- What constitutes as "healthy" foods and beverages today is vastly different from the definition of "healthy" used in the past several decades, reports The New York Times.
- Consumers and health experts once shunned products with high levels of sugar, fats, and salt. Consumers have been more focused on what ingredients are in a product, where those ingredients came from, and the impact the product has on environmental and animal welfare.
- These changes in consumer preferences can be challenging for food and beverage manufacturers, which must continuously update their products to suit health's definition of the day. Manufacturers have often invested in ingredients and processing changes, such as to reduce salt and sugar, only to find that consumers no longer approve of those replacement ingredients years later.
This is part of the reason why product reformulation can be so difficult but yet so important for manufacturers. New research is released regularly, and many studies have conflicting findings. Certain studies are more short-lived, while others effect lasting changes in the minds of consumers and health experts. But it's up to manufacturers to decide sooner than later which findings will outlast the others.
It's difficult to discern which trends will overhaul the industry next. In decades past, the demonization of sugar, fats, and salt led to the growth of the diet foods industry. Today, demands of transparency and convenience have given rise to natural ingredients, shifts in marketing and labeling strategies, and the expansion of snacking and snack-friendly foods across product categories.
Consumers are increasingly concerned with animal welfare, and the use of cage-free eggs is now an established industry trend. Grassfed products are a next logical step in that direction, especially as consumers increasingly avoid GMOs, which are commonly present in conventional animal feed. Grassfed meat has had an official certification since 2009, but that same organization, the American Grassfed Association, has also recently drafted a dairy-specific grassfed certification.
Rgardless of how important health is to a consumer, taste is still the driving factor in purchasing decisions for the majority of Americans. Regardless of what types of ingredient switches a manufacturer might make, the company risks alienating loyal customers if it doesn't keep taste front and center. Health and ingredient trends come and go, but taste is the common thread throughout all of these changes.