Looking Ahead to 2017: 5 Key Food Trends

By Alexandra Locke

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to start looking at the key trends for the year to come, highlighting new and innovative ways to reach consumers, provide key benefits and ultimately raise awareness of our brands by offering a new outlook for the coming year.

We’ve taken a look at 5 of 2017’s top trends and the considerable opportunities for change and innovation!

“A key trend is a genuine growth opportunity. It’s a set of changes in consumer beliefs and behaviours, leading to a change in a market. It’s something on which a company can base its strategy to increase sales of existing products or create new products, to boost market share and profitability.”

Number 1: Digestive Wellness 2.0

Forecast to be the biggest trend for 2017 according to the New Nutrition Business 2017 Trends Report, digestive wellness reflects the rise in consumer awareness of the effects of good and bad digestive health. Emerging research is connecting the digestive system to all areas of health including anxiety, depression, weight management and diabetes amongst many others and is continuing to reveal new developments in this area. No longer purely a reaction to the hot topic of gut health and the microbiome, this area encompasses other trends such as the gluten free movement and rise in plant based eating.

Consumers are now paying more attention to how a specific food can make them feel, so want to feel the benefit of the products they buy and feel assured that they’re promoting their digestive health and overall wellness when making food choices – these consumers will pay a premium for products which taste good and offer functional digestive benefits. And so the opportunities for manufacturers within this sphere will grow too – this is a trend to get on board with now!

Many consumers identify gluten and lactose free foods as a key to digestive health, which will ensure these trends persist. As such, those products experiencing the most growth in this area fall within the dairy alternative category. This highlights plenty of opportunities for both grain and legume products too, as consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits of fibre on good digestive health. Key opportunities include dairy alternatives, gluten free innovation and fermented foods which are also experiencing significant resurgence and innovation – pickled lentils anyone?

Number 2: Plant-Based

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sage advice from Michael Pollan which many consumers are now taking to heart with the rise of the second biggest trend for 2017 and perhaps the most opportunistic for those in the grains and legumes industry – the plant based diet. With new research demonstrating the multiple benefits of a mostly plant based diet, ranging from up to a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes to lower incidences of obesity and smaller waist circumferences (1), the possibilities for product development within this space are numerous, with plant milks and meat and dairy alternatives all increasing and a spotlight moment for seeds and grains.

Within this trend there’s been a significant increase in the number of consumers following a Flexitarian diet promoting a mostly plant based or vegetarian approach, whilst also including small amounts of animal based products. With an increase of seven times the amount of plant based claims on packaging since 2011 (2), there’s a clear indication that this trend is here to stay. The future looks bright for natural products, legume snacks, tempeh and protein based plant foods.

Number 3: Inflammation

A relatively recent area of focus in the FMCG space, inflammation is fast becoming the next hot topic. With inflammation now linked to everything from the development of chronic disease to how effectively we handle stress, this trend is driving consumer purchasing and behavioural decisions. A recent study has shown that whole grain intake had the strongest link to anti-inflammatory markers out of 37 foods studied (3) – highlighting more opportunities for the whole grain category in 2017.

The star in this space is surely turmeric, recently attracting much praise for its anti-inflammatory properties and appearing in everything from wraps to tea to smoothies. You only have to take a quick sweep through Instagram to encounter numerous Turmeric Lattes, Golden Mylks and Glowing Smoothies. And single serve on-the-go drinks are the number one opportunity for manufacturers looking to weigh in on the inflammation trend, offering plenty of potential for dairy alternative inflammatory busting beverages. With research on inflammation coming thick and fast, this is one trend that’s not going away!

Number 4: Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

Over the past year we’ve increasingly seen consumers choosing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs, with an emphasis on the importance of choosing the most healthful carbohydrate format. Both the media and consumers are becoming more aware that carbohydrates are essential as part of a healthy balanced diet, focusing on crowding out refined and processed carbohydrates by increasing intake of whole grains, wholemeal bread and pseudo-grains, as well as eating more ‘alternative’ forms of carbohydrates, think sweet potato toasts and zucchini noodles. But consumers are still cutting carbs with 35% actively cutting down on carbs as a dietary priority with the breakfast cereal category amongst the hardest hit due to the persisting perception that many cereals are overly refined, processed and high in sugar (4).

With ‘healthier’ forms of carbohydrate on the rise in 2016, we’ve seen significant movement towards alternative pasta products made with quinoa, chickpea or rice flour to products avoiding the traditional carb-heavy format as much as possible such as veggie noodles made with zucchini or beetroot, with this trend set to continue well into 2017. The focus should now be on manufacturers emphasising the importance of good forms of carbohydrates and making traditional carbohydrates more convenient – think porridge and traditional breakfast items in on-the-go formats alongside products incorporating vegetables wherever possible.

Number 5: Snackification

And finally, the rise of the snack market. With the Australian snacking market now worth more than $2 billion and climbing fast (1), this field is seeing the most innovation in response to massive consumer demand for snack products of all varieties. Grains and legume innovation in this area is rife and for good reason – Australians are now snacking four times as much as 10 years ago.

This innovation combined with a low failure rate for products makes an attractive proposition for manufacturers, with 60% of snacks launched between 2003 and 2013 still on the market in 2016(4). And it would appear that anything goes with this trend, any food can be engineered to be thought of as a snack, any time of day is open to snackification and there are no limits on product development – almost any ingredient that can be dried, pureed, shaped, extruded or frozen is open to innovation. Take Peeled Snacks for example – a vegetable based snack made from rice and pea flour which passed $10 million in sales this year (4) thanks to hitting three of the recent major trends: plant based, no added sugar and a source of veggie protein. Chickpeas in particular have seen a surge in innovation, with products including low sugar, plant based cookies, roasted chickpeas and a range of healthy spreads made with the humble legume.

Professor David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London, sums up the gravitas of this trend, “…such is the degree to which snacking is becoming part of people’s everyday habits, whatever food commodity you are in, you need to have a snacking variant.”

For more on the irrepressible rise of the snack market, click here.

Consumers look set to continue experimenting with their preferred way of eating, working out what approach is best for them but the more trends a product can align with, the more successful it’s likely to become. And with so many areas of new and emerging research and technological and processing advances being made almost every day, it appears there are no limits to the opportunities manufacturers face throughout 2017 and beyond.


1. Innova Market Insights Report. 2016.

2. Harland J, Garton L. An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. 2016;41(4):323-38.

3. Ozawa M, Shipley M, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A, Brunner EJ. Dietary pattern, inflammation and cognitive decline: The Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Clinical nutrition. 2016.

4. Mellentin, J. New Nutrition Business. 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2017. 2016.

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