Food and Beverage Habits To Expect In 2016

By Darren Seifer, Food & Beverage Industry Analyst, The NPD Group

What we eat and drink each year might not change as quickly as the mobile phones we carry in our pockets, but food and beverage marketers should not take this as a license to rest on their laurels. Change has been brewing for decades. In the 1980s and through much of the 1990s, consumers largely tried to avoid certain substances, like fats or cholesterol, as they were thought to be harmful. Then, around the turn of this century, consumers became more concerned with getting more “good” substances, like whole grains or omega-3s, in their diets. Now, in addition to eating more better-for-you foods, new priorities are coming into focus for consumers, like eating foods in their pure form. These new habits will be front-and-center in 2016.

In 2016, you can expect the following behaviors to become more prominent:
  • Natural Nutrition – With consumer concerns rising about unexpected ingredients in foods and beverages, there will be more consumers who check labels for ingredients they know are additives or preservatives or don’t recognize. More than 30 percent of consumers say they are cautious about serving foods with preservatives, compared to 24 percent 10 years ago, and the trend for additives follows the same progression.
  • F-A-T-S Is No Longer a Four-Letter Word – With trans fats’ potential harmful effects in the news, consumers appear to understand that not all fats are created equally, and some have nutritional benefits. Expect consumers to return to foods that were once derided for having too much fat, such as eggs and oils.
  • Success Isn’t So Sweet – Since fewer consumers are concerned about avoiding fats, the top ingredient adults avoid is now sugar. This is true for both main meal times as well as snack time.
  • Shopping With a Cause – In today’s Internet age, it’s easier for consumers to be more aware of how products reach the shelf. And as more consumers seek humanely raised animals and avoid antibiotics in their meats, for example, we expect more of them to research brands and their production practices.
  • G.M.O.: Good Marketing Opportunity? –Much confusion about GMOs remains, but consumers increasingly are using products labeled “Certified GMO-Free.” They don’t know why they should avoid GMOs, but for many it just sounds like a good idea. Between 2011 and 2013, GMOs were the fastest-growing food-related concern among U.S. adults. With more marketers looking to use the label, expect consumers to use this as a point of differentiation among competing products.
Since eating behaviors change at a glacial pace, marketers need to understand that the food and beverage habits we expect to grow in 2016 will continue their growth in the future. This highlights the importance of long-term planning and messaging around these themes. Marketers would also be wise to examine their ingredient labels to understand whether their key consumer targets might find anything objectionable based on media coverage or even simply by how pronounceable an ingredient is to the average consumer. It’s also important to ride the wave of consumers using more fresh items by aligning your center-of-store portfolio items with perimeter categories. Show consumers how these products are the perfect accompaniments to fresh foods or beverages to ensure your products are moving where consumers are going. And have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

The NPD Group continuously monitors shifts in consumption patterns, arming the industry with input for fact-based decisions about where to focus their long-term strategies. To learn more about the topics discussed here,

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