Major Food and Drink Trends

Like fashion, food trends change every year. Or do they?

LOLIWARE edible compostable tableware and cups
LOLIWARE takes a bite into the compostable tableware market. LOLIWARE

Food businesses should plan for several key 2016 trends...that may not be so surprising.

Mintel, the global food market research company that predicts trends and analyzes the specialty food industry for the annual State of Specialty Food, has released its 2016 Global Food and Drink Trends report. 

Some of the trends are not necessarily new (like eating food that's good for us). But the highlighted trends are nice reminders about what people want and what we need to do to thrive, as a food industry and as the human race!

Here, with additional insights, are the predictions:

1. Alternative Foods Become the Mainstream

In 2016, the FDA will work on defining "natural food," which could either make food labeled as natural more rare or more commonplace. In the meantime, as big food companies eliminate artificial ingredients and startups produce more meat alternatives based on plants.

Another aspect of alternative companies that should trickle over to food companies and retailers of all sizes and ages is transparency. Mintel research shows that a whopping 56 percent of consumers will not buy from companies they believe are unethical .

2. Artificial Ingredients are History

People simply do not want fake food anymore. This trend ties directly into #1. More food and drink startups with successful all natural products will be acquired by big companies looking to increase revenues and market share.

Remember back when foods with whole grains and simple ingredients were alternative?

Never again! The availability of flavors and colors derived from real foods makes it easier than ever for food producers to go a natural.

Alternative ingredients will also find their way into more mainstream foods. While cricket meal still leaves a bad taste in some of our mouths, the success and buzz of the EXO cricket-based bar and Bitty's cricket meal ties with raves about how cheap and healthful insect-based foods are.

Maybe not in 2016, but one day, we may see a cricket restaurant in Times Square.

3. Thinking About the Environment is Here to Stay

Farmers and food producers are preparing for the worst, between the disappearance of bees, long  droughts and prediction of bizarre, dramatic weather for yeas to come. We need to become accustomed to using less water while planning to feed more people in the future.

No matter how much rain Winter brings, we need to plan for a future of conservation. Eating local food will be central to this effort, and local farming will contribute to local food security.

4. Beautiful and Interesting Foods Will Keep Getting Free Media

More people will keep pinning and Instagramming their food, especially when foods call for the #FoodPorn hashtag. Foods and drinks with visual appeal and an authentically interesting story will win the pins. 

Brands should consider the attractiveness when designing foods and packaging of to-go, ready-to-eat meals where package design may not have historically been so important.

5. Meals and Snacks for Singles are a Big Opportunity

Ready-to-eat, healthful meal services such as Munchery and grocery delivery services such as Instacart will increase at-home dining, which will challenge restaurants as minimum wages increase around the country.

Some meal kit services, which deliver ingredients for easy preparation, will shut down, some will expand. This trend ties into the previous sharing-by-posting trend. Who knows, maybe we'll see more people Periscoping their meals to virtually share with friends.

Think beyond the Millennial. Seniors living independently and singles of a range of demographics and lifestyles will be shopping through their phones and online to get their food delivered.

Bonus Food Trends

More Private Label Foods

In 2016 Whole Foods will launch its smaller format 365 by Whole Foods Market stores. Experts predict that most of the foods will have the 365 private label.

The trend in supermarkets like Kroger focusing on private label is a really important trend for anyone who is planning a food and drink brand to consider as potential competition: More supermarkets are looking to house brands to attract millennials (and other age groups) seeking great quality specialty foods at good prices.

Food Where You Want It When You Want It

Convenience has a new meaning, and we want convenience. 

While traditional convenience stores and small shops, like airport stores, are expanding their selections of specialty foods (thanks to acquisitions like Hershey's purchase of Krave Jerky), you'll see organic and healthful foods available in more places than ever.

The trend in people snacking on the go, more than eating big meals, creates an opportunity for snack foods and categories like dips and ready-to-eat meals.

Functional Straws and Edible Ware

Back when I was little, parents somehow let us kids tilt their heads back and pour flavored sugar down our throats. Sure we ate candy cigarettes, but not even Willy Wonka predicted that edible straws and straws that deliver nutrients while drinking would someday become a trend. 

Expect to see more from the edible plate- and drinkware startup LOLIWARE, who's winning pitch competitions and funding from many angles.

More Startups Solving Food Waste 

Preventing billions of pounds of food from going to waste each year will be a huge focus in 2016.

Expect to see more food tech startups like Copia and Food Forward to help prevent food waste as well as find uses for food that's nearly expiring or not suitable for sale. (Non-secret tip: Include Forward in your name if you're seeking to fund.)

Hopefully, the innovative Daily Table grocery store, or stores like it, will expand with the dual goal of bringing people affordable ready-to-eat, healthful food while minimizing food waste.

Mashups of All of the Above

I've seen lots of food business pitch competitions recently. Sure, some pitchers like craft beer delivery are super fun. Most of them focus on the future of food, tapping into concerns about the food system and our collective health as we age, along with our desire for mobility and convenience.

Summary: Expect to see new food trends, new services, and more acquisitions, all focused on living better and longer lives, more fun eating and big sales. Just like every year.

See what else is trending in the food and beverage industry.