Written by Tish Van Dyke and Jaqueline Januzzi

We are constantly challenged to be trusted partners and champions of our clients’ business and where it is headed. We are also asked to have a clear point of view on how the world beyond their day-to-day business results in challenges and opportunities. Edelman’s Global Food & Beverage Trends report lays out some of the most significant culinary, culture- and issues-based trends that are shaping the food & beverage landscape. Developed with colleagues in 29 markets across the network, it helps us understand not only where the industry is today, but also what’s happening in the broader environment and how that could impact the future for the industry, broader society and our individual palates.

While a few of our findings fall into multiple buckets, here are five areas represented by our 15 trends:

1. Climate Conundrum 
Our trend No. 3 ‘Endangered Foods’ shows that with climate change comes mounting pressure on our global food system. Mainstream consumers are starting to understand this dynamic and are shifting their consumption habits. Foods that have been traditionally sourced are now at risk. Meanwhile, our trend No. 6 ‘Plant-based Palates’ demonstrates that the industry – from field to fork – is making changes that are both meeting stakeholder expectations and catering to consumers’ “greener” palates. Twenty-three percent of consumers say they want more plant-based proteins on the shelves. Trend No. 9 ‘Whole Food Feasting’ closes the loop on the concern with the environment, with consumers trying to use all parts of fruits, vegetables and animals, and combining leftovers to create tasty meals that reduce waste and introduce new flavors they may not be familiar with.

2. Quest for Health
With the help of science, we have a better understanding of the link between the foods and beverages we consume and our health. The result? We are actively seeking health through food. This year’s trends include foods that are good for our stomachs and intestines, (trend No. 5 ‘Follow your Gut’); lower or non-alcoholic beverages, a favorite for younger consumers who are more health conscious but no less sociable (trend No. 7 ‘Healthy M(C)ocktails’); or our trend No. 10 ‘Functional Mushrooms’, which are now featured in different recipes based on the fact that they are widely known for containing numerous bioactive compounds that are believed to have positive health impact.

3. Disruption 
There’s no doubt that the sector has been experiencing profound transformation over the last few years. Some have even been bold enough to predict that the legacy players – in CPG/FMCG, agribusiness, and grocery – would go away. However, technology and market pressures have forced profound change, and we are seeing signs that the sector is shifting from playing defense to playing offense. We’re also seeing, as showed on our trend No. 2, ‘Innovate or Evaporate,’ that some of the more traditional industry players are taking on the role of disruptor instead of being disrupted. Regaining trust is also part of this evolution and technology-based solutions are potential forms of transparency to which companies should aspire, as shown in our trend No. 15, ‘Traceability, Transparency & Trust’. There is no doubt that the greatest disruption is happening in the retail and grocery space, which is finally embracing technology. ‘Demand for data’, or trend No. 8, illustrates how it is possible to transform the way we shop using insights.

4. A Feast for the Eyes (and for Instagram)
The palette of food colors is changing; the more novel, the better. Why? Trend No. 4, ‘Going Beyond Taste,’ shows that we’re all looking for something to frame and share on social media. Something exotic, intense and beautiful. It’s all about surprising and delighting. Bright pops of color are a must on every plate coming out of each restaurant’s kitchen – and every post, pin, snap or story that accompanies them. According to Mintel, “unexpected tactile experiences in food and beverage will be a new realm for manufacturers to explore.”

5. Personalisation and Experience
The data-driven mindset is not only a disruption for the online shopper but also an opportunity to offer consumers the best possible end-user experience. That is what brands are trying to do by offering engagement that delights the senses and offers customization. Trend No. 11, ‘Malls to Halls,’ shows that when it comes to food, the experience rules. Differentiation will come from offering consumers what they can’t get online – letting them see, smell and taste their foods, and then take that experience home with them. Playing on customization, brands are investing in purposeful packaging that engages consumers in different ways, as shared in trend No. 14, ‘Purposeful Packaging’. This new generation of consumers – more conscious about health and the environment – also have different lifestyle experiences. Many live alone and care much more about ‘experiencing’ than about ‘owning.’ In addition, we’re all living longer, and some markets are considered to be “aging markets.” What does this mean for food? Houses are smaller, and some don’t even have kitchens. In the ones that do, kitchen appliances are getting smaller. And there is increased demand for packages for one or for those ‘Going solo’, our trend No. 12.