Expert Discusses the UK Food & Beverage Industry Trends Dominating the Sector in 2024

Expert Discusses the UK Food & Beverage Industry Trends Dominating the Sector in 2024

adi Group

The landscape of food trends is in a constant state of evolution, driven by shifts in consumer attitudes, economic fluctuations, and consequential events both on a national and global scale.

Over the past few months, numerous factors have had an impact on the food and beverage scene including the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, a continued focus on sustainability, and growing health concerns.

These have caused new trends to develop, existing ‘historical’ trends to fade and others to continue developing, becoming a more integral part of the industry.

Ian Hart, business development director at adi Projects, a division of multi-disciplined UK engineering firm adi Group, discusses the trends developing in the food and drinks industry in 2024 and their impact on the sector.


More raw ingredients, less processed food

Picking up from last year, a notable trend in the food and beverage industry in 2024 is the increasing shift towards less processed foods and a greater emphasis on raw ingredients.

Consumers are showing a growing interest in wholesome, minimally processed options, driven by a desire for healthier choices and a deeper understanding of the nutritional value of their food.

This trend aligns with a broader movement towards clean eating and a focus on the origins of ingredients. This shift also reflects a commitment to authenticity and sustainability, and a consumer preference for fresh and unadulterated food experiences. Food and beverage companies are responding by reevaluating their product formulations, opting for simpler, more transparent ingredient lists.


Responsible sourcing

Consumers are increasingly prioritising ethical and sustainable choices, prompting a shift towards products that demonstrate a commitment to responsible sourcing practices. From ingredients cultivated with environmentally friendly methods to ethically produced goods that support fair labour practices, consumers are seeking transparency in the supply chain.

This trend reflects a heightened awareness of the environmental and social impact of consumption, as individuals actively seek products that align with their values.

As companies embrace sustainability, responsibly sourced offerings are not only meeting consumer expectations but also driving positive change throughout the industry, fostering a more conscientious and sustainable approach to food and beverage production.


The rise of meal kit services

In 2024, we are likely to continue to experience a continued rise of meal kit services such as HelloFresh and Gousto. These ‘recipe boxes’, which supply pre-portioned ingredients along with chef-curated recipes directly to consumers' doorsteps, have gained immense popularity.

This trend is indicative of a shift in consumer behaviour towards at-home cooking experiences without the hassle of grocery shopping, guaranteeing convenience and variety.

As the industry embraces this model, it not only addresses the demand for time-saving solutions but also reflects a dynamic response to evolving consumer preferences for personalised, chef-quality meals in the comfort of one's home.


A decrease in demand for vegetarian and vegan options

Despite the unquestionable popularity of vegetarianism and veganism in the past few years, with nearly one quarter of all food products launched in 2019 being labelled vegan, sales began to stagnate in the past two years.

Sales of meat alternatives were down 13.6% in 2022, with UK supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons cutting their vegan ranges by 10 per cent, according to The Grocer.

There is likely to be a continued decline in demand for vegetarian and vegan options through 2024, and a primary driver is likely to be concerns over plant-based food being ultra processed, in tandem with a shift towards clean eating and minimally processed options.


Value above all

As consumers become more cost-conscious, with 6 in 10 adults in Great Britain spending less on non-essentials due to increases in the cost of living, there is a discernible shift towards seeking affordable alternatives.

However, consumers lean towards alternatives that still align with ethical and health considerations, without compromising on quality. Companies are adapting by introducing a range of value-oriented offerings, recognising the importance of accessibility in providing affordable and satisfying food choices.


Yes to high protein, no to high sugar

The increasing popularity of high-protein and low-sugar products is going to be a prominent part of the 2024 food and beverage landscape.

As consumers become more health-conscious, there is a growing demand for food options that align with fitness and wellness goals. High-protein products cater to those seeking muscle support, weight management, and sustained energy levels, while low-sugar options respond to concerns about excessive sugar intake and its impact on overall health.

This trend reflects a broader shift towards balanced nutrition and a desire for transparent ingredient lists. Food and beverage companies are responding by innovating and reformulating products to meet these criteria, catering to the consumer quest for healthier choices.


A drive towards fermented food

Fuelled by a growing interest in gut health and the proven benefits of probiotics, consumers are increasingly seeking out fermented options. Fermentation is being embraced for its natural preservation methods and its ability to enhance the nutritional profile of foods. From kimchi and sauerkraut to kombucha and kefir, these products not only offer unique and bold flavours but also boast digestive health benefits.


Functional drinks and snacks

Functional drinks and snacks are designed to offer more than just sustenance, and are gaining popularity for their purported positive effects on the body. From beverages claiming to enhance sports performance to snacks promoting relaxation of the body and mind, consumers are increasingly seeking functional options that align with their specific health and wellness goals.

With an emphasis on ingredients known for their potential benefits, such as adaptogens, nootropics, and performance-enhancing compounds, the industry is witnessing a shift towards holistic and purpose-driven consumption.


SKU rationalisation

SKU rationalisation is now a leading trend in the industry. Faced with increasing complexities in supply chains, market dynamics, and consumer preferences, businesses are recognising the need to streamline their product portfolios.

By focusing on the most profitable and high-demand items, businesses can enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and better meet the evolving needs of consumers. This showcases a proactive approach to adaptability in an ever-changing market, enabling companies to maintain competitiveness and sustainability.


How can manufacturers cater to these fast-growing trends?

To adapt to these emerging trends, devising new strategies and ways of operating is paramount. Catering to health-conscious consumers should be a priority, meaning that looking into creating high-protein, low-sugar ranges as well as functional products is key.

Wherever possible, manufacturers should seek to reformulate their products to feature simpler, transparent ingredient lists, emphasising authenticity and nutritional value.

adi Group can help manufacturers through this journey, assisting in the design and development of specialised production lines and equipment as well as the optimisation of manufacturing processes.

With access to a number of expert divisions, adi Group can help manufacturers leverage new technologies through innovative turnkey solutions to streamline production processes and improve efficiency, enabling them to meet the growing demand for high-quality, sustainable food products at scale, enhance traceability and quality control and more.

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