The days of a meal just being something to eat are over. The food and beverage industry is rapidly changing as consumers develop an appetite for new flavors, healthier options, and more control over how food gets served, delivered and made. From new “better for you” meals and adaptogenic ingredients — ones that improve your body’s ability to stabilize its physiological processes — to augmented reality and machine learning, the latest food trends are serving up big changes in the industry to reflect how consumers are starting to view mealtime differently. While some of these trends are already going mainstream, others will take a few more years to mature.
YPO recently held a global conference call during the second annual YPO Innovation Week with member Michael Pavone of Pavone Marketing Group, Inc., whose subsidary, quench, a food and beverage advertising and marketing firm, develops a food and beverage trends report to uncover the newest innovations and advanced technologies shaping the industry. He shared his insights on the most significant trends that will impact the food and beverage industry over the coming years.
The new better for you
There was a time when a promise of vitamins and a lack of fat were seen as the hallmarks of a healthy meal, but the definition of a healthy meal is expanding. Customers now want to eat food that not only enhances their lifestyle but also improves their health and cures ailments. Imagine a meal that also treats ADHD or that addresses the unique side effects of chemotherapy at each stage. Adaptogenic ingredients like turmeric and kombucha that have been linked to a wide range of health benefits are being incorporated into food products to help balance neurotransmitters for optimal performance. The trend goes beyond supplements to the creation of medical meal plans as well as medical foods that may soon replace traditional medications altogether.
Hacking the food experience
Brands are cultivating our cultural food obsession through multisensory experiences, pop-ups, museums and more, offering consumers a portal to food experiences beyond the borders of their plates and palates. The pop-up Museum of Ice Cream, for example, was dedicated to all things we like to scream about and featured a sprinkle pool, tasting room and ice cream art exhibit. During one month, it received 19,000 posts on Instagram and was featured in “The New York Times,” “BuzzFeed,” “Business Insider” and “Forbes.” Kentucky Fried Chicken also took its products out of the restaurant with a limited-quantity KFC’s Extra Crispy Sunscreen that sold out within hours. And Kellogg’s branched out from its traditional spot on the cereal aisle to open a storefront in New York, New York, USA, where consumers can dine on unique cereal concoctions by celebrity chefs.
The new little foodies
Companies are already looking at the next generation of eaters and their unique food preferences. “As millennials transition into parenthood, they impress their food preferences onto the next generation,” says Pavone. “From the snacks they bring home from the grocery store to the restaurants they dine at, millennials are inducing their kids to flavors, foods and drinks that they didn’t encounter until adulthood.” To reach these new consumers, restaurants now feature high-end kids tasting menus and the Food Network showcases the talents and taste buds of adolescent chefs on “Chopped Junior.”
Recommendations in a chatbot near you
Advancements in artificial intelligence have made it possible to engage in somewhat seamless conversations with customers. “Consumers are increasingly seeking timesaving innovations and chatbots have risen in popularity as personal assistants, finding information, completing routine bank transactions and ordering pizza,” says Pavone. Simply by tweeting a food emoji, a user can receive local, customized food and restaurant recommendations from Google Allo, a smart messaging app. Whole Foods launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot to offer recipe assistance that not only pulls together menu options but shopping lists, too. And Pizza Hut has made ordering a pizza as simple as a text conversation. Chatbots are opening up a direct line of communication between customers and brands and a way of influencing their choices in real time.
A whole new reality
Emerging technology innovations are helping to provide solutions to enhance the dining and food service experience for customer and restaurants. Customers in need of a meal can have visual access to the information they need to direct them to the door of a restaurant. Yelp has introduced augmented reality as a hidden feature so that when users scan the area, they can see an overlay of restaurants within walking distance rather than having to scroll through a list of restaurants.
“Many users had trouble navigating the right direction for a chosen restaurant using the map feature so the augmented reality overlay was developed to help users visualize which direction to move to reach their destination,” says Pavone. “Technology under this umbrella not only assists us with everyday tasks but anticipates our problems before they occur and are involved in ways in which we communicate.”