As with anything in the food industry, it is the consumer who ultimately drives trends that retailers pass back up the chain to processors.
PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing, identified the primary drivers —mostly tied to nutritional awareness and healthy lifestyles— in its recently released market research report 2017 Trends in Food Processing Operations.
Globally the middle class is growing, so much so, that it is expected to double by 2030. With a good portion of this growth occurring in Asia, more nutritious food options are becoming affordable to entirely new audiences.
On-the-go eating persists globally, with consumers looking for portion control and convenience in bite-size, flavorful and healthful foods. Evening meals and comfort foods with quick preparation times are growing in consumption, with consumers targeting weekends for full-meal experiences.
Regardless of when or how meals are eaten, consumers are increasingly cautious when it comes to what is in food.
The rise of clean labels is a testament to this trend as 37 percent of U.S. consumers find it necessary to understand ingredients on food labels, and 91 percent believe that products with recognizable ingredients are healthier.
To meet these evolving consumer demands food processors have started the process of reformulating products by removing ingredients thought to be unsafe and reformulating with healthier, sustainable ingredients.
Clean labeling has led to an increase in fortified food additives, such as adding calcium, protein, iron, fiber and antioxidants to food. Sugar is increasingly being eliminated or reduced in foods, corresponding with a rise in natural sweeteners.
Industry awareness has also increased the labeling of products as allergen free, non-GMO, gluten free, organic and antibiotic free. This has coincided with the rise in organic food demand as organic food growth exceeded 10 percent.
All of this is happening at a time when consolidation in the food industry continues to increase, leading to fewer global producers spanning multiple food verticals and channels. As a result, despite being an industry of many small plants, most shipments come from relatively few large plants. Companies with less than 20 employees represent 66 percent of food processing establishments but only 4 percent of the total value of shipments, while companies with more than 100 employees are only 12 percent of the industry but contribute 77 percent of shipment value.
One way to find solutions to the latest food challenges is the inaugural ProFood Tech (April 4-6 McCormick Place, Chicago).
Powered by three global trade show leaders, PACK EXPO, Anuga and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), more than 440 exhibitors will convene with 6,000 industry leaders in over 140,000 net square feet to share challenges and discover the latest technological breakthroughs in food and beverage processing.
The ProFood Tech Learning Hub offers diverse educational programming, featuring free, 30-minute educational sessions at the Innovation Stage and the all-new Regulatory Matters stage. The ProFood Tech Conference Program, produced by IDFA, will offer a broad range of educational experiences covering issues such as regulations and food safety, consumer trends and marketing, food processing advances and technology, business and leadership development and health and lifestyle.
The conference will kick-off with a keynote address by five-time National Football League (NFL) MVP Peyton Manning on Tuesday, April 4 at 8 a.m.
To register online, visit profoodtech.com.