Six Food & Drink Trends That Will Define 2017

CHICAGO — When it comes to the food and beverages market, research firm Mintel has predicted 2017 will be characterized by extremes, from "ancient" products — including grains, recipes, practices and traditions — to the use of technology to create more and better-tasting plant-enhanced foods.

Consumers should also expect to see a rise in both "slow" and "fast" claims, as well as more products designed to help people calm down before bedtime, sleep better, and restore the body while they rest. Opportunities will exist for more products to leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs in formulations as a way to achieve a sense calm before bedtime. There will also be a valid excuse for nighttime chocolate indulgence. 

In 2017 and beyond, expect to see more of the unexpected — including fruit snacks made with ugly fruit, and mayonnaise made with the liquid from draining chickpeas, which has been dubbed aquafaba, Mintel said.

The top six trends for 2017, according to global food and drink analyst Jenny Zegler, are:

1. In Tradition We Trust

Consumers will seek comfort from modernized updates of age-old formulations, flavors and formats. People are seeking the safety of products that are recognizable rather than revolutionary. The trust in the familiar emphasizes the opportunity for manufacturers to look to the past as a dependable source of inspiration, such as "ancient" product claims including ancient grains and also ancient recipes, practices and traditions. Potential also exists for innovations that use the familiar as a base for something that's new but recognizable, such as cold-brew coffee.

2. Power to the Plants

The preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations. In 2017, the food and drink industry will welcome more products that emphasize plants as key ingredients. More packaged products and recipes for home cooking will leverage fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, botanicals and other plants as a way to align with consumers' nearly omnipresent health and wellness priorities. Technology will play a part: one company has already used artificial intelligence to develop plant-based alternatives to animal products including milk, mayonnaise, yogurt and cheese.

3. Waste Not

The focus of sustainability will zero in on eliminating food waste. More retailers, restaurants and philanthropic organizations are addressing the sheer amount of food and drink that is wasted around the world, which is changing consumer perceptions. In 2017, the stigma associated with imperfect produce will begin to fade; more products will make use of ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste such as fruit snacks made from "ugly" fruit and mayonnaise made from the liquid from packaged chickpeas. Food waste will be repurposed in new ways, such as power sources.

4. Time is of the Essence

The time investments required for products and meals will become as influential as nutrition or ingredient claims. Time is an increasingly precious resource and consumers' multitasking lifestyles are propelling a need for shortcut solutions that are still fresh, nutritious and customizable food and drinks that offers complete nutrition in convenient formats. In 2017, the time spent on — or saved by — a food or drink product will become a clear selling point, inspiring more products to directly communicate how long they will take to receive, prepare or consume.

5. The Night Shift

Evening will be tapped as a new occasion for functional food and drink formulations. The increasingly hectic pace of modern life is creating a market for food and drink that helps people of all ages calm down before bedtime, sleep better, and restore the body while they rest. Products can leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs as a way to achieve a sense calm before bedtime, while chocolate could be positioned as a way to wind down after a stressful day. Also ahead, there is potential for more evening-focused innovations formulated for relaxation, satiety and, taking a cue from the beauty industry, food and drink that provide functional benefits while the consumer sleeps.

6. Balancing the Scales: Health for Everyone

Healthy food and drink will not be "luxuries." Inequality is not just a political or philanthropic issue; it also will resonate more with the food and drink industry. Many lower-income consumers want to improve their diets but the access to — and the cost of — healthy food and drink is often an impediment. More campaigns and innovations are to be expected that will make it easier for lower-income consumers to fulfill their healthy ambitions, including apps to help people make use of ingredients that are on sale.