Millennials and Food Tech Are DrivIng America’s Top Ten Food Trends

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80,000 attended the 2017 Natural Product Expo as natural foods win over 30% of all food sales!

80,000 attended the 2017 Natural Product Expo as natural foods win over 30% of all food sales!

Millennials, and an explosion of healthier new products enabled through future tech, are driving America past sodas and fast foods. Tellingly, a beverage milestone was achieved while I attended the 2017 Natural Product Expo West. Americans are now buying more bottle water than soda.

The new recipe for food and beverage sales success is to be healthy, cool, diverse and meaningful. This new sale success recipe now accounts for a third of our food and beverage purchases totaling almost $200 billion annually.

2017 Natural Food Product Expo explodes with people, passion and new products

I have been attending the Natural Product Expo for five years. 20,000 was the attendance at my first Expo West show. The business buzz at that time was that natural food and beverage products were growing sales at three times the rate of fast food. But in reality, at that time natural foods sales were a niche market within the food industry.

What a difference I saw at the 2017 Natural Product Expo West!

This year’s Expo West had almost 80,000 attendees. The explosion in attendance mirrors the sales success being achieved by natural foods and beverages. In 2016, natural foods and beverages won 7% sale revenue growth. This compares to the entire food industry eking out just a half of one percent of sales growth.

Millennials are driving natural food sales

Silverwood Partners previewed their research on the top ten food and beverage trends at Expo West. By my estimate, the millennial generation with their search for foods that are “cool with a purpose” are the key driver for eight of Silverwood Partners’ top ten trends.

For example, Silverwood’s number one trend is the Emergence of Personalized Nutrition. That screams millennials. As America’s most diverse generation, millennials seek personalized foods that align with their diversity and personal health focus. It is the millennial generation that is driving Silverwood Partners’ observation that “One-size-fits-all is falling fast as consumers turn to personalized nutrition data.” This goes a long ways in explaining why 80% of millennials have never eaten the ironic McDonalds Big Mac.

Alternative Ingredients Expanding is Silverwood Partners’ number two trend. The trend’s subtitle is, “Younger generation prompting further snack innovations.” Or as a millennial would probably say it, ‘We want snacks that are cool, taste great and align with my life style.’

The Silverwood Partners’ list also includes these other top ten trends that I see as being driven by millennials:

  • Meal kit delivery
  • Plant based waters moving beyond coconut
  • Sustainability driving agriculture
  • Further decline of traditional grocery stores
  • Demand for more informative food labels, especially for sugar.

The millennial generation is pushing the food industry into an Amazon-like business model. The four key components of this emerging food industry model are:

  1. Digital search, engagement and ordering
  2. Expanded, and continuously refreshed, food diversity
  3. Food delivery choices and convenience, most especially door delivery
  4. Sustainably produced food.

Future tech is driving food solutions

Attendance was not the only evidence of how the Natural Food and Product Expo West has grown. The product booths at my first Expo West were easy housed on just one floor of the Anaheim Convention Center. This year they took up all three floors plus the ballrooms in the adjunct Marriott and Hilton hotels. Most attendees that I talked with were amazed over how the Expo West was outgrowing its ability to display products within one of our nation’s largest convention centers.

Future tech is a major force behind this explosion in product innovation. Food future tech is focused on solving for the human and planet health. America’s animal, sugar, caffeine, fat and chemical based diet has pushed Americans into a weight crisis that is endangering our lives and ability to afford health care. In addition, this food system accounts for over 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions that are creating climate change.

Three future tech trends were identified at Expo West to solve food’s negative impacts on health and climate. They were:

  1. Creating plant rich diets
  2. Reducing supply chain climate change impacts
  3. Designing climate friendly food and beverage products.

The iconic American hamburger is an example of how future tech is driving innovation. Impossible Foods, based out of Silicon Valley, has launched a plant-based hamburger that smells, tastes and sizzles like meat. Beyond Meat is a competing plant-based hamburger that is selling out at Whole Foods.

Future tech’s food focus is not to convert people into being vegetarians, anymore than the iPhone was designed to be a better phone. Steve Job’s goal was to disruptively change the definition of a phone to create unimaginable value. Future tech’s food focus is to be similarly disruptive, delivering a plant rich diet that amazes us with its taste, smells and price competitiveness. And in doing so, deliver the solutions we so desperately need to combat obesity, diabetes and climate change.

With these mega trends in consumer demand and food future tech, it is only a matter of time before natural products and beverages achieves its next milestone of representing half of all American food and beverage purchases.

About the author

Bill Roth is a clean tech pioneer who led the team that launched the first hydrogen fueled Prius. He is a featured contributor on Triple Pundit and Latin Business Today. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, has been used by thousands of business people to implement proven green best practices that make money and a difference. Bill’s latest book, The Boomer Generation Diet, is his personal story on how to achieve sustained weight loss while still having fun and living more. The book’s ten customizable best practices are the sustainable solutions to our national weight crisis that threatens our health and medical cost bankruptcy.

About Bill Roth

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, author of The Secret Green Sauce and a nationally-followed contributor to, Triple Pundit, The Green Economy Post and Media Post on best business practices emerging from the smart, healthy and green global economy. He coaches entrepreneurs, business and community leaders on how to grow revenues, profits and jobs by going smart and green.
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