26 Feb, 2024

Key trends shaping consumer choices

Consumer preferences continue to evolve and shape the food industry. In recent years, the sector has seen diverse trends, including 0% alcohol, convenience products, vegetarianism and sustainability.

As part of our survey, we asked farmers their perception of the important consumer trends for the next 5 years.

The top three trends identified by farmers are:

  • 82%  Retail price

  • 80% Quality of product 

  • 67%  Product nutrition

Retail prices take centre stage

Farmers believe that retail price being the number one concern for consumers is no surprise. Retail prices impact consumers’ choices, habits and shopping behaviour and can affect farmers’ profitability. Inflation stands at 8.6% in 12 weeks to 26 November 2023. We have seen consumers change purchasing behaviours according to the retail price increases, switching from brands to private labels and demanding more value private label products to mitigate the cost-of-living increases.

Quality ranks high

Primary producers recognise quality as non-negotiable for end consumers, with 80% emphasising its importance. There are various standards across each production facility and logos such as ‘Bord Bia Quality Assurance’ on packaging for approved facilities. There are also various awards on products sold in grocery retailers, from ‘Blas’ to ‘Great Taste’, consumers are flooded with quality assurance.

Product nutrition

68% of primary producers see product nutrition as important for consumers over the next five years. This key trend is actively shaping the food industry. As consumers increasingly prioritise their health, they continuously seek nutritional information on food products and want to understand what benefits these food products can contribute to their overall health. One key trend is high protein products, readily available in every retailer and suitable for every eating occasion, from breakfast and snacks to dinner.

Food for thought

The key trends we see in the future revolve around sustainability, nutrition and transparency in food and retail. With impending legislation, sustainability won’t just be a nice to have, it will be a must-have. Producers, retailers, and consumers are actively seeking ways to enhance their sustainability initiatives. Circular economy has been trending and will continue, the upcoming Re-Turn scheme in some retailers is an example of this. Another great example is the Irish company BiaSol, which uses spent grain to produce oat bars. We predict that we will see more innovative concepts from producers and retailers, from innovative packaging like packaging made from seaweed to using transformational technology.

Health and nutrition have been trending for years, evolving from low-calorie to high-protein, which started with gym enthusiasts and has now filtered into mainstream society. While gut health has been there in the background, it has recently been gaining a presence in retailers, from granola and drinks to supplements. We anticipate a movement towards gut health and immunity integrating into more product innovations, including unconventional items like sauce and ice cream.

The trend towards increased transparency will continue, with consumer demand for more information and a desire to make informed decisions. Consumers seek to know more about the origin of products, the benefits and who they are supporting when they purchase a product. Transparency can be communicated through diverse forms, including clear packaging, augmented reality and QR codes. Brands like Jim Beam have used augmented reality to stimulate the usage of their drink for recipes.

Irish farmers produce world-class products and play a pivotal role in the food industry. Keeping the end consumer in mind and understanding future trends will continue to position the Irish food industry for success.

This article was first published in our 2024 Irish Farm Report.