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The increasing awareness of environmental impact through food and drink consumption has heavily influenced market dynamics, with ShelfNow reporting a heightened demand for sustainable food brands. “Notably, between 2020 and 2023, our platform recorded an average 120% year-on-year increase in sales of products with sustainable packaging,” said marketing manager, Athena Lee.
“Concern for the planet influences the eco-minded home cook more than ever as the effects of climate change become a daily reality that we must all grapple with,” added Stylus’ Mandy Saven. “There is a desire to safeguard the planet, and this is reflected in people’s cooking and dining behaviours. However, the stark reality of the cost-of-living crisis is that consumers must reconcile the tensions between affordability and sustainability.”
“In reality, shopping behaviours are not solely guided by altruism,” agrees Kate Kehoe of FMCG Gurus, whose 2023 data shows eight out of 10 people globally would be more likely to trust a company that farms regeneratively.
“They are conscious of the impact of climate change on food production systems, and the role agriculture has to play. Brands must showcase resourcefulness across the supply chain to align with consumer values.” Retailers and brands should also, though, remember that “environmental messages can be overwhelming, particularly during uncertain times, and the association of such products with higher prices can deter customers. Therefore, brands should emphasise the value of environmental products by highlighting additional benefits.”
Authenticity is one of the key drivers behind Bidfood’s 2024 trends report, with 56% of consumers saying they would pay more for a product or dish if they perceived it as authentic. “This is heavily reinforced in our Flavours Less Travelled trend, giving consumers the opportunity to feel their sense of adventure by exploring cuisines in their most original format.” The cuisines most piquing interest are Caribbean, Eastern European, and Mexican.
“There’s growing demand for Caribbean dishes like rich, spicy stews that feature seafood, indigenous vegetables and meats such as goat,” says Bidfood, which adds that Eastern European food is also becoming more well-known and appreciated thanks to formats that are familiar to the UK market.
Speciality Food has already reported on tequila and other Mexican spirits and drinks as a huge emerging market in Britain, and Bidfood says that although 44% of consumers have already tried Mexican cuisine, they now want to experience it in more traditional formats. “Operators should look towards authentic classics like marinated pork belly tacos, or charred corn elotes with chicken.”
Whole Foods Market’s trends report for 2024 similarly picks out Mexican as a ‘must-stock’ for retailers. “Ingredients and foods that haven’t always been mainstream are now coming to the forefront. Consumers are exploring flavours of Mexico beyond the taco. You can now find products like botana sauces, to-go tamales and tepache ready-to-drink beverages on shelves.”
Stylus has noticed a pattern of prestigious fashion and jewellery brands launching into hospitality “with premium eateries serving as accessible entry point for consumers wanting to experience a touch of brand magic.”
The forecasting expert says luxury brands can benefit from developing complementary food or drink offerings that “encapsulate their aspirational attributes.”
“For instance, a shopper might not be able to purchase a Prada bag, but they’ll relish the chance to tuck into a delectable pastry from the Prada Caffe at Harrods in London.”
Globally-sourced chilli peppers are taking off as consumers seek ever more complex ways to experience heat, says Whole Foods Market, citing products such as My Neighbours The Dumplings Chilli Sauce, Wilderbee Hot Honey, and The Garden of Eva Watermelon Chili Jam as products that typify what customers are looking for. It expects speciality chillies such as Carolina Reaper, Scorpion, Guajillo and Hungarian Goathorn to be seen more widely, be that fresh, whole, ground, pickled, preserved in oil, or used in sauces, dips and relishes.
ShelfNow predicts a sharp rise in the number of food and drinks businesses utilising AI and machine learning, says Athena Lee, with the insight expert anticipating more adoption of AI-powered solutions that revolutionise supply chain management.
“By analysing sales data and other factors, AI can accurately predict demand patterns, allowing businesses to optimise inventory levels, reduce costs, and minimise food waste,” Athena says.
“These technological advancements streamline operations and enhance the food and beverage buyer experience. Personalised product recommendations, real-time order tracking, and chatbot support are just a few of the ways AI is increasing buyer satisfaction.”
Around 48% of consumers are seeking out foods that directly impact their physical wellbeing, and 71% say they feel the aroma of food and drink can help boost their mood, says Bidfood. “This trend centres around consumers shifting priorities when it comes to their health and wellbeing. Not just their physical health, but also their mental health and state of mind.”
Whole Foods Market has also picked up on this growing market sector, but with a particular leaning towards women’s health. “On social media we’ve seen hormonal remedy recipes go viral, including raw carrot salad for oestrogen management, seed cycling energy bites for each cycle phase, and ‘sleepy girl mocktails’. We’re seeing more brands making products to support periods, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause and even sleep that address life stages and symptoms previously swept under the rug.”
“In the fine food realm, in 2024, progressive food and drink pairings will continue to challenge flavour conventions and imbue the fine dining landscape with exciting nuance,” says Mandy Sevan of Stylus. Customers with cash to splash will continue to invest, she adds, in luxury food experiences involving complex flavours, hard-to-source ingredients, next-level freshness, and culinary craftsmanship. “This includes artisanal edibles – from tangy, buttery cheeses and slivers of prestige-grade ham, to succulent cherries.”
Although consumers are becoming more adventurous, they’re still reluctant to spend money on cuisines they aren’t familiar with. This is where British fusion comes in, with Bidfood revealing 68% of people find this concept appealing, and 35% feeling it bridges the gap between the exciting flavours of global cuisine, and the familiarity of homegrown classics. “Try mixing up your Sunday roasts, English breakfasts, or even desserts such as crumbles with interesting global flavours.”
FMCG Gurus’ trends report shows more than half of global consumers are looking to reduce their spend on food and drink due to rising prices. The report believes they will adopt habits in line with economic downturns, and that brand loyalty will decrease, with consumers being more open to exploring different products. “Brands should respond by introducing packaging advancements to prolong the shelf life of products,” says Kate Kehoe, who also says that although cutbacks in daily essentials are being seen, customers across most categories are still “seeking more high-end indulgences through retail channels.” And that it’s “vital that these indulgences remain reasonably priced and do not lead to post-consumption guilt.”
TikTok creators have brought ‘little treat’ culture into the zeitgeist, says Whole Foods Market. “We know firsthand the power of a treat, like an impulse macaron buy or a fizzy, functional and flavour-forward drink.” Brands are getting in on the trend, it says, by considering both cost and format, “like individual serving packages that add joy without breaking a budget.”
“Shoppers have been finding ways to dress up instant ramen at home for years now,” says Whole Foods Market, “but as brands step up their game, noodle lovers can take on less of the workload. Even better, brands are creating more gourmet options to rival the classics, without certain preservatives and added MSG.”
“In the forthcoming year alcohol brands will deliver premiumised products for consumers wanting to feel inspired, indulgent and discerning, even if they possess little industry knowledge,” says Stylus.
Many of these products will be driven by social media. As Bidfood notes in its 2024 trends report, consumers can’t resist taking pictures of their cocktails to post on their accounts, with 43% of 18 to 35-year-olds doing this every time. “To leverage this trend, operators are starting to take their cocktail offerings to the next level, creating imaginative, theatrical and themed serves.” More of this innovation should also trickle into the RTD cocktail and mixed drinks sector, which is growing rapidly.
Consumers are demanding more from their coffee and soft drinks, seeking products that claim to boost their health as well as delivering on flavour. There are lots of new ways for them to get their pick-me-up, says Whole Foods Market, which predicts functional coffee and sodas will continue to grow as a category in 2024. “Combining a boost with benefits has never been easier thanks to new coffee and energy drinks with added mushrooms, probiotics and more.”
Farm to fork concepts, provenance and menu stories are becoming increasingly popular, says Bidfood. “Consumers are making more mindful choices about where and what they eat when out of home. Cosy décor, handmade pasta and bakery products, garden salads, heritage produce and open flame cooking are ways operators can tap into this trend.”
Brands across sectors are promoting water conservation, says Whole Foods Market’s report, and consumers are listening. “New water brands use water from fruit by-products which would otherwise be discarded. As well as the growing trend of regenerative agriculture, non-governmental organisations are also showing their support of farmed oysters, leveraging aquaculture to filter water and help restore coastal ecosystems.” It’s worth looking at your non-consumable offering in store too – seeking out water conscious products such as dry shampoos, shampoo bars and laundry detergent sheets.
During the cost-of-living crisis, everyone’s looking for something to cheer them up. Something exciting and out of the ordinary. Bidfood believes food retailers and producers have a part to play here in 2024 by bringing a hint of fun to their products and environment. “Colour, playful presentation, novel styling and a touch of theatre will certainly tick the boxes to offer the experience desired,” it says. “Mixing flavours is another way of adding novelty, and can really elevate a dish. In fact, 70% of consumers find the idea of flavour contrasts appealing, with sweet and sour being the most popular.”
In 2023 some products aimed at the vegan/vegetarian market disappeared from shelves, as companies failed to pivot and respond to increasing consumer desire to eat ‘real’ food, that’s as minimally processed as possible. Whole Foods Market says retailers wanting to stay ahead of the game should be stocking food that puts the ‘veggie’ back into vegetarian. “We’re seeing new and emerging protein-forward products with mushrooms, walnuts, tempeh and legumes in place of complex meat alternatives,” it reveals.