Social media and web-based forums provide consumers with an incredible platform to learn, communicate, and share their food preferences online. Many consumers gain exposure to food trends and diet regimens that would have otherwise been foreign to them. This has led to the popularity of food movements, a campaign or group of people who follow a shared vision about any food related topic—including everything from sourcing to production, preparation and consumption.
In many cases consumers commit to food communities due to dietary restrictions or for health reasons, but many consumers engage in more than one movement because they can reap the benefits without aligning themselves with just one group. These food movements are influencing consumer behavior and brand owners should take note because you may miss an opportunity to incorporate these popular trends into your next product launch or even incorporate the key marketing lingo on your packaging.
The following are some of the hottest food movements influencing new product launches, along with some products that align with those groups.
Veganism: Consumers who value social responsibility and environmental conservation are driving the growth of food and beverage items without animal products or byproducts. A recent report on veganism in the United Kingdom found a 350-percent growth in consumers who follow a vegan diet over the past decade. Products that use pulses and plant-based dairy alternatives attract vegan consumers, and more products are including the term “vegan" on their label.
Flexitarians: Sometimes known as semi-vegetarians, consumers who identify as flexitarians still eat meat, but may consider it as a side dish instead of the more traditional main course. Many flexitarian consumers also appreciate vegetarian and vegan options, including meat substitutes from alternative protein sources like soy (tofu), jackfruit, beans and mushrooms. Plant Based Foods Association reported that more than 25 percent of American consumers ate less animal meat in the past year.
Paleo: Brands with a paleo or paleo-friendly label on their packaging align with this grain-free (or grain-light) diet that prioritizes meat and protein to consumers. Paleo dieters avoid trans fats, high sodium and additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners.
Keto: This high-fat, low-carb diet is used in the medical field to treat epilepsy but has started to gain consumer interest for its potential to contribute to weight loss. More brands may incorporate keto into their names or label low-carb, high-fat and high-protein products as keto or keto-friendly.
Sustainability and Waste-Reduction: Food waste is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds. As a result, many brands are innovating with typically-discarded food sources. The UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign encourages consumers to eat cosmetically-unfit fruits and vegetables. Other brands discuss commitments to donating discarded ingredients to farms as animal feed or use packaging that takes up less space in landfills.
Locavores: In restaurants, patrons have become familiar with the term “farm-to-table," and the idea of supporting local communities and commerce has expanded to packaged products. Drawing attention to an ingredient’s origin, labeling a product as local, or beginning distribution in a regional market are all ways to attract the local-minded consumer.
The DIY Chef: Consumers desire the ability to customize and personalize their food. Whether they are making kombucha on their kitchen counter, using a make-your-own-cold-brew coffee kit, or subscribing to an online meal prep service, many consumers are opting to take food preparation into their own hands. Even though these experiences may be tagged as DIY, part of the draw is that they can easily include more than just “yourself." Creating part of or an entire meal with family and friends helps add a new dimension to the at-home dining experience.
Consumers are vocal about their food and beverage preferences and actively seek out products and brands that align with their values. Several of the food tribes described above align with better-for-you products (depending on your personal health goals), so products with the associated certifications or claims will grab consumer attention in the grocery aisle, as health remains a focal point. A product may align with more than one group (by being keto-friendly and vegan, for example) just as consumers may support values of multiple movements. As long as brand owners continue to develop products that leverage mega-trends (especially health), many consumers will continue to look to benefit from products whether or not they affiliate with a particular food movement.
If you’d like to continue the conversation on new product development, I can be contacted at [email protected].