They say often that it’s not what you know but who you know—that counts. In the broader context here, that quote relates to getting ahead in life by leveraging personal connections.

How do food and beverage processors get ahead and succeed? Again, here it’s not so much about what you know—as in what flavor, what texture or what form is most important for a new food or beverage. Rather, today’s fast-moving market requires that everyone touching new product development—from broad strategic innovation to culinary and food science and packaging—has a better defined view of consumer insights.

Today’s consumers are weighing taste adventure and convenience with new considerations related to what’s better for me (diet and personal health) and better for the planet (ethics, sustainability). Those last two factors add even more hit-or-miss variables into any new product and packaging discussion.

Readers will find all these trends prevalent throughout the following state-of-the-industry overview articles, which also include dedicated pieces to consumer insights and packaging.

Meanwhile, here’s what others also are saying about what consumer behaviors and preferences.


Eating Patterns

A burger has held the crown as the top food ordered at US restaurants for decades, but in 2019 that burger may well be a plant-based burger, according to The NPD Group’s Eating “Patterns in America,” which is an annual compilation of the company’s daily tracking of US consumption behavior.

NPD says US consumers may appear to be creatures of habit in their eating patterns but the foods they eat today have a modern twist that is influenced by a host of factors like ethnicity, age/generational group, and health/social consciousness.

“For 34 years The NPD Group has been tracking eating patterns in America and from a topline view many of the same foods are being consumed today as they were three decades ago,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “But go a little deeper and you see that all aspects of our eating patterns—the who, what, when, where, how, and why—are changing.”

Here are some quick takes from the 2019 Eating Patterns in America. Researchers learned that...

... There were more than 460 billion in- and away-from-home eating and drinking occasions in the US during 2018. 

… 16% of consumers regularly use plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu, and veggie burgers; 89% of these consumers do not consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.

… 14% of in-home eating occasions included at least one item that required no preparation compared to only 11% of occasions in 2013.

… Visits to quick service restaurants have increased 630 million visits since 2014, while total visits to restaurants have declined more than 700 million visits.

… 19% of grocery shoppers now order their edible groceries online; from 2017 to 2020 the average annual growth rate for digital restaurant orders is forecast at 22%.

… One in five adults try to manage a health condition with their food and beverage choices.


Where Taste Meets Trend

Increased consumer interest in the stories behind their food and beverage products and their notable influence on purchasing decisions has resulted in companies increasingly paying attention to storytelling in branding strategies.

“Storytelling: Winning with Words” led Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2020. The top five trends for 2020 are:

1. Storytelling: Winning with Words. Although ingredient provenance has always been important, consumer interest in discovering the story behind their foods has risen further and increasingly influencing purchasing decisions. Consumers’ attention is piqued by opportunities to learn more about how products are produced, which promotes an understanding of product benefits and helps build all-important trust in the brand.

As a result, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.

2. Plant-Based Revolution. Plant-based innovation in food and beverages continues to flourish as a result of consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics, which ties into the broader consumer lifestyle trend towards cleaner living. As the use of the term “plant-based” moves more into the mainstream, the industry and start-up companies in particular, are taking up the challenge to deliver more clean label meat and dairy alternatives with improved nutritional profiles.

3. The Sustain Domain. Consumers increasingly expect companies to invest in sustainability, with Innova Market Insights research indicating that 85% of, on average, US and UK consumers expected companies to invest in sustainability in 2019, up from 64% in 2018. In the area of food waste, upcycling is the new recycling, as companies strive to follow a zero-waste approach by creating value from by-products. Meanwhile in packaging, the focus is on using less of it, as well as developing sustainable alternatives.

4. The Right Bite. Stress and anxiety are key concerns in modern life as consumers manage careers, families and social lives while striving to maintain healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally. Responses to this vary, although the majority of consumers aim to balance the benefits and costs of busy lifestyles. This, in turn, raises the demand for nutritious foods that are easy to prepare, convenient and portable. Indulgent treats play a role in relaxation and enjoyment.

5. Tapping into Texture. Last year’s leading trend “Discovery: the Adventurous Consumer” is still prominent, with consumer demand for something new and different being reflected in more product launches with textural claims. Consumers increasingly recognize the influence of texture on food and beverages, allowing a heightened sensory experience and often a greater feeling of indulgence. According to Innova Market Insights research, 45% of, on average, US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks, while 68% share the opinion that textures contribute to a more interesting food and beverage experience.

Visit and for more details about both companies’ research.

Meanwhile, we invite you to page ahead in Prepared Foods’ 2020 Retail Products Annual to learn more about where flavor meets both form and function.