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It seems almost weekly a major food company or restaurant chain announces a shift to more healthful offerings or ingredients, or more environmentally friendly practices. A key driver for these moves is consumers’ growing interest in “clean eating” — a key trends theme in the coming year, according to Innova Market Insights (IMI) Top 10 Trends list for 2016.
“Clean and clear labeling and 'free from' foods have all gained traction and moved on to the next level during 2015," reports Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at IMI. "While other emerging trends for 2016 include the rise of the part-time vegetarian ("flexitarian") consumer, interest in a return to food processing the natural or old-fashioned way, the search for permissible indulgence and the re-establishment of links to 'real' food."
The following five trends are predicted to lead the way in 2016, according to the IMI list. Retail dietitians are pivotal in helping their retailers leverage these trends.
- Organic Growth for Clear Label: "Clear label" established itself as a key trend in 2015, with greater transparency and the focus on simpler products with fewer artificial additives taking "clean label" to the next level. The biggest surge in new product development has been reported in organic products, indicating that this will be a key platform going forward in the short term, although the challenges involved may result in more beneficial platforms for clear label in the longer term.
- Free From for All: Many consumers don't actually need products that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy, but are demanding them anyway, as they believe them to be healthier. Industry has little choice but to respond and the recent surge in mainstream gluten-free products has been incredible. Other "free from" platforms are also gathering pace.
- The "Flexitarian" Effect: The rise of part-time vegetarians, who have reduced their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns, is having a major impact on new product activity. This includes the technological development and promotion of better-tasting products more reminiscent of meat, as well as the use of alternative protein sources and more animal-friendly processes.
- Processing the Natural Way: Established food processing practices that have been around for centuries are in the spotlight. They bring with them a natural and authentic image to counteract some of the negative perceptions of heavily processed foods. The health benefits of fermented foods are seeing increasing awareness among Western consumers. Newer technologies such as high pressure processing may also succeed if they are seen as a fresh alternative to using preservatives.
- Green Light for Vegetables: Consumers know that they need to eat more greens, but shy away because of taste expectations. Children can be encouraged to eat more through hidden vegetable products, while the rise of fusion smoothies and high vegetable pastas indicates that adults can also be encouraged to increase their intake.