Market intelligence agency Mintel announced in November six key trends set to impact the global food and drink market in 2017 – highlighting this will be a year of extremes, from “ancient” products including grains, recipes, practices and traditions to the use of technology to create more and better tasting plant-enhanced foods.

Jenny Zegler, Global Food and Drink analyst at Mintel, said: “This year’s trends are grounded in current consumer demands for healthy, convenient and trustworthy food and drink. Across the world, manufacturers and retailers have opportunities to provide more people with food and drink that is recognisable, saves time and contains servings of beneficial fruits, vegetables and other plants.

"In addition, Mintel has identified exciting new opportunities for functional food and drink designed for evening consumption, progressive solutions for food waste and affordable healthy food for low-income consumers."

Looking ahead to 2017, Mintel’s Ms Zegler discusses the top food and drink trends set to impact global markets.

In tradition we trust

Consumers seek comfort from modernised updates of age-old formulations, flavours and formats.

People are seeking the safety of products that are recognisable rather than revolutionary. The trust in the familiar emphasises the opportunity for manufacturers to look to the past as a dependable source of inspiration such as “ancient” product claims including Ancient Grains and ancient recipes, practices and traditions. Potential also exists for innovations that use the familiar as a base for something that’s new, but recognisable, such as cold-brew coffee.

Power to the plants

The preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations.

In 2017, the food and drink industry will welcome more products that emphasise plants as key ingredients. More packaged products and recipes for home cooking will leverage fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, botanicals and other plants to align with consumers’ nearly omnipresent health and wellness priorities. Technology will play a part, already we have seen one company use artificial intelligence to develop plant-based alternatives to animal products including milk, mayonnaise, yogurt and cheese.

Waste not

The focus of sustainability zeros in on eliminating food waste.

More retailers, restaurants and philanthropic organisations are addressing the sheer amount of food and drink that is wasted around the world, which is changing consumer perceptions. In 2017, the stigma associated with imperfect produce will begin to fade, more products will make use of ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste such as fruit snacks made from “ugly” fruit and mayonnaise made from the liquid from packaged chickpeas, and food waste will be repurposed in new ways, such as power sources.

Time is of the essence

The time investments required for products and meals will become as influential as nutrition or ingredient claims.

Time is an increasingly precious resource and our multitasking lifestyles are propelling a need for short-cut solutions that are still fresh, nutritious and customisable, already we have seen so-called “biohacking” food and drink that offers complete nutrition in convenient formats. In 2017, the time spent on – or saved by – a food or drink product will become a clear selling point, inspiring more products to directly communicate how long they will take to receive, prepare or consume.

The night shift

Evening is tapped as a new occasion for functional food and drink formulations.

The increasingly hectic pace of modern life is creating a market for food and drink that helps people of all ages calm down before bedtime, sleep better and restore the body while they rest. Products can leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs to achieve a sense calm before bedtime, while chocolate could be positioned to wind down after a stressful day.

Ahead, there is potential for more evening-focused innovations formulated for relaxation, satiety and, taking a cue from the beauty industry, food and drink that provide functional benefits while the consumer sleeps.

Balancing the scales: health for everyone

Healthy food and drink are not “luxuries.” Inequality is not just a political or philanthropic issue — it also will resonate more with the food and drink industry. Many lower-income consumers want to improve their diets but the access to — and the cost of — healthy food and drink is often an impediment.

"More campaigns and innovations are to be expected that will make it easier for lower-income consumers to fulfil their healthy ambitions, including apps to help people make use of ingredients that are on sale and, in a tie-in with Mintel’s Waste Not trend, a value-priced box of “wonky” veg," Mintel said.