Key food and drink trends around the world for 2024

Key food and drink trends around the world for 2024

Earlier this year, market intelligence agency Mintel has published its 2024 Global Food and Drink Trends report – and we’ve had our heads buried in it for weeks. 

Jenny Zegler, (Director Food and Drink at Mintel) wrote, “Unlike other trends in the marketplace, our trends are backed by robust data and expert opinions, ensuring that what you read here is meaningful and actionable rather than guesswork, abstract ideas, a viral fad or– dare we say – just ‘fluff’.” 

We know you want to avoid the fluff, and we also know how busy you are. So we’ve pulled three key trends from the report and summarised them for you here. 

Trend 1: It’s all about processing

Gone are the days when people would pick up a packet of biscuits they liked the look of, and drop them in their basket, barely glancing at the packaging. 

Now, people are increasingly disturbed by long lists of ingredients that they don’t recognise, as well as production methods that seem to negatively impact nutrition and sustainability. 

There is also more complexity around what qualifies as healthy food. 

For example, it’s often been assumed that eating plant-based is both healthier and more sustainable – but actually, a lot of plant-based foods are ultra-processed, so consumers are rejecting those foods as a nutritional option. 

This trend is about enabling consumers to make informed choices about processed and ultra-processed food, and highlighting the positive impacts of processing on nutritional value, shelf-life, and sustainability. 

One 2024 study linked ultra-processed food to 32 health issues. And public education is increasingly accessible in our digital age – so consumers are much more aware of different levels of processing and how they can impact our health. According to Mintel, 79% of Chinese adults aged 50-65 say eating less processed food will positively impact their health. 

What you can do:

  • Where possible, creating less processed versions of products that still have that convenience factor will win over more consumers.
  • Necessary processes need to be justified on the grounds of nutrition and sustainability, such as the processes that enable long-life shelf products that don’t need refrigeration.
  • Ultra-processed foods cannot compete in terms of nutrition, but consumers will likely still approach these with an ‘it’s ok in moderation’ point of view, so brands will need to highlight the pleasurable and comforting benefits of their products.
  • Increase education about the positive aspects of processing, and work to help customers understand the benefits as well as the potential pitfalls – adding more balance to the global conversation. 

Trend 2: It’s all about healthy ageing

In a world where people are living longer and healthier lives, this trend focuses on redefining healthy ageing and debunking the stigma about getting old. 

Whilst many 40-year-olds are claiming they’re just hitting their prime, there is an opportunity for the F&B industry to reach Generation X (people born between 1965-1979) with products that will help to increase their ‘healthspan’ – their healthy years. 

Consumers aged 40+ account for significant F&B spend in many markets across the world. And Gen-X-ers are leading a new approach to healthy ageing by speaking openly about topics that have previously been taboo, including the menopause and brain health. 

Importantly for F&B, a lot of those conversations are centred around food and nutrition. 

These consumers are looking for products that will help them thrive in their longer healthspan – and address issues such as cardiovascular health, stress, brain health, and joint health. 

And they’re not just looking to brands for products to buy; they are looking to them for guidance, too. This creates a critical opportunity for brands to expand into this market and build trust by offering valuable educational resources.

What you can do:

  • Offer products that help consumers to stay active and prolong their healthy years.
  • Cater to diverse ageing needs, e.g. products that support nutrition during menopause.
  • Release educational initiatives to help consumers navigate the stages of transition from middle to old age – positioning the brand as a reliable, supportive companion as they make that transition. 

Trend 3: It’s all about optimising our eating

In recent years, air fryers have become a kitchen staple – thanks to their ability to quickly and efficiently cook food in a way that maximises nutritional value. 

According to Mintel, we can expect more gadgets to gain traction; particularly those that aid consumers in streamlining their meal planning, shopping, and cooking processes. 

Times have changed from the foraging and hunting days. And just when we think life can’t get busier, it does. Instead of being on the hunt for game, consumers are looking for convenience. And this desire was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic when we all craved delicious F&B experiences at home. 

AR and AI are both going to impact the way consumers plan, shop and cook their meals over the coming years. While there is hesitancy around new technologies, AI tools are seeing unprecedented adoption rates, and trust is likely to grow rapidly. More and more consumers will turn to technological tools that offer shortcuts for planning and prepping meals, snacks, and drinks.

What you can do:

  • Consider adding new appliances to the cooking instructions on food packaging, beyond the conventional oven, microwave, and grill.
  • Acknowledge that consumers will be drawn to product lines that can be cooked at the same time and temperature so they don’t have to plan timings.
  • Offer time-saving solutions around shopping lists, meal planners, and recipes, including apps.
  • Keep an eye out for opportunities to increase consumer convenience by exploiting AI and AR – and start working now to upskill your team in these technologies. 

We’d love to hear from you: which of these emerging trends do you expect to impact your brand the most?

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