The next big food and drink trends

In Food & Drink by Tom Cannon

Food and drink is a fluid and dynamic category with constantly shifting trends and tastes. For this piece, we spoke with experts in the industry to get their take on the latest trends. Read on for thoughts from Paul Davies – Vice President of Craft & Speciality Beer at Carlsberg Group, Kate Willacy – PR Manager at Pukka Herbs, Sanjay Aggarwal – Director of Spice Kitchen, Kasia Bigda – Marketing and Communications Director of Mr Lee’s Pure Foods Co., Jack Hamilton – Director of Mash Direct, Jeff Webster – Co-founder of Hunter & Gather Foods and Karen Deans, the Managing Director of field fare.

Craft-beer: Pilsner Comeback and More Fruity Brews  

To find out what is afoot in the beer industry we spoke with Paul Davies, Vice President of Craft & Speciality Beer at Carlsberg Group. “The first part of the craft-beer revolution was based on hoppy pale ales and IPAs primarily from the USA. This year, the pilsner, this 175-year-old iconic beer style, first brewed in the Bohemian town of Pilsen, and later refined in Denmark by Carlsberg, is in for a major comeback because it’s refreshing and light and it doesn’t have the high alcohol by volume associated with IPAs. We will also still see a lot of fruity ales and Belgian style sours entering the market, as drinkers search for new flavours,” he says.1664 Blanc Asian MarketIn terms of how the Carlsberg Group will respond to this trend, Paul tells us he sees great potential in their 1664 Blanc wheat beer. “It fits the trend towards more lighter, fruity, easy drinking beers. 1664 Blanc is a modern wheat beer with a hint of citrus and coriander spice. In global sales 1664 Blanc will soon overtake our hugely successful Belgium abbey beer brand, Grimbergen, which reached the 1 million hectolitre milestone in 2017. 1664 Blanc is growing in many markets around the world, but its growth is fastest in Asia, which accounts for 4 of the brands 5 largest markets globally,” says Paul.

Tea: Functional and Health Promoting

To find out what is happening in the world of tea we spoke with Kate Willacy, PR Manager at Pukka Herbs. “Consumers aren’t just looking for a tea which looks and tastes great, but one which also delivers a functional benefit – from helping them to sleep, supporting their digestion or even rebooting their energy levels. As well as delivering on taste, Pukka’s teas have become synonymous with wellbeing and that’s why consumers are coming to us. We choose zeitgeist herbs, blending them into healthy, organic, sugar-free drinks which pack a significant health benefit in the convenience of a hot beverage,” she says.

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous about flavours and looking for wider health benefits, with the success of turmeric highlighting that consumers are open to new flavours and willing to look to teas for additional health benefits. We expect to see further growth in matcha and turmeric – led by us. For example, Pukka’s Turmeric Gold tea (which features spice of the moment, turmeric), launched in spring 2016 and quickly rocketed into the top 20% of the fruit & herbal category in the UK,” says Kate.

With that in the mind, the company is planning two new releases early this year. “Our share within the green tea market has more than doubled in two years and continues to strongly contribute to the category (IRI Major Mults 52we 22/07/17). In Jan 2018, Pukka launched a new Lean Matcha Green tea. Weight management is the most common health ambition in the UK, with ¾ of the population saying they have tried dieting. With so many products on the market tapping into body insecurities consumers have, we are keen to promote a responsible and natural alternative to supporting metabolism and overall wellbeing.  We will also be launching Turmeric Active tea. Back, muscle and joint pain are the most common reasons for people taking supplements in the UK. Pukka’s Turmeric Active is blended using medicinal-grade herbs including turmeric, ginger, galangal and nettle.  These super-herbs are used to treat inflammation, alleviate pain and support the joints,” says Kate.

Flavours: Faraway

Thought us Brits were boring when it comes to flavour? Think again! Sanjay Aggarwal is the director at Spice Kitchen and he predicts big, bold flavours on the horizon. “The growth of world flavours and international dishes will continue to grow throughout 2018 in our opinion. After seeing continued growth for Indian spices we expect to see further growth in Middle Eastern and North African cooking, in particular for spice blends like Ras El Hanout from Morocco and Berbere from Ethiopia. Classic Persian and Middle Eastern spices like Za’atar, Sumac, Harissa and Baharat will also continue to see a growth as chefs like Sabrina Ghayour and Yotam Ottolenghi continue to grow their followers in the UK amongst keen cooks. Urfa Biber and Aleppo Pepper, two chilli peppers from Syria and Turkey, are becoming more known to the UK audience, especially after a mention by Nigella Lawson on her show in December 2017,” he says.

Spices and flavoursSanjay cites international restaurants and the burgeoning health market as other influencing factors on this trend. “The continued growth of some international restaurants and street food vendors in the UK is also having an impact, as people seek to replicate these flavours at home. Wahaca is now bringing Mexican flavours nationwide and thus Mexican chillies like Chipotle, Amarillo and Habanero are more in demand. The health market is also growing, with turmeric getting the spotlight in 2017 with its many health benefits. As the health benefits of other spices are brought into the public domain, no doubt sales will increase as people look towards their ingredients to nourish their bodies,” he says.

Free from: More Vegan Options

Veganism has grown a whopping 360% in the last decade yet food industry experts expect to see further growth still. To find out more we spoke with Kasia Bigda, Marketing and Communications Director of Mr Lee’s Pure Foods Co. “Here at Mr Lee’s we have been putting a lot of time into researching and monitoring growing trends and how they have performed over the past couple of months. One trend in particular that has jumped out to us has been the increasing buzz around the vegan diet. The noise around the trend is coming through in many different contexts. Be it for health or animal welfare, we believe negating meat from your diet is going to be the big thing of 2018. From what we’ve seen, this doesn’t necessarily even mean going full cold turkey on the turkey, with diets such as ‘flexitarianism’ – a diet with a clear intention to reduce meat considerably, whilst still partaking in the occasional steak – becoming increasingly popular amongst multiple demographics,” she says.

For Mr Lee’s Pure Foods Co, all this has been cemented by many of their stockists, “with Jetstar Airlines (Australia’s answer to EasyJet) having recently taken on-board our Zen Garden Vegetables, one of our new vegan noodle flavours, after an outcry from their customers on Facebook for more vegan options. Shortly after doing so, Jetstar made international news for becoming ‘Australia’s most vegan-friendly airline’. Things are no different here in the UK, with South Western Railways, East Midlands Trains and train platform coffee shop chain Gourmet Coffee Bar and Kitchen all throwing a heavy focus on having vegan options in their food range. After enquiring with Tesco and Sainsbury’s regarding the increase in vegan-friendly products, both supermarkets mentioned they were working on their offerings, with Tesco most recently launching Wicked Kitchen vegan ready meals” she says.

As for the company’s plans for this year? “July 2017 saw Mr Lee’s launch our new vegan offering, and the reaction to our two flavours has been incredible. Whether it’s social media, exhibiting in shows or simply talking to industry veterans, we’re hearing from all angles that this will be a quickly growing trend throughout the next year. We’re already hard at work on how we can better support our vegan product offering, taking on board all the feedback we’ve had over the past half year to lead the charge during 2018,” says Kasia.

Convenience: Quality and Ease

As people’s lives get busier they are looking for convenience, but not at the cost of quality. Jack Hamilton, Director of Mash Direct, shares his approach to this consumer desire. “A pioneer in convenient and healthy vegetable side-dishes, our sixth-generation farmers have responded to changing consumer habits by launching an innovative lunch-time meal solution. Mash Direct’s Nourish Bowls are the most recent addition to our product range and are available in Nisa stores. Drawing influences from flavours around the world the Nourish Bowls are available in three exciting flavours: Taste of Italy, Taste of China and Taste of Morocco. Creating the concept of the Nourish Bowls derived from consumer feedback at numerous food shows throughout the year. The Nourish Bowls each boast a specific number of your daily portion of fruit and vegetables which is a key trend that consumers are picking up on,” he says.

Jack found that consumers were looking for a healthy lunchtime option that they could pick up off the shelf or even eat on the go. “All of Mash Direct’s products are gluten-free and don’t have any red traffic lights, so, our customers know that they are eating a Mash Direct product that they can trust is good for them. The best thing about these Nourish Bowls is that they offer relief from the normal, boring sandwiches at your work desk and they help consumers achieve their recommended portions of fruit and veg for the day.”

Health conscious: Back to Fat

Jeff Webster, Co-founder of Hunter & Gather Foods, tells us he sees the return to fat as one of the major foods trends amongst health conscious shoppers this year. “We see one of the biggest trends of 2018 is the ever vigilant and knowledgeable consumer seeking healthy sources of the once demonised fat. Having gone through a period of exoneration over the past few years, fat is no longer frowned upon as the bad guy and several studies point to it being essential for optimal health including hormone function, skin condition and gut health. Fats from real butter, ghee, coconut oil and avocado oil are being lauded as super food heroes.”

Good fats

And their offering for this trend? “We have developed and launched the first of its kind (in the UK and EU) Mayonnaise made with Avocado Oil and three other ingredients – Free range egg yolk, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. With a shelf life of 6 months (soon to be 8 months) this enables consumers to consume a healthy dose of fats without sacrificing on taste and the usual addition of sugar. It secured as the Food Matters Live 2017 “Innovative ‘ Better for you’ Product of the Year after only 6 weeks of launching,” says Jeff.

Packaging: Consumer Concern

Growing concerns around unnecessary product packaging as well as waste are going to be one of the major consumer trends of this year, according to Karen Deans, the Managing Director of field fare. Here she shares their concerns and innovative approach to this problem: “This is very topical currently and will certainly continue to dominate the food industry with consumers becoming increasingly concerned about the unnecessary amount of plastic on their food and the massive amount of food that is wasted on a daily basis,” she says.

Karen shares the approach field fare take on this matter: “field fare have been pioneers in this area as it was 40 years ago when they introduced the concept of selling frozen fruit and veg loose by the scoop from branded freezers, meaning minimum packaging and minimum waste too as customers can economically take as little or as much as they want.  With the added benefit of locked in nutrients it is easy to see why this concept has been so successful and is available in over 400 farm shops and delis nationwide.  The loose range has grown since then and now includes a wide range of loose pastries, both savoury and sweet; pucks of cookie dough; Yorkshire puddings; and fish cakes,” she says.

In conclusion…

From speaking with food experts across several sectors it seems like we’re in for a fantastic year where food and drink are concerned! Those looking for a tipple might enjoy the resurgence of the pilsner, or perhaps a fruity ale. The health-conscious among us will opt for an increasing function cup of tea featuring buzz ingredients from turmeric to Matcha. When it comes to flavours and spice, consumers will opt for everything exotic and nice thanks to the influence of celebrity chefs and a greater variety of restaurants. Veganism will continue to grow and we’ll likely see more mainstream brands offering up meat and dairy free products to satiate the demand. As we all get busier we’re looking for convenience, but not to the detriment of our health; think veg packed bowls instead of soggy sandwiches. And it seems like the 1980s is finally over for fat – we’re no longer afraid of it. Lastly, as concerns around the environment continue to build, consumers will look to brands to provide innovative packing solutions so they are not part of the plastic problem.