The focus on sugar led six other key trends, which the research organisation forecast were “set to make an impact on consumer mindsets in the coming year”.
Those were: Ascending Africa, Airpocalypse now, Cultural social responsibility, Right here, right now – the impact of technology on consumers’ purchasing decisions, Seamless Spending and Talking Shop – the contributions of social media platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp.
Top trend – The Sweet hereafter – following the UK’s plans to tax sugary drinks, signified a growing challenge for European brands: “Namely how to deliver the future of sweetness going forward,” said Mintel’s senior trend consultant Richard Cope.
“Ahead of the UK’s April 2018 sugar tax, international soft drinks brands are already scrambling to reformulate and innovate,” said Cope.
“Mintel research reveals that sugar’s bad press is already impacting on behaviour across Europe, with more than six in 10 Polish (63%) and Spanish (63%) consumers telling us that they are actively reducing their consumption of, or are actively avoiding, sugary foods.”
The same decisions were being made by 60% of Italian consumers, 55% of French and 54% of German consumers.
Mintel research revealed about half (53%) of UK carbonated soft drink users claimed they would either cut back on or stop drinking sugary carbonated soft drinks if the price were to increase by 24p a litre as a result of the sugar tax.
Rather than contest the legislation, carbonated soft drinks producers would continue to downsize can and bottle sizes and reformulate with non-sugar alternatives, predicted Cope.
Drinks which are 100% fruit or milk-based will not be impacted, so can be expected to compete more strongly by not having to hike up their prices, regardless of their sugar content.
“However, there is the possibility that some of the afflicted carbonated soft drink brands might start aggressively comparing their reformulated, reduced sugar options with the levels of intrinsic sugar in the untreated milk and fruit juice products of those rivals that are exempt from the tax.”
The Ascending Africa trend reflected the continent’s rising gross domestic product (GDP) and improving infrastructure, which were making it “an increasingly credible and powerful trading partner”.
Europe will start to buy in and reach out to the benefits of Africa’s growing middle class and rapidly improving connectivity, which is helping people access credit to start up their own businesses.
The percentage of food and drink products launched globally containing an African ingredient increased by 41% between 2011 and 2015, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD).
“The majority of food and drink brands have launched ranges catering for – or nuanced towards – the African market,” said Cope.
African ingredients and products have huge potential across Europe, he added. Those included: low or gluten–free ancient grains like sorghum and einkorn, rose-infused nougats and jams, authentic gourmet Tanzanian chocolate, Ethiopian Tella beer and chickpea and plantain snacks.
Airpocalypse Now referred to an increasing awareness of the dangers of air pollution and brand owners’ determination to be perceived as part of the solution, not the problem.
In food and drink sector Mintel predicted the emergence of “eat yourself clean” concepts with brands positioning superfoods as immunity boosters.
Manufacturers would also champion their pure sourcing from unpolluted areas. “This is aleady standard for bottled waters, but is beginning to emerge in sectors like fish and meat,” said Cope.
Cultural social responsibility signified brand owners stepping in to fund restoration and repair work, as public funding in Europe – with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites – continuing to remain in crisis.
Mintel manager of trends Catherine Cottney said: “As austerity bites and the cost of conserving, renovating and paying for the general upkeep of cultural monuments and institutions increases, we’re seeing brands get more involved in funding or sponsoring maintenance and preservation.”
Next year will see food and drink and foodservice companies restore – or move into – historic food trading or manufacturing venues associated with their brand, predicted Cottney.
The Right here, right now trend referred to brand owners increasingly using new technology to help consumers decide what to buy, watch, do or eat, based upon pending timeframes from the next 30 minutes to the next 48 hours.
Cottney said: “Time will be a key issue for brands in 2017 and we’ll see a growing demand for services and platforms that can help people organise and make better use of their leisure time via new geo-location technology or an increased emphasis on highlighting the time it takes to engage with a brand’s product or service.”
Seamless Spending highlighted consumers growing preference for simplicity and convenience in adopting new payment methods such as contactless cards, smartphones and wearables.
Already, 30% of UK consumers felt comfortable about the potential for a completely cashless society. Nearly one third (29%) said it was more convenient to pay for things using a smartphone than other payment methods.
“In 2017, the process of paying will become so efficient that it will become second nature to quickly swipe a card, smartphone or wearable to complete a purchase,” said Cottney.
As payment becomes more streamlined, possibilities will be opened up for brands and retailers to focus more on creating a more unique shopping or eating experience for their customers.
The final trend – Talking shop – reflected brand owners increasingly using social media platforms – such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – to instantly connect with consumers and offer superior levels of customer service.
“In 2017, we will see social media platforms become an essential part of everyday life for users,” said Cottney. “For consumers, this will be convenience nirvana, as they will have unprecedented access to official brand channels.
“For brands, it will give them an opportunity to nurture closer, more private customer relationships and dialogues through social media but it may also pose some major new challenges as they seek to ensure they can realistically offer constant and reliable communication.”
Top seven European consumer trends for 2017
- The Sweet hereafter: “The UK is the latest country to declare a sugar tax, signifying a growing challenge for European brands: namely how to deliver the future of sweetness going forward.”
- Ascending Africa: “Africa’s rising GDP [gross domestic product] and improving infrastructure are making it an increasingly credible and powerful trading partner and Europe will start to buy into and reach out to the benefits of Africa’s growing middle class and rapidly improving connectivity.”
- Airpocalypse now: “Air pollution is harming us right now and consumers will start investing more in pollution protection products, whilst brands endeavour to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
- Cultural social responsibility: “Public funding in Europe is in crisis, and yet the region contains the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Brands are stepping in to fund restoration and repair work.”
- Right here, right now: “Brands are using new technology to help consumers decide what to buy, watch, do or eat, based upon pending timeframes from the next 30 minutes to the next 48 hours.”
- Seamless spending: “Thanks to the simplicity and convenience they offer, people are embracing new payment methods such as contactless cards, smartphones and wearables in record numbers.”
- Talking shop: “Brands are utilising platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to instantly connect with consumers and offer superior levels of customer service.”