9 food trends you need to know to engage tomorrow’s consumers

The leading Nordic trade event for healthy living, Natural Products Scandinavia was live last week. Having spent two days there, listening to seminars, speaking to trade experts and tasting and trying new products, I have gathered my take on what the future brings in healthy and sustainable living. Scandinavia is in many ways considered a frontrunner in this area, but healthy and sustainable living is a global megatrend that affect consumers globally. I find the emerging trends in this area very encouraging and for the proactive and innovative producers and brand owners the future holds great new opportunities, but also headwinds to prepare for already now. This is my top trend list to you, if you want to stay relevant to the sustainability and health conscious consumers of tomorrow:

1. Veganism, the top 21st century movement

Veganism is by some experts claimed to be the biggest lifestyle movement of the 21st century. Part-time vegans and flexitarians were a top trend of 2017 according to Euromonitor International and this is just the starting point of a future with far less meat and dairy consumption. Even McDonalds has launched vegetarian burgers in some of its markets. The movement gives significant growth to innovative plant-based alternatives, milk-replacements and meat-substitutes. Personally, I was very surprised with the range of new flavours and textures of some of the meat substitutes at the fair. The meat eaters need to bravely face the meat-reduced future, but there is still hope. Lab-grown meat and insect-based alternatives will also offer some competitive and tasty (!) solutions to the meat cravers. Theses are, however, still further down the line.

2. Organic is a hygiene factor

Eco-friendly, green, ethical – you name it, are all brand features that consumers increasingly expect to be fulfilled. Brands with these aspects at the core will lose their natural point of differentiation and need to innovate to stay relevant tomorrow. As an example of the mainstream tendency of organic, this year Walmart launched an affordable organic fast food hall, as one of their new strides to court the health-conscious consumer demands.

3.Total transparency – a must to build consumer trust

A resounding message from the trade experts I talked to was that consumers perceive the food production system a ‘black box’ with a large amount of distrust to follow. The winner-brands of tomorrow are therefore the ones that use innovative ways to bring back transparency into their value chains. Total transparency is a top trend for the coming year according to Mintel. I merely see it as a megatrend, that will be relevant for the next 10-15 years, as the impact will be broad in scope and large in effect. Therefore, be prepared to show your dirty laundry, or even better, start to find ways to clean it today and invite the consumers behind the scenes.

4. Life science sets your agenda

With new knowledge readily available, consumers adapt their consumption quicker than ever. Since the WHO-recommendation to reduce the meat intake, Coop, one of the leading Danish supermarket chains, estimates that the meat consumption among their consumers is dropping approximately 1-1.5% per year. It may not sound like a lot, but as brand owner you need to be a step ahead of the consumers. It means following the leading science and adapt before the regulation follows suit. Consumers are demanding and informed – and they will be quick to find new alternatives.

5. Living bacteria

An 800% increase in scientific studies in bacteria over the last 15 years sends a clear signal of a trend to watch. Leading scientists, predict a paradigm shift in 20-30 years in medicine, where anxiety, type-2 diabetes, etc. are linked to the gut microbiome. This new knowledge transforms medicine and impacts across consumer categories with growth in products containing good, live bacteria. The anti-bacterial product features as previously seen in personal care, home cleaning and laundry products are being taken over by pro-bacterial features to increase the health of the good bacteria. In food the probiotics are the heroes and we will get back to view all ingredients as living organisms. At the Malmö fair, I saw an increasing number of brands offering kombuchas, fermented vegetables, vinegars, or simply added probiotics to their products. Some products are tastier than others, I’ll admit. However, I expect a lot from this trend, and my advice to you is to follow the area closely, or consider how you can tap into this area going forward.

6. Functional food

The trend for superfoods has long been around, but the boundaries between supplements and food are becoming ever more blurred. Leading scientists start to view food (and exercise) as medicine, according to David Hedin at Euromonitor International, who took us into the Scandinavian health and wellness trends in foods. We will go from sick care to self-care with new potentials for healthy innovative foods and supplements. Functional foods will grow further. In 2018 we will e.g. see a drink from the USA that can stabilise the bloodsugar increase after a meal.

7. Personalised nutrition

Imagine a future where you can measure exactly the kind of nutrition your body needs at a given moment and then get personalised supplements or dietary advises. A growing number of start-ups are enter the field of diagnostic, nutritional and service solutions to provide personalised  diet solutions. Personalised supplements as well as foods with ‘free from’ labels are also seeing growth. Among the labels you need to watch are ‘low in sodium’, ‘no soy’ and ‘no GMO’.

8. Refined sugar is tomorrow’s tobacco

Unstable blood sugar, excess fat, slower cell renewal – the reasons to quit sugar are many. There is a surge in healthy alternatives to sugar and the consumers are looking for guilt-free permission to indulgence. The trend for raw food, clean eating, plant-based sweetening alternatives is on the rise. This creates demand for new innovative offerings aimed at both adults and children offer potentials for brands to ‘premiumise’, as many consumers are willing to trade up.

9. What’s your greater good?

In food, taste is great, but greater good is equally important for the consumers. Four example, how can you rethink and reuse what you would have considered waste yesterday? Bruised fruit, leftover from processing etc. can form unique and authentic offerings with added value for the consumers, as no two products look or taste the same. The consumers are looking for front-running ‘hero brands’ they can love and have 100% faith in. An example is Oatly, with a simple proposition to offer heathy and environmentally friendly milk-alternatives. The brand currently sees incredible monthly growth rates. They don’t have consumers – but rather disciples, with loyalty and word of mouth helping to fuel their growth.


About the author

Karina Kaae Hermansen, has a background as management consultant from McKinsey and works at Sustainable Lead. She is specialised in future consumer trends in the areas of healthy and sustainable living and advises companies and organisations in how to adapt to the future opportunities. She does talks, seminars, trend reports and tailored consulting. 

Contact Karina at or +4560540901

This article has also been published by Natural Products Global as Expert Opinion

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