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Food sector research trends

By Hilary Picken | July 22, 2019 | Doing Business Abroad

Food sector research trends

The Language Factory is a specialist market research translation agency. For over 25 years we have helped international companies connect with and understand their audiences around the world. The food and drink sector is a large slice of our consumer insight business. It’s our bread and butter.

We stay informed of trends in the sector, which are often realised in the surveys and insight projects we are commissioned to translate. If you work in international market research, you might be interested in our most recent food sector trend observations.



Until recently vegans existed on the edge of polite society. Rather like tattoos and Goths, they held a peculiar fascination, but you wouldn’t want one yourself. At Upper Street (Islington) dinner parties they assumed the role of ‘talking point’; invited to entertain the more normal Generation X guests with their kooky outlooks on life, diet and colonic cleansing. 

What a change we’ve seen! Veganism, and tattooing, have taken off, becoming common place and perfectly acceptable. Goths? Well arguably they are still struggling to find social acceptance. 

Google search analysis reveals that interest in ‘veganism’ quadrupled in the 5 years to 2017 – now getting almost 3 times the search volume of ‘vegetarian’ or ‘gluten free’.

For food manufacturers veganism is clearly rich pickings. Vegan NPD (new product development) is flourishing, with one in ten food products launched in Europe in 2018 having a vegan or no animal ingredients claim, doubling from 5% in 2015.


Growth of UK Veganism

The UK is at the forefront of this surge. The Mintel Global New Products Database identifies that in 2018 Britain was the nation with the highest number of new vegan food products launched, toppling Germany from its number one spot.

Public interest has been stoked by a huge growth in vegan restaurants and consumable product ranges. Supermarkets offer multiple own-label ranges and have allocated retail space in the ‘on-the-go’ aisles and small format stores to vegan options, making it easier for meat-eating consumers to try these new concepts.

And, let’s be honest, vegans like to share. Social media-led initiatives like ‘Veganuary’ and ‘meat-less Monday’ introduce consumers to the concept and the practicalities of veganism, leading to a reduction in meat intake and uptake in ‘flexitarian’ lifestyles.

Driven by factors ranging from health, to animal welfare, to convenience, to post-millennial fashion, the latest prediction is that by 2025, vegetarians (including vegans) will comprise 25% of the UK population.


The culture of yoghurt    

In the 1980s low-fat, high-sugar yogurts were heralded as the healthy alternative to full-fat natural or Greek yogurt. Skip forward 20 years and subsequent thinking has debunked those theories. Dairy fat is a positive food source once again – and back in fashion. Sugar is the bad guy.

High-profile medical research highlights dairy fat as beneficial to gut health and prevention of long-term conditions such as osteoporosis. Live yoghurts and bio yoghurts are particularly efficacious – and command a premium price.

In a market which thrives on marketing innovation, manufacturers are now looking to adopt alternative yoghurt traditions from around the world. High-protein yogurts and traditional bio-fermented yogurts from Eastern Europe and Russia are being investigated. Original flavours are being tweaked to create tastes more palatable to EU customers.

And of course, organic has slipped seamlessly into the mix as consumers increasingly want to know that the milk used comes from cows not overly treated with antibiotics.


Where next?

CBD-infused yoghurt. CBD oil, extracted from hemp flowers, is the cannabis compound which won’t get you a police caution. Although clinically devoid of any euphoria-inducing substance, CBD has built up a public following for its perceived positive impact on feelings of anxiety and stress.

Although currently only available in the USA, there is a groundswell of consumer awareness and growing demand in Europe.


“What’s brewing? Coffee!”

Coffee has been a long-time staple for consumer surveys. Emphasis has been on uncovering consumer demand for the new and the different. Fairtrade and sustainable production have been consumer concerns for some time. Predicted to become more in the public debate are:

  • Cold brew variants
  • Coffees with added superfoods, butter or oil
  • Flavours from even more remote parts of the world, not traditionally known as commercial coffee producing zones – such as Cuba and Papua New Guinea

Sourcing and packaging. The rally against single-use plastic and single-use pod machines is placing a new spotlight on manufacturers to take green issues to heart. 


If you need food-based market research materials translated, don’t hesitate to give us a call on +44 (0)1727 862722 or email our team at [email protected].