October 25, 2023

Mental health is important – and so is the planet. Dive into the latest consumer trends and find out what the future of food and beverages holds.

The 15th edition of the Tetra Pak Index makes one thing clear: Consumers are more focused on health than ever. Now, it’s just not only about the personal.

This summer has brought climate change closer to many people, and there’s a trend towards personal health being balanced with planetary health.

More and more people are cutting down on meat, and the search for the perfect replacement is on. Technology is going to play a crucial role, but many people remain unconvinced about what they perceive as being artificial products.

Overall, consumers are starting to get more conscious of their consumption. Choosing which products they want to spend their money on is proving to be a powerful tool for change.

vertical farming of herbs and salad

Growing interest in health and mental well-being – but at what cost?

Organic and natural products are still at the top of the list for many people. The latest development, however, is products that also offer specific benefits like immunity boosts. Mental health is also trending up, and three-quarters of consumers now consider it as important as physical health. 

In general, people pay more attention to what they eat and drink. Most want to consume less sugar – and in the coming years, personalisation will become big, with examples including solutions tailored to groups like older people or people suffering from specific medical conditions. 

The cost-of-living crisis is also taking a toll on many who worry about losing access to healthy food. Still, only 17% are willing to actually sacrifice food and drink with health benefits.

And while cost is a concern, convenience is not as important as it has been. For many years, convenience has been a consumer preference, yet now 70% would forgo convenience for healthier products.  

From flexitarianism to climatarianism: People want to change their diets

It’s clear that consumers are focused on health, but for many, it’s important that health is balanced with the environment. 70% say that healthy products should not harm the environment, and more than half are motivated to change their diets.

Almost half of consumers now strive to be flexitarian or to exclude meat altogether. 56% are doing it for health, while more than a third are reducing or excluding meat primarily for the environment. This new group of consumers, dubbed “Climatarians”, is expected to grow in the coming years as the climate crisis gets more intense.

Almost half of consumers now strive to be flexitarian or to exclude meat altogether. 56% are doing it for health, while more than a third are reducing or excluding meat primarily for the environment.

How, then, are consumers reducing meat consumption? The research suggests that substitute products are not the preferred go-to. Higher prices make consumers more cautious of plant-based protein alternatives, and the idea of natural products is essential for many. However, it still appears that plant-based alternatives will continue to be popular in the future, especially with new innovations coming. 

Brands and manufacturers are expected to lead the way

One thing is what consumers want to eat and drink – another is where they’re turning. Here, it seems clear that brands are expected to deliver. More than half of consumers say manufacturers and brands should be responsible for providing healthy food, which ranks ahead of farmers, producers and governments.

It's a sign that things are changing, as our President and CEO, Adolfo Orive, puts it:

“In the past, food and beverage brands might have considered product development and sustainability credentials separate endeavours, but this year's Index highlights the need to consider them in tandem.”

cultivated meat in a lab

Innovation and technology: The huge potential of new foods

The climate crisis also means we have to rethink our food systems. Nearly two-thirds of consumers believe that technology will be an increasingly crucial part of accessing healthy and sustainable food.

When it comes to new food innovations, consumer reactions are more mixed. 46% are concerned that innovation in food carries some risks and want to keep products as natural as possible. At the same time, there’s a growing understanding of the need to find new protein sources to support the transition to more resilient and sustainable food systems that can feed a growing population.

“It’s only through investigating every opportunity [within new foods] that we’re going to get out of this climate crisis”

Some of the most exciting innovations are plant-based next-generation ingredients, new food fermentation, cultivated meat products and insect proteins. The more imaginative ideas include ingredients like hemp, algae and lupin that can be used to create products that are tasty, healthy and more sustainable.

“When I talk to people about the breadth of our research into new foods, they are often surprised at the number of avenues we are exploring, but it’s only through investigating every opportunity that we’re going to get out of this climate crisis,” according to Adolfo Orive.

Turning trends into change

As the Tetra Pak Index reveals, the lines between personal and planetary health are blurring. Consumers are demanding healthy and sustainable products – and they're willing to make conscious choices and sacrifice convenience.

People are also realising that there’s an opportunity. The foods we consume, the products we buy, and the way we live our lives can be powerful tools for change. 

But it’s not only up to consumers to drive this change. Brands, manufacturers, and governments have to lead the transformation, delivering on the promise of these healthier and more sustainable trends.

If you want to get all the insights, you can download the Tetra Pak Index here.

What is the Tetra Pak Index?

This year’s Tetra Pak Index is the 15th edition. 5,000 people were surveyed online from countries including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Kenya, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the US.

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