegetarian/vegan versions of traditional dishes, such as eggplant parmigiana, as well as a new wave of products offering meat alternatives for those who still enjoy the taste of meat.

Multisensory experiences

Food experiences are no longer just about the food and taste profile of products. Demand is increasing for unique multisensory food experiences that provide culinary magic from how a product tastes, feels, its aroma and the feasting of our eyes. As a result, food manufacturers are developing new products with a series of differentiators in terms of taste, colour and texture. Think popcorn with both sugar and salt, or black vodka and chocolate with chewy caramel, crunchy nuts and anything else that can be jam-packed in the wrapping. This trend has manifested itself in the indulgent and fast food space, but we will also see a multisensory explosion in the savoury and clean eating spaces soon.

The rise of snacking

The evolution of our lifestyle is driving food products to accommodate time-pressed schedules with more flexible food options. According to Mintel, we are witnessing “the rise of a snacking society” with 32% of Australians claiming they tend to prefer frequent snacking as opposed to sticking to the traditional three meals per day regime.

The snacks most successful in this space align a high nutritional profile and a variety of formulations, tastes and textures, with portability. Consumers are increasingly attempting to squeeze as many nutrients as possible into their time-poor schedules, generating an array of snacks incorporating super foods and plant protein. There is also a demand for beverages packed with fruit and vegetables.

Eat like the locals do

Consumers’ obsession with international cuisine and new and exciting foreign flavours will continue, as globalisation becomes engrained and consumers are exposed to more influences from across the globe. When they are not enjoying their favourite international cuisine while eating out, consumers are looking to incorporate these tastes at home with readily available ingredients. Sauces are becoming a way for consumers to tap into foreign flavours while also allowing for self-expression and customisation. Leveraging off our global portfolio, Kraft Heinz has effectively grown its table and cooking sauce portfolio to expand into global cuisines.

The future of innovation in food manufacturing is bright and delicious as we look towards the new year, peppered with great opportunities for creativity and experimentation. As food preferences and consumer lifestyles continue to evolve, the opportunities for food products to align with new trends are boundless. However, food manufacturers who experience the most success in 2019 will be those who anticipate or even influence food trends. This can only be achieved through truly understanding, and anticipating, the needs of the consumer, who belongs at the heart of the product innovation process.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Drobot Dean

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