A higher state of consciousness

Brenntag’s Food & Nutrition specialists predict that in 2024 and beyond, conscious consumerism – the practice of mindfully and intentionally buying and using products as a statement of values – will be the top global food & beverage industry trend.

We have leveraged all our research resources – customer and supplier insights, ingredient performance data, country-specific application experience, product launch activity scanning and market research – to pinpoint the trends that will drive consumer preferences across the globe in 2024. This exercise has revealed that consumers are moving away from ‘passive consumption’ and putting themselves more and more in the driving seat when it comes to deciding which food choices to make and which brands to support. 

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Conscious consumers make informed decisions that align with their values and priorities, as Joanna Self, America’s strategic marketing director at Brenntag, explains: 

“Conscious consumerism is about people being aware of what they are buying; they want the information they need to be able to make informed choices and they want to feel as though they are in control, that it is their choice that they have made as a reflection of their knowledge, beliefs and priorities,” she says. To resonate with the conscious consumer, brands must be transparent and honest on every level. “Consumers expect complete clarity and transparency from brands in every respect – from traceability and sustainability to a label that gives them a clear understanding of what is inside the product. This information is crucial in helping them make conscious decisions,” says Dr Nadia D’Incecco, EMEA strategic marketing director at Brenntag. 

Eco – health- and budget-conscious 

Making sustainable choices is, of course, a major part of this mindset, but it is not the only motivation. Alongside sustainability, we have identified two further trends that are of growing importance to conscious consumers. With the current cost of living crisis, affordability is a definite consideration, and personal health & wellness is another top priority as people seek out products that fulfil a desire for self-preservation. “The key for food & beverage manufacturers is to figure out which values are important to its target audiences and leverage these through innovation, reformulation and communication with consumers,” notes Sherlyn Sim, APAC strategic marketing director at Brenntag. Sustainability, health and affordability are global trends, but harnessing these macro-trends to reach conscious consumers will require a sharper, region-specific approach. Drawing on insights from Brenntag Food & Nutrition’s in-market specialists, this article looks at how these trends are playing out at a regional level and can be translated into the foods and beverages of tomorrow. 

functional foods
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Trend #1: Holistic sustainability

To date much of the food & beverage industry’s focus on sustainability has been around packaging and the development of plant-based offerings. As we move through 2024, we can expect to see the industry transitioning to a more holistic approach to sustainability and taking plant-based innovation to the next level. “Many companies have responded to the sustainability challenge by changing packaging because it is the most visible and fastest solution, but conscious consumers are looking for all-encompassing solutions that go beyond packaging. Plant-based and hybrid foods offer a lot of scope for helping consumers make more sustainable choices,” says Justyna Rynkiewicz, market Insight manager, Nutrition, at Brenntag EMEA, with reference to the EMEA market. 

The plant-based space has exploded in recent years, but some early attempts at innovation fell short of the mark on taste and texture. According to Justyna, this issue has now been addressed with the help of companies like Brenntag, who have supported the food industry with solutions for improving the taste, texture and appearance of plant-based foods. 

  

Nutrition next in focus: Next the category must turn its attention to improving the nutritional profile of plant-based foods – particularly the protein component. 

  

“Now the focus is on delivery of nutrients; consumers expect the nutritional profile of a plant-based food to match that of an animal-based food, so, for example, a faux fish product will need to be high in protein and omega-3. We are working in this space right now,” says Dr Nadia D’Incecco, EMEA Strategic Marketing Director at Brenntag.  Consumers are very receptive to trying plant-based foods, so if the industry can crack the dual challenge of taste and nutrition, the hope is that it will drive the repeat purchase that is needed for plant-based products to cross over into everyday territory. “The plant-based movement has been building for a very long time but in Asian countries, is still a niche. The challenge is one of evolving the category so that plant-based moves into the mainstream,”notes Sherlyn Sim, APAC strategic marketing director at Brenntag. In North America, discussions around plant-based product development always come up against cost obstacles because meat is heavily subsidised by federal funding, says Joanna Self, America’s strategic marketing director at Brenntag. She believes the answer lies in creating more novel offers that will appeal to adventurous consumers.“Plant-based has to offer something more – it is not enough for it to be an ‘alternative’ to meat products,” she says. 

  BRENNTAG

 

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