Staying Relevant to the Consumer in 2017 and Beyond: Consumer Trends

Many of today’s trends have no respect for the calendar—what was trending in 2016 will continue to play out and evolve over the next 12 to 24 months. For food companies, both large and small, this means adapting to an increasingly complex and disruptive landscape as consumers move away from heavily processed foods towards less processed and more personalized options. This note discusses five important points to consider.

The Consumer Is Queen

In the U.S., consumers in aggregate drive about two-thirds of economic output from their purchases, however irrational and impulsive some of those purchasing decisions may seem.

The Hippies Were Right

Many of these trends—certainly the demand for natural and organic foods—first emerged during the counterculture movement of the 1960s. And, much like a male hippie’s beard, they’ve come back in fashion.

Alternative Proteins: A Fast-Growing Segment

Although per capita U.S. meat consumption bounced back last year by about 5 percent, to 193lb/year, after almost a decade of decline from a peak in 2004 (and on track to grow by 1 percent in 2016), the traditional protein and dairy sectors will face increasing competition from the relatively small, but fast-growing market for alternative proteins, driven by growing consumer awareness over sustainability, health, ethics, and animal welfare.

Large Players Are Pursuing a Dual Strategy to Return to Growth

Companies are trying to actively reconnect with the changing tastes of consumers by adopting a dual strategy of buying on-trend companies and contemporizing their current portfolio, primarily through cleaning up the ingredients list.

What’s Next? The Rise of Personalized Nutrition

Advancements in various fields of science and technology, such as Systems Biology, and growing awareness of the importance of gut health and the microbiome have led to growing awareness (if not understanding: how these things work is still poorly understood) that people react very differently to foods. In short, what might be healthy for me, may not be for you. Couple these advancements with the growth in the ‘quantified self’ movement through the growing interest in personal trackers, from Fitbits to Apple Watches—that track our activity levels, remind us not to sit for too long, and monitor our heart rates—and this suggests the timing is right to re-explore the concept of personalized nutrition.