Five top trends changing the food and beverage industry

The 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show, a showcase of speciality foodbev that runs biannually in the US, revealed that people want to feel good about what they eat – and it’s about so much more than taste.

No specific taste dominated the 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show – but the focus on values and consumer lifestyles did.

More than 2,400 domestic and international food companies showcased their products over the three-day event in New York City hosted by the Specialty Food Association in late June.

Among the diverse array of foods, patterns popped out as founders sought to find the sweet (or savoury) spot within the changing lifestyles and values of consumers, especially younger ones – tempting and hoping to capture Gen Z’s (those born between 1997-2012) and Gen Alpha’s (those born from 2010-2025).

Here are the top five ways the food and beverage industry is changing, and how food innovators are responding.

People don’t want to compromise on health, or flavour

    Consumers want to feel good about what they eat, and brands are leaning into it. From keeping ingredient lists simple to curating decadent flavours, companies are recognising that people care about how food feels beyond how it tastes.

    Brian Choi, CEO of the Food Institute, a food and beverage industry news and data source, describes the current era of healthy eating as “Health and Wellness 3.0.”

    If the 1.0 version was an understanding of the food pyramid, 2.0 was an increased attention on mental wellness. “Health and Wellness 3.0,” he says, “is incorporating the social and environmental.”

    Gen-Zers and Alphas care about the environment and corporate accountability

      When choosing among different brands to buy, young consumers from Gen Z and Gen Alpha are heavily weighing corporate accountability.

      “Gen-Z consumers care about animal welfare, they care about a company’s corporate responsibility as it relates to the environment,” Choi says. “So if you’re a manufacturer or food service distributor, and you don’t have an ESG policy, you’re basically alienating this young demographic.”

      He notes that companies are seeing the effects of climate change on more than just consumer sentiment – chaotic weather events have also disrupted coffee and cocoa bean supply chains.

      Demographic shifts are expanding palates

        Choi points out Gen Z’s and Alpha’s access to information and multiculturalism at a young age makes them “open-minded, and more receptive to new ideas and experiences,” driving them towards international cuisines, according to Mondelez International’s State of Snacking report.

        The experience economy is back

          Before taste, there is sight, smell, sound, and touch – and people are taking into account how a food makes them feel before they even eat it.

          Packaging remains important, too, as it can make or break a product — according to the Menu Matters survey, 32 prcent of consumers are turned off by packaging that feels weird, and 31 percent are turned off by a lack of information on the product’s background or story.

          Three meals a day is no longer the norm

            While the pandemic may feel like a memory, it’s turning up in eating behaviours in the form of “snackification,” according to Choi. “Covid obviously had a big impact on snacking behaviour, but it didn’t fade back into norms,” Choi says. “People are continuing to snack throughout the day.”….

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            More insights from the 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show

            Tom Hamill, a food and beverage senior analyst for RSM US LLP, joined The Food Institute Podcast to recap the 2024 Summer Fancy Food Show.

            Hamill shares his thoughts on burgeoning trends from the show and how emerging specialty food brands can best navigate economic factors in the years to come.