Food Wise 2025

Chapter 5 - Growth Opportunities

b) Consumer Trends

Global consumers, in particular in mature developed markets and the growing middle classes in emerging markets, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are demanding products to fulfil a growing range of functional and life stage needs from health and wellbeing (vitamin and protein enhancement, healthy aging), nutricueticals, sports nutrition, early years child and infant nutrition,  convenience foods and in addition food which can be shown to be natural, sustainably produced and meets a range of ‘free from’ requirements.  Consumer trends are evolving quickly but Ireland’s capacity for producing high quality, safe, nutritious and sustainable food mean the Irish agri-food sector is well placed to meet these new consumer needs.  The development of food solutions to fulfil these needs present opportunities for significant value addition by the Irish agri-food sector. The main trends over the next ten years will include:

Health and Wellness

Improved health and wellbeing is increasingly a focus of consumers who are struggling with lifestyle diseases, dietary intolerances and poor nutrition. At the same time, attitudes to health are ever more holistic, with many consumers looking for natural, organic and preventative solutions. The role played by food and beverages will be enhanced through both a deeper understanding of individual needs and responses, and advances in leveraging ingredients' functional benefits which deliver the nutritional requirements of consumers and address issues such as lack of quality nutrients, increases in obesity and lifestyle diseases.  There are different solutions demanded for different stages of life which present opportunities for product development and innovation around healthy aging, early years child nutrition, sports nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Convenience Foods

Changing lifestyles including changes in work and lifestyle balance mean mealtimes will increasingly be under pressure, and consumers’ involvement in preparing their own food is set to decline. This will redefine how eating and drinking fits into consumers’ lives. Therefore there needs to be significant shifts and innovations in food and beverage products and offerings, routes-to-market, and business models. There is demand for far more sophisticated, time-saving food solutions that retain health and nutritional benefits and this demand represents significant opportunities for the PCF sector in Ireland.

New Retail Routes

Consumers are increasingly open to new ways to purchase food. This is driven by functional needs such as convenience and bargain-hunting, as well as more emotional desires like the search for tradition, experience and authenticity. Technology has had significant impact on this, enabling the formation of new and evolving business models. Companies are increasingly harnessing the opportunity that online and mobile technologies provide, streamlining the purchase, delivery and creation of food products, and also raising awareness of pop-ups and street food occasions. Recently there has been an expansion of discounters and diversification of their stock, a rise in convenience retailing, growth of online grocery shopping and increased food entrepreneurialism.

In this context the development of a functioning domestic consumer retail market must be pursued to encourage innovation investment by agri-food companies and producers.  This issue should also be pursued at EU level.

Consumer Preferences

There is a growing demand for food which is perceived to be more natural, the provenance of which is known, has been sustainably produced and which can be shown to meet a range of ‘free from’ requirements. In developed markets this offers by far the most promising prospect for growth in consumption but in time developing markets will be characterised by similar trends. Ireland is in a strong position to capitalise on this growing trend.

Food as Identity

The ‘average’ core consumer will no longer be easy to define as the complexity of the marketplace increases and fragmented consumer profiles will become the new normal. For some consumers, particularly millennials, food will play a much greater role in lifestyle choices. Technology enabled group connectedness, through social media and mobile technologies, facilitates peer recommendations and increasingly influences consumption choices. This has led to increased sophistication and diversification of food culture and food experiences.

Building Trust Chains

Repeated high profile food scares and scandals worldwide have led to decreased trust in producers and an awareness of the dangers of complex supply chains. To rebuild this trust, consumers look for ways to ensure quality and value for all involved in the process using transparency and traceability.

Squeeze on Middle Market Brands

Wages continue to stagnate in many markets, even as the global economy regains some of its previous momentum. In this environment, many consumers are making more considered and researched purchases. This has led to a reduction in demand for middle range products by consumers, who are choosing to spend on premium in certain categories and save with discounters or own brands in others. To adapt, companies will increasingly pursue innovation at the high and low value ends of the market. This can be seen by the crunch on middle-market brands, the rise of the savvy consumer and challenge to existing brands from private label and challenger brands.  Well established and strongly resourced brands, however, remain important in strengthening processors’ positions within the supply chain.