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Looking Ahead: Food & Beverage Trends for Today and Beyond

March 19, 2024


Our team ties together a multi-faceted understanding of long, medium, and short-term shifts including societal drivers of change, people-centric lifestyle trends and consumer insight, and local market analysis into a single tool. This synergy of data, insight and inspiration fuels our proprietary Panoptic trend intelligence approach. Panoptic detects early signals and fosters a shared understanding of influential people-centric trends shaping our world. Through our Panoptic view, we empower ourselves to innovate boldly and make strategic decisions with confidence and creativity. 

Guided by shifting drivers of change and accelerating lifestyle trends, we’ve identified five pivotal Panoptic Lifestyle Movements that significantly impact how people live and consume as we look ahead over the next 12 to 18 months: Simple Frugality, Neo-Hedonism, Better-Being, Responsible Living and AI/Human.  

Looking at Lifestyle Trends: Attitudes and Behaviors in Food and Beverage 

These movements serve as our compass, providing insights into short-term shifts. But how do they manifest within the realm of food and beverage? Let’s explore the impact of some of these movements and understand how they are likely to play out across key Food and Beverage categories. As we navigate this dynamic landscape, our commitment remains unwavering: to help our customers create essential solutions that enhance lives and contribute to a better world through the best ingredients. 

Movement 1 – Simple Frugality: Economic pressures and environmental challenges are prompting people to reevaluate what they value. As they become more mindful of their priorities, they seek to use fewer resources and spend less money. This shift toward “value with values” encompasses affordability, safety, quality, ethics, sustainability, and durability. People consider the impact of their choices on their wallets, homes, and the planet. This conscious convenience trend arises from the need for flexibility, simplicity, and sustainability, leading individuals to focus on essentials and practicality in their choices. 

Simple Frugality in Food and Beverages: 

Beverages: Some consumers prioritize price, seeking ways to stretch their budget. These “save by any means” individuals increasingly turn to brands and retailers for discounts, specials and membership perks. Private label products are particularly popular in this market. However, for many beverage consumers, value extends beyond the lowest price. They consider health, ethics and sustainability benefits when making choices. 

Culinary: Similar trends apply to culinary products. Private label options thrive as consumers seek value. Retailers are also innovating by offering additional benefits.  

Remember, frugality doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or enjoyment—it’s about making thoughtful choices that align with personal values and priorities. And ultimately for both food (In this case culinary) and beverages, consumers want “value with values”. 

Movement 2 – Neo-Hedonism: People are expanding their definition of hedonism, seeking new and innovative ways to experience pleasure in their lives, infusing the everyday with joy and sensorial delights. They want surprise, mystery, awe, and wonder, making new experiences that engage a wide spectrum of feelings and emotions. Amid financial constraints, they self-indulge with affordable treats, prioritizing meaningful, healthy moments over excess. They cherish new, simple, daily practices and pampering rituals that help them rejoice and counteract their lingering sentiments of anxiety and unhappiness. 

Neo-Hedonism in Food and Beverages: 

In general terms sensorial experiences play a pivotal role. Let’s break it down in category terms: 

Ice Cream & Dairy Desserts: These treats engage all our senses – layers, textures, and inclusions create indulgence. Think of that creamy scoop melting on your tongue. 

Beverages: Flavor and texture innovation drive excitement. Whether it’s a refreshing soda or a complex cocktail, the sensory experience matters. Even in the No and Low Alcohol (NOLO) space, where alcohol content is reduced, sensorial engagement remains crucial. In alcoholic drinks limited editions and seasonal offerings stretch boundaries. Premium and sophisticated (reasonably priced!) products aim to delight. As more people stay in, they want to recreate celebratory drinking experiences…think holidays, special occasions, and cozy rituals. 

Salty Snacks: Sensorial experience, particularly flavor is a key factor here too. Consumers have their favorites but still want to be surprised and delighted by surprises, mash ups, exotic and unusual flavors. 

Bakery: Innovation in new formats to engage in different occasions, needs and moments are important.  Evolving the sensorial experience with both flavor & texture is crucial. Innovating with nostalgic classic flavors brings comfort; tapping into “local” can inspire. 

Movement 3 – Better-Being: People are adopting a pragmatic approach to health, focusing on smarter ways to optimize health and enhance how they look and feel. They are seeking more practical, natural options that deliver quick, proven results. Time-consuming, complex, expensive, or exclusionary solutions are of less interest.  Scientific and technical advances are becoming more important in achieving the desired outcomes. Health is integrated with every aspect of consumers’ lives and interconnected with the world around them. Living longer isn’t enough; people also want to live better, with a focus on being healthy as we age. There is increased demand for offerings tailored to an older population, that is more tech-savvy and affluent that want to enjoy a more active and independent life. 

Better-Being in Food and Beverages: 

Dairy: Has strong associations with health, which is being driven further either at a basic level around things like sugar reduction or with more complex, functional claims. Focus is also shifting to a clear communication around the benefit not the ingredient. As concern grows about ultra-processed foods, along with the use of Ozempic® for weight loss where people are consuming fewer calories, there’s a need for nutrient-dense options. Dairy is an appealing choice due to its nutrient richness. 

Snacks: Healthy snacking that fits lifestyle and delivers nutrition is crucial. Consumers want guidance on healthy options; guidance labels are being adopted by brands with government initiatives further driving interest. Consumers are scrutinizing ingredient lists and want products that are less processed and free from additives, with brands feeling the pressure to minimize their lists and use more natural ingredients. Healthy snacking interest is pushing the growth of nutrient dense snacks, with nuts, which are generally recognized as healthy & nutritionally rich, gaining interest. Nuts are also celebrating their plant-based origins as plant-based, and it’s associated health benefits, gains traction.   

Culinary: Consumers here also want shorter ingredient lists, easily understood and natural ingredients, and simplified processing – brands are trying as much as they can to deliver on this. 

Movement 4 – Responsible Living: Alarmed by the disastrous consequences of climate crisis, overconsumption and ecocide acts, people are increasingly committing more to the planet and investing more time and money to find new ways to live sustainably and create a regenerative future. Eco-ethical values are more important now than ever. Responsible living is about becoming responsible citizens of the world, for the planet and the people living on it. While information is increasingly questioned, people are seeking out greater transparency, trusted sources for products, solutions, and responses to political, moral, social, environmental, health and safety issues.  

Responsible Living in Food and Beverages: 

Beverages: consumers want brands to address their planetary and ethical concerns with approaches that provide clear communication and that have minimal impact on product costs.  Currently interest in aspects such as upcycling and regenerative farming is very high.  

Bakery: the category is hyper-focused on Carbon footprint reduction, investing in renewable energy and using local or upcycled ingredients

Movement 5 – AI / Human: In our algorithm-driven world, AI-powered technologies are rapidly advancing, enabling personalization, convenience and speed. These technologies have become thinking partners, influencing decisions, and reshaping expectations. However, as we navigate this new world, there is a need to also preserve human skills and connections —emotions, empathy, creativity, and relationships—to fully harness this revolution. People seek thoughtful, ethical tech that enhances our lives and fosters unity without unnecessary complexity.  

AI / Human in Food and Beverages: 

AI and technology are enablers across many food and beverage categories, allowing the core product aspects that consumers so often desire. As a countertrend, there are brands that are emphasizing the human touch through a narrative of personal stories, even for brands whose existence is heavily reliant on AI or technology. 

Interested in our Panoptic capabilities? Check out our full Panoptic Framework or reach out to us for more information and to partner on your next project to meet consumer needs – now and in the future. 

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