A Matter of Taste: Navigating Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry

 A Matter of Taste: Navigating Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry

 A Matter of Taste: Navigating Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry banner

As consumers have become more conscientious of what they are eating and drinking and how their consumption habits impact the world around them, the food and beverage industry has had to adapt. Technological advances and ever-changing food and beverage industry trends have rapidly reshaped and redefined this dynamic industry.

WHAT IS THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY?

The food and beverage industry is one of the largest and most powerful industries in the world. This broad industry encompasses any company or business that processes, packages or distributes raw ingredients, materials or food intended for consumption. It also includes any business or organization that processes, packages or distributes beverages, including alcohol.

According to the 2023 Food and Beverages Global Market Report, the compounded annual growth rate of the global food and beverage market is currently 7.3 percent. In 2023, food and beverage sales surpassed $7.2 billion worldwide.

Quick History and Evolution

The food and beverage industry dates to early human history, as people have long processed food on a local scale for mass consumption. However, the modern food and beverage industry primarily derives from the agricultural industry.

While the agricultural industry includes farms or businesses that grow food intended for immediate consumption, today’s food and beverage industry primarily involves companies and organizations that rely on technology to process, produce and distribute food products on a massive scale.

Key Players

These are some of the key players in the food and beverage industry:

  • Food and Beverage Manufacturers —Manufacturers often work closely with farmers to secure fresh produce to use in their processed food products. They typically combine fresh foods with a mix of additives to create affordable food products with a longer shelf-life.
  • Agricultural Producers —Agricultural producers include farmers and growers who produce fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and grain products that are in demand in the food and beverage industry.
  • Food Distributors —Distributors bring products from manufacturers to retailers who sell the food and beverage items to the public.
  • Retailers —Food and beverage industry retailers include grocery stores and restaurants who sell the food products to interested consumers.
  • Safety and Quality Assurance Companies —The food and beverage industry is subject to intense regulations at the local, state and federal levels. Safety and quality assurance companies work to test all food products to ensure compliance with these laws and regulations.
  • Regulatory and Government Bodies —These bodies create the guidelines and regulations that food and beverage industry organizations must adhere to. Their regulatory guidelines are applicable to every step of the food and beverage supply chain, from production and manufacturing to sales and distribution.

CURRENT TRENDS IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY

These are the food and beverage industry trends redefining the industry:

Plant-Based Foods

Individuals who adopted a vegan lifestyle were once considered outliers — the vast majority of people consumed animal-based products on a regular basis. However, in the era of climate change, more consumers are looking to plant-based diets as a healthier and more sustainable alternative. This trend is fueled by social media influencers promoting vegan and plant-based food options on their platforms, ultimately converting more people to a vegan lifestyle.

Sustainability

A recent survey by the International Food Information Council found that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents considered sustainability when choosing their food products. Given the fact that Gen Z is one of the most influential demographics within the food industry, it’s vital that food and beverage industry companies continue to develop new and innovative ways to produce high-quality foods in a manner that reduces their overall carbon footprint.

Ethical Sourcing

In addition to choosing food products crafted by companies willing to protect the environment, Millennials and Gen Z consumers are more likely to support companies that place a high value on ethical standards. Today’s consumers care deeply about how a company treats its workers, how a producer impacts the environment and how the organization engages in business practices. They are willing to do their research and confirm whether a company engages in fair trade and ethical sourcing practices.

Grab and Go

The grab and go trend began forming in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the global health crisis expedited the need for these quick, easy and contact-free options. While no longer necessary to protect the health of individuals and the community at large, grab and go experiences are so convenient and simple, it’s clear they are here to stay. Self-serve kiosks are also becoming the norm at grocery stores and restaurants around the world.

Fast Casual and Cashless

The world of fast casual dining has changed forever, with consumers becoming increasingly reliant on app-based delivery services and self-serve kiosks. To keep up with this burgeoning trend, many restaurants and other food service are looking to go cashless. Eliminating cash transactions can help improve efficiency and reduce transactional errors.

Supply Chain Transparency

Modern consumers place a high value on convenience. Mobile technology continues to evolve, allowing them to easily get the products they want and need in a matter of moments. However, consumers still care about where their products come from. Even when purchasing from mega retailers like Amazon, people want to know where products originate and how they are delivered.

CURRENT TRENDS IN THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE INDUSTRY

These beverage industry trends are impacting the products you can find on the market:

Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Perhaps one of the most surprising trends taking shape within the alcoholic beverage industry is the increased demand for non-alcoholic drinks. Initially, it may seem like a counterintuitive product to invest in, but a recent Nielsen report noted that non-alcoholic beverage purchases increased by 33 percent in 2021, accounting for more than $331 million in sales.

This trend can be attributed to the “sober-curious” movement among Millennials and Gen Z. They are looking for beverages that are fun and flavorful but do not contain alcohol as they pursue a sober lifestyle.

RTD Canned Cocktails

Ready-to-drink cocktails, which are commonly referred to as RTD cocktails in the industry, have become the go-to drink of many in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact,  the demand for these types of alcoholic beverages has increased by more than 860 percent from 2019 to 2023. While it still represents a relatively small portion of the spirits industry as a whole, consumers are clearly looking for a quick and easy way to enjoy their favorite mixed drinks and cocktails from the comfort of home.

Brand Diversification

As consumer preferences shift toward craft beers and unique cocktails, the most powerful alcohol brands have had to diversify and create new products. As a result, you are seeing brands like Heineken and PepsiCo acquiring other brands and pursuing new partnership opportunities to develop innovative products that will appeal to today’s consumers.

Mix-ins and Drink Enhancements

In order to turn ordinary drinks into something out of this world, today’s bar patrons are seeking unique mix-ins and drink enhancements. A recent Bacardi Global survey noted that consumers are asking for a number of unusual mix-ins, such as flavored bitters, coconut water, brine and dehydrated fruits. Understanding the flavors and enhancements that people are seeking can help key players in the alcoholic beverage industry  adapt their products accordingly.

SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACT

As the food and beverage industry continues to focus on key demographics, in particular the ever-powerful Gen Z market, it’s obvious that social media will remain a significant force in industry development. Both Millennials and Gen-Z are heavily involved in social media, and often influenced by what they see on their feeds.

For example, consider the Prime Energy hype of 2023. These energy and hydration beverages are the brainchild of influencers Logan Paul and KSI. They created the drinks and promoted them on YouTube to their millions of followers. Those followers quickly sought out the Prime beverages, transforming what could have been just another sports drink on the shelf into the status symbol of the year. Soon, Prime was selling out as soon as it hit the shelves — and the few who managed to grab a bottle of rare flavors like Lemonade or Meta Moon posted about it on their socials.

While powerful companies have long dominated the market in the food and beverage industry, content creators and social media brand ambassadors will likely become the most dominant force in the industry in the years to come.

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE FUTURE OF THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY

The reality of climate change has increased consumer concerns about sustainability efforts in terms of production and distribution. Millennials are especially concerned about sustainability efforts, and they want to see continuous improvements to the production and distribution practices of the food and beverage industry.

Looking to the future, all businesses and organizations in the industry will need to develop innovative solutions that will allow them to prioritize sustainability without compromising product quality.

Reducing food waste is integral to sustainability efforts in the food and beverage industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cutting food waste in half in the United States could save:

  • 3.2 trillion gallons of water
  • 640 million pounds of fertilizer
  • 262 billion kilowatt-hours of energy
  • 92 million metric ton equivalents of carbon dioxide

Sustainability will continue to be one of the most important trends for the food and beverage industry in the coming years and decades, requiring everyone to continue to adapt and modify their processes to protect and restore the environment.

CARVE OUT YOUR OWN PATH IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY

There has never been a more exciting time to launch a career in the food and beverage industry. At Johnson & Wales University, we offer several degree programs that can provide you with the foundation needed to kickstart your career.

For example, our Bachelor of Science in Food and Beverage Entrepreneurship focuses on providing a culinary education with an emphasis on business planning and management strategies, making this an ideal option if you hope to start your own business. We also offer a Master of Business Administration in International Beverage Management, which includes advanced business coursework covering industry-specific topics, such as new and emerging beverage markets, beverage distribution and beverage product management. If you are hoping to secure a leadership position in the beverage industry, this degree program could be an ideal fit.

To learn more about what these programs entail and how to complete your degree online, fill out the Request Info form, call JWU at 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].

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