Top 10 Food Trends to Watch at IFT 2017

In April, Food Technology magazine editor, Elizabeth Sloan, published an extensive article on the top 10 trends in the food industry. IFT 2017 in Las Vegas will be a great opportunity to see how ingredient companies are trying to meet the new priorities on healthy, natural, and nutritional focused offerings.

Here is a look at the top 10 trends to watch at IFT 2017 Las Vegas.

1. Prep It

Partially prepared foods are winning in-home supper preparation. According to FMI, 53% of shoppers used some semi-prepared foods versus on 35% that cooked from scratch. In 2016, sales of clean/preservative-free frozen meals reached $2.3 billion. Convenience continues to drive brands to develop quickly prepared foods and meals to meet the consumer’s lifestyle.

2. Lifestyle Foods

46% of the time Americans are eating alone with single adults making up 28% of all U.S. households. It’s no wonder that single-serve packaging and individual multi-packs are seeing increased demand. According to Accosta, 74% of people agree that frozen snacks are convenient at work which highlights that single-serve, on-the-go packaging could increase frozen snack sales substantially. People are now eating more early morning meals, and they are focused on nutrients and protein. Brands have to take a look at how lifestyles are changing to make effective decisions with new product development going forward.

3. Kid-Specific

Baby, toddler, and kid-focused products will grow rapidly as Millennials start to settle down over the next few years. According to Euromonitor, sales of infant formula are expected to grow to over $50 billion worldwide in 2017. Vitamin and mineral fortified, digestive health, eye health, organic, non-GMO, and all natural are top claims on leading formulas. In a report from IRI, they concluded that 40% of all snack sales are from households with kids. Packaged Facts found that 49% of all moms say that nutrition is the top food selection factor with 23% wanting to see more foods with hidden veggies. Bottom line, kid-focused products that appeal to the health conscious parents are winning.

4. Nationalism

A new pride in products made in America will drive increased sales for American cuisine, ingredients, and comfort food. Southerners and households with kids are most likely to buy and eat American made products. Another trend driving this new nationalism is local sourcing for grocery stores and restaurants. According to FMI, 66% of all U.S. shoppers are interested in meats raised in the United States with 60% believing that foods from China pose health risks. American pride is at a high again, and it’s a significant trend for natural products companies to look at carefully.

5. Nutrition

Consumer demand for a healthy lifestyle with simple application continues to gain steam. According to Nielsen, nutritional/supplement bars, drinks, and meal replacements with among the top 10 fastest growing food and beverage categories in the U.S. IFIC reported that 64% of adults tried to get more protein in their diet with 56% looking for more vitamins and minerals. CRN found that 75% of adults take a multi-vitamin daily. The protein gold mine has been most successful in the healthy snacks and frozen entrees categories according to Nielsen. The biggest missed opportunity according to IRI is in snack nutritionals with 60% of consumers looking for energy boosting snacks and 57% seeking snacks with more vitamins and minerals. Nutrition is easily the hottest trend to look out for at IFT 2017.

6. Dinner Redesigned

80% of all households prepare meals based on alternative proteins to meat/poultry at least once a week with the main reason being health according to FMI. Vegetable based “carb substitutes” are a fast growing trend at the dinner table with vegetable noodles and fries at the top of the list. New dinner trends will be important to look at as companies develop new entrees for this meal.

7. Ag Alternatives


Americans are currently experimenting with more plant-based meals. According to NRA, 40% of chefs still cite vegetarian and vegan cuisines as hot culinary trends in 2017. SPINS data showed sales of plant-based food and beverages increased to over $4.9 billion in 2016. Over past 4 years, claims around chia, quinoa, and kamut have been among fastest growing grain-based wellness claims. According to Nielsen, 62% of shoppers bought a food product because it contained fruits and/or vegetables. The new superfood on the block is the mushroom, especially for immune-boosting benefits. New plant alternatives are leading innovation in one of the fastest growing segments of the industry.

8. Upgrading

For the first time in 2016, men were more likely to buy specialty products than women. According to Anon, Sushi is outpacing bakery snacks and breakfast wraps. However, cheese remains the largest specialty category as usual. NPD found that more people are eating meals at another person’s home which is leading to explosive growth in home entertaining specialty foods. Gourmet foods are growing and will be a category to keep your eye on going forward.

9. Claim It

The best marketers and package designers are using claims and copy to convey benefits more quickly to consumers. According to Mintel, the number of “on-the-go” claims increased by 54% over the past six years. The fixation on a clean label has led to more free from, natural, and nutrient content claims. Nielsen found that 70% of all shelf-stable products will most likely be impacted by the new US FDA added sugar labeling requirements. Many sustainable claims around grass fed, free range, etc. are being perceived as healthy. Claims are crucial to attracting consumer attention and closing the deal at the shelf.

10. Natural Living

Consumers are intrigued by living a more natural, chemical-free, sustainable lifestyle. According to Nielsen, products with an organic claim saw a compound annual growth rate of 14.8% over the past 4 years. Natural claims drove growth in natural snacks like candy and cookies. Consumers want minimally processed foods with fewer ingredients, which is somewhat a headache for manufacturers.