Highlighting 2017’s Major Food Technology Trends

Clean label and “free-from” food innovations, alternatives for undesirable food components (e.g. sugar, salt, and preservatives), increased protein, functional foods, and the role of the microbiome in health were major technology trends that have shaped the food industry landscape in the past few years. While these technology trends will continue to be influential in the coming years, we expect a few of them will have the greatest impact in the food industry this year. Here is Lux’s prediction of 2017’s top three food technology trends:

  • Plant-based products will continue to grow in popularity, as flexitarian consumers demand more plants in their diets. Many plant-based product innovations have been successful in gaining market traction over the past year. Developers such as Ripple Foods and Impossible Foods (client registration required) have already garnered a lot of attention from industry players and the media when they launched in 2016. The market drive for innovation here comes not only from consumers who traditionally prefer a vegetarian diet, but more importantly from consumers who want to consume more plant ingredients out of consideration for health and sustainability. Described as flexitarians, these consumers want plant-based substitutes without the expense of giving up the taste of conventional animal-based products. Emerging developers of plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat are poised to capture this growing consumer segment. Plant-based product developments will also align well with the trend for increasing demands for protein, as plants serve as high potential sources for alternative proteins. As technologies to manage off-taste and formulation issues progress, we expect the appearance of many more new products donning novel plant proteins.
  • Fermented products will go mainstream. While fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, its surge in popularity fueled 2016’s new product development. Fermented or cultured foods aligns with the natural, clean label, and functional food trends that consumers associate these products with. Following the evolving research on the microbiome, consumers are also welcoming the notion of protecting the balance of their gut microflora to enhance health and becoming more interested in probiotics as a result. This growing familiarity with probiotics and food cultures is clearly indicative from the increasing consumption of yogurt. While U.S. milk consumption has not experienced much growth, its per capita yogurt consumption increased seven-fold in the past four decades. The trend is consistent worldwide, with increasing demands for drinkable yogurts coming from consumers in the APAC region. In this climate, ethnic fermented foods and beverages are likely to experience a revival, with many of them coming into mainstream popularity. Most notably, kombucha, a traditional fermented tea that originated from Asia, made its debut in 2016 as a popular beverage in grocery aisles and home fermentation projects. Similarly, we can expect other traditional fermented and pickled foods, such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut to undergo rebranding into mainstream consumer products through various food startups. Developers such as Bio-tiful Dairy and Rhythm Health are already innovating around kefir in its form as fruit-flavored smoothies or by highlighting popular ingredients, such as coconut.
  • Personalization will occur across the board, throughout consumers’ interaction with food. Customization for the individual consumer can occur at various stages during the selection of ingredients and products, food preparation, and post-consumption assessment of the food’s biochemical impact to the body. Various apps and electronics are enabling consumers to manage their personal online grocery orders, find recipes based on their dietary restrictions, and monitor their caloric intake as they consume various products. In 2016, we observed many early-stage advancements in the commercial personalized nutrition tools, including Habit’s partnership with Campbell to bring its personalized meals online and DayTwo’s announcement for collaborations with the MayoClinic to optimize its microbiome-based diet for the U.S. market. We expect to see more activities such as these as personalized nutrition expands from niche markets for consumers with specific health needs and begins to penetrate the lives of everyday consumers. The popularity of personalized nutrition technology will continue to increase this year, as these tools make it easier for consumers to tailor their diets to meet personal nutrient requirements and fulfill individual health goals.

The three trends described will shape the development of many new products in 2017. They present a clear direction in consumers’ desire to influence their health through the foods they consume and an interpretation for industry players on what consumers consider “healthy.” Readers should pay special attention to these three areas when seeking lucrative new opportunities for growth.

By: Joice Pranata