top 3 food & beverage trends for 2018

by: Sarah Kneebone

Amongst the growth of e-commerce and an increasingly customer-first’ in-store experience, consumers today are shopping categories and channels like never before - with completely different expectations.
2017 presented numerous challenges for the food and beverage industry, topped off with the long-anticipated arrival of Amazon at the end of the year affecting FMCG manufacturers and retailers.
So, in the spirit of all things new year’, we’ve put together 3 of the biggest food and beverage trends for 2018, to help you stay ahead of the game.
Rebecca Tait, our sensory and product testing specialist, has also given some of her thoughts and predictions for you to keep in mind.
We’ll be delving into some of these topics in more depth during the year, featuring areas such as personalisation, innovation in health drinks and the rise of plant-based living. So, sign up to the blog below if you want to stay up-to-date!

Today's mindful consumers

It should come as no surprise that many of the themes coming out in all the industry discussion around 2018 are connected to the buzzword of the moment - mindfulness.
Lu Ann Williams (Innova Director of Innovation) recently commented
“...consumers are becoming increasingly mindful in their food choices, wanting to know what is in their foods in order to make decisions about health, sustainability and ethical issues”
This shift is changing the way manufacturers produce and sell food and drink products today.
However, mindful purchase decisions cannot come at the cost of convenience - a priority in consumers' fast-paced lifestyles. Which leads me into our first point...

1. Convenience


Shopping must fit into consumers’ busy lifestyles, as people make smaller but more frequent trips to stores. Many households mix it up between physical shopping trips supplemented by meal delivery services.
"Food delivery services and meal packages are blurring the lines between restaurants and grocery stores." The Conversation.
In-store, shoppers appreciate an elevated experience with convenient solutions such as recipe ideas and ingredient combinations to help them easily build healthily meals up from scratch.
Food and drink products must be conveniently packaged and marketed in order to tick those boxes for consumers.
The UK supermarkets are way ahead of the game on this, with Boots 3-part 'meal deals', Tesco Finest 'dinners for 2' (complete with dessert and a bottle of wine to share on date night) and whole aisles filled with convenient lunch options such as sandwiches, wraps, pies, fruit packs, yoghurts, nuts and drinks.


This is where the biggest growth is set to happen. Fast ordering and delivery, click-and-collect options and an abundance of choice (without having to visit multiple stores), mean that shoppers can get everything they need quickly and easily, with minimal effort.
Spurred on by the arrival of Amazon, food and beverage manufacturers and the retailers which sell these products must ensure they are innovative, relevant, personal and available when, where and how shoppers want to buy: the Amazon experience.

2. Here's the big one: health

If you look at recent industry NPD and growing areas of consumer demand for food and beverages, one thing is for sure: health is having a moment. Australian shoppers today are looking to balance their busy lives with a healthy dose of self-care.

Here's a few of the key areas...

Feel-good treats: indulgence and me-time without the guilt. Treats with built in health benefits such as vegetable desserts and protein-filled chips.

Food is not only fuel but it’s also now seen as medicine. However, this doesn’t mean shoppers don’t want to indulge every now and again to balance their fast-paced lives.

brooke-lark-W9OKrxBqiZA-unsplashConsumers are looking for retailers with a greater assortment of fresh, convenient and healthy food.

As we discussed in the blog last month HERE, Woolworths have been upping their game in this space.

Woolies has made changes to store layouts, implemented product innovation, technology (e.g. screens), displays with helpful nutritional advice, cut today, sold tomorrow’ fresh veg, and more.

As seen in the UK, lots of stores are adopting a 'market-like' feel to showcase fresh, healthy options or special dietary products.

All of these elements help educate and make it easier for shoppers to make healthy choices.


Holistic health. Nutrition, exercise, mental wellbeing and various other elements of wellness’ are in the spotlight - including the technology and tools now available to help achieve total health. Consumers today - Millennials in particular - wish to eat, shop and live healthfully.

“Many people now have an insight into their personal health through apps and trackers. Knowing the steps you've taken or calories you’ve burnt can affect your eating choices. Or, for example, knowing how well you slept the night before might influence your choice to have more caffeine, and so forth. This is becoming particularly interesting as we see cross-interaction between different technologies... your smart watch knows the quality of your sleep and tells your coffee machine to make you a drink.” 
Rebecca Tait, Research Manager at PLAY.


Meat reduction, plant-based diets and plant protein alternatives. The food of the future: lab-developed burgers, more and more plant-based milk alternatives, ancient grains (rather than your classic rice and cous cous!).

Whether with pulses, shoots, grains, seeds, soy or even algae, everyone from tiny start-up companies to big brands is looking for clever new ways to add a protein punch.” Natalie Mitchell, Head of Brand Development and Product Innovation at Waitrose UK.
For those who do eat meat, ‘antibiotic-free’ and ‘grass-fed’ claims with ‘organic’, ‘free-range’, ‘local’ messaging help consumers to feel like they’re making the ‘right’ choice (for their health, the environment and animal welfare).
Fake foods. With the ever-growing health movement, we have seen a rise in ‘fake foods’, bread without wheat, milk without cow’s milk, beer without alcohol, energy drinks without caffeine and no-meat chicken steaks.

“2018 is likely to see the range of fake foods grow from the small health foods section into an aisle. With veganism and other health diets on the rise, there is a need for the same taste, texture and variety that we are used to but without the traditional core ingredient.” Rebecca Tait, Research Manager at PLAY.

sheri-silver-gKx4-hYKwsQ-unsplash-1Health drinks and snacks. The use of botanicals, herbs, spices and probiotics to make drinks feel sophisticated and healthful, or snack bars with innovative flavours or ingredients which bring specific health benefits.

“Added health benefits are going from a bonus to a must with many beverages such as kombucha being launched into supermarkets and not just speciality stores, this is likely to also spill over into foods.” Rebecca Tait.

3. Personal and meaningful

‘Food is becoming less a commodity and more a specialised, individual choice.’ The Conversation.
E-commerce has helped drive personalisation and enhanced the shopper’s experience.
Customised recommendations and cross-category pairings of products make things quicker and easier for shoppers - but also more enjoyable. After all, who doesn’t love feeling understood?
Storytelling is a word being banded around in the marketing world to help brands form connections with their consumers - and it’s equally relevant for FMCG products.
Heritage’, tradition and personal stories are all being brought to life to add meaning to our food and choices, for example. The special flavour experiences and Insta-worthy’ factor add to a product’s appeal.
WGSN (trend forecasters) have even cited food as being an artistic medium in today’s world.
The changing ethnic face of Australia has also contributed to the need for personalisation. Different product and flavour demands have led to innovation and diversity in this space.
A broader range of preferences must be catered for, and shopping must feel relevant and personal to each individual, for example with speciality areas in stores and customised messaging through data-driven relationships.
The role of emotion in FMCG shopping experiences is growing. As I mentioned before, Woolworths is honing in on this trend by displaying images and information about the local farmers who supply their stores and the staff team members working to help make their customers feel special.
This is even true of menus in restaurants which can be seen split by farm, sea and garden’. People are looking to achieve that 'farmer’s market' experience.

This trend ties all of the previous points together… this year and beyond will be about connection, personalisation and stories as well as social consciousness, health and making mindful choices.

Over to you

If you'd like to learn more about the future of food and drink in Australia, get in touch to let us know your core area of interest and we'll be happy to explore it in a weekly blog.

Wishing you all the best for a successful 2018!

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about the author

Sarah Kneebone

Sarah is PLAY’s go-to content writer with a passion for marrying creativity and communication with clever strategy. A former marketer with PLAY and for international brands such as QBE Insurance and General Motors, Sarah moved home to the UK to raise her little family and start a health coaching business. Luckily for us, she continues to share her talent for the written word with the team in Australia.

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