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The top global food trends you need to know about in 2016, Part 1

Consumption in 2016 is an interesting blend of established and new trends with countertrends, which are challenging ways of living and buying.

by Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, Consumer Trends Consultant, Euromonitor International

Global instability, “greenwashing”—insincere brand displays of concern for the environment—and financial hardship have more people becoming “changemakers” in an effort to create a better world. As digital life retains its grip, and more shop for greater control of their lives though smart devices, a growing band of consumers—led by parents and health experts—are signposting the downsides and urging more analogue time.

Consumers are challenging gender stereotypes and the consumption that shapes them too, while “agnostic shoppers” disregard loyalty to labels, “perfect produce” and best-before dates, as they search for innovative routes to value. Creative, single spenders are fusing the consumption of luxury with counterculture. Health consciousness has millions more wanting to eat greener, healthier and more local food, with fast food chains starting to respond. The fascination with mental wellbeing reveals consumers are looking beyond physical fitness in striving for optimal health. We’re also defying the clock by challenging ageing and outsourcing more of our lives to buy time itself.

Eating green
In 2016, more of us will be eating greener. More people will care about cutting down on food waste in and beyond the home, try harder to avoid unhealthy food and overeating and be keener on more natural, local and seasonal food. More of us will consider cheaper food past its best before date and shop in retail chains selling it. And even fast food is getting greener. Part of the picture is the growing consumer acceptance of “non-perfect” produce, consumer interest in transparency throughout the production process and an accompanying story that makes them feel good about their consumption choices too.

Food giant Nestlé is quoted in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag as predicting that eating will carry an ideological charge similar to belonging to a political party or a football club. There’s even a new pathology, “Orthorexia nervosa”, an abnormal urge to eat healthily, correctly and ethically.

Enough with food waste!
The sustainability-led International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) claims that half the world’s food is thrown away. Social media is buzzing with consumer discussion and new initiatives indicate global distaste for food waste. “Supply Change” held a forum in winter 2015 to encourage more production of sustainable produce. Another global event targeting food waste was the six-month long Expo, held in Milan until October 2015. There, almost 21 million visitors saw the motto of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” come to life in elements like The Ambrosian Refectory, a pop-up dining hall creating haute cuisine meals for the needy from surplus from the estimated 400 tons of food arriving at the culinary fair daily. Last year, the French National Assembly voted to pass a law compelling supermarkets to give waste food to charity or be used as animal feed. In 2016, Morrisons will become the first UK supermarket chain to donate unsold food from its 500 stores to soup kitchens according to the Daily Mail, in an article seeing 1.6 thousand shares within hours. There’s also a Save Food Cut Waste movement in Singapore. Globally, moves tackling food waste are super creative. In Germany, “Disco Soup” invites locals to chop vegetables destined for disposal while listening to music.

Greater consumer familiarity with “ugly” produce is driving more supermarkets to sell it. Maxi stores in Canada, with their 30% cheaper “Naturally Imperfect” brand, is just one of many. Dutch campaign, Kromkommer, works to halt the disposal of produce with atypical looks and get them onto supermarket shelves. A Kickstarter campaign has enabled them to sell “three wonky vegetable soups”, now available at 50 stores.