For the most part, the food industry has been fairly insular in its trends analysis. The easiest way to describe this behavior is that, “food trends beget food trends.” True, research has often been done to understand foodservice operator and consumer behavior and demands—as they relate to food. However, for the industry to truly be innovative, and continue to be relevant well beyond the Millennial boom, insights professionals will need to look well outside of food to better anticipate consumers’ changing relationship with food.
Consider the travel industry. According to a study by MMGY Global in June 2017, Millennial households plan to spend 19% more on vacations during the next year and travel 35% more than the previous year. Based on their findings, international unrest may drive Millennials to take more domestic trips. An increased focus on domestic travel—with many of the top domestic locations ranging from New Orleans and Minneapolis to Columbus, Ohio, and Hawaii—is likely to increase interest in those regional specialties and flavors.
By contrast, top international travel destinations for 2018 include locations in Eastern Europe including Latvia, Poland, and Croatia; locations in Africa such as Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt; several locations throughout the Mediterranean from Spain and Portugal to Greece and Cyprus; and many destinations throughout Asia including South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Expect elements from many of these venues—particularly spices, sauces, and spreads—to do very well during the next year.
But travel is an easy pairing with food, as so many trips tend to be food focused. Consider, however, the growing link between the beauty industry and food. This may seem far less intuitive, but this connection is becoming even more significant and deserves more focus.
The best example of this growing link is activated charcoal. It is arguably one of the hottest fads and can be found in everything from juices to pizza crusts. In beauty, charcoal has been used for years for its detoxifying properties. Another example is the increased use of collagen to fortify food products. Jamba Juice, for example, has a collagen boost available for its smoothies. Collagen became a significant issue for beauty products years before. Green tea beauty products gained favor as green tea grew in foodservice. The same was seen with honey, salts, and coconut. Tracking the beauty industry can provide both inspiration and innovation.
Not to be left out, fashion also is informing how foods are designed and presented. Consider the explosion of Millennial pink. It may be difficult to draw a direct line from its increased popularity in clothes to its use in food. However, as it grew in popularity so too did pink food. Consider the growth in rose wines, unicorn colored cakes and other desserts, and Starbucks’ recent introduction in Hong Kong of the Strawberry Honey Blossom Crème Frappuccino. Currently, there are more than 22,000 posts for #pinkfood on Instagram.
Although the food industry has enjoyed a critical role in the lives of Millennial consumers, the same may not be true for Gen Z. In contrast to previous generations, Gen Z consumers will have a higher bar for food, and a broader comfort zone. It’s also very likely they will focus on other categories more so than food. As such, food and beverage companies must innovate more broadly to remain relevant to rapidly shifting consumer behavior. Looking at trends, needs, preferences and demands in other industries can lead to unique food products and new food-based experiences to keep consumers engaged.
Originally appeared in the April, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as Think Outside the Box.