Food Trends in the US: Category Growth Drivers

Explore how different food and beverage categories within the US market are developing

May 31, 2024 –  Through Innova’s 360 approach to consumer and market research, key patterns and trends can be established within the US market. Within each category, important food trends like the continued demand for natural and clean label products, increased focus on health and wellness, and the importance of convenience can be seen as vital drivers of consumer interest and brand innovation.

Beverage Trends

The beverage market in the US is a dynamic landscape driven by consumer preferences for naturalness, premium quality, and health-focused options. Taste is a key driver of beverage purchases. Flavor remains paramount, with one in two consumers citing taste as the leading attribute for choosing soft drinks. Health concerns are also a significant driver, particularly for iced tea and juices, where consumers are seeking sugar reduction and added vitamins and minerals.

Consumers are increasingly seeking premium and traditional products, with natural and traditional properties being particularly important for wine. Brand awareness and product activity are also crucial for driving consumption, especially for coffee and tea, where consumers are influenced by new product launches and limited-edition flavors.

The rise of alcohol-free products is an emerging food trend, driven by a growing demand for healthier options and a shift in consumer preferences for alcohol-free alternatives to their favorite drinks. Energy drinks are seeing increased demand for vitamin enrichment, sugar reduction, and functional ingredients like collagen and prebiotics. Consumers are also interested in plant-based alternative drinks, with oat and soy milk as popular bases.

Everday Staples

Consumers are increasingly seeking great tasting and healthy options when it comes to everyday staples, particularly breakfast cereals and dairy products. Food trend research indicates that in the breakfast cereal category, half of consumers cite taste as the top attribute influencing increased consumption, with health being a close second. This is reflected in the growing demand for cereals with claims related to fiber and sugar reduction, aligning with the broader trend towards natural and clean labels.

Dairy product purchases, on the other hand, are primarily driven by taste and cost, with health being a significant factor for those increasing their intake. Yogurt in particular is influenced by taste, while cheese buyers are drawn to natural and healthy products, with protein being a key consideration.

Convenience is especially important for US consumers when it comes to everyday staples, with consumers showing a marked preference for products that offer ease of use. Interestingly, the influence of health aspects is under-indexed in the US, suggesting that while consumers are interested in healthy options, convenience plays a more significant role in their purchasing decisions. This food trend is likely driven by busy lifestyles and a desire for quick and easy meal solutions.

In the meat category, consumers are interested in natural and safe product claims, emphasizing minimal processing and the absence of artificial ingredients and antibiotics. Many are increasing their seafood intake, with health as the primary reason. Protein claims in fish, poultry, and meat is highly important for consumers as well.

Food trends in the US

Meal Preparation

Taste is the top attribute of importance for meal preparation products, with one in two consumers citing it as a key factor in their purchasing decisions. Natural claims are also impacting the uptake of sauces and dips, as consumers are seeking out products free from artificial flavors and colors. Consumer preferences for variety and sugar reduction are helping drive the consumption of spreads, with novelty influencing buyers of sweet spreads and premium and traditional options being key for savory spreads.

Time-poor consumers are driving the demand for ready meals, with “I don’t have time to prepare meals” being the most common reason for purchasing these products. Protein is also an important consideration for consumers when it comes to meal preparation products. This is reflected in the growing food trend of ready meals that offer a high protein content.

Snacks and Treats

Consumer demand for snacks and treats is on the rise, with 12 months of consistent growth. This food trend is driven by a variety of factors, including changing preferences, a focus on health and wellness, and the increasing popularity of natural formulations. Consumers are increasingly seeking out snacks and treats that are perceived as healthy, with “natural formulations” being a top consideration. This is reflected in the growing popularity of products made with real ingredients and the increasing demand for protein and fiber.

While taste remains a key attribute, consumers are also looking for snacks that align with their health goals. The penetration of snacks and treats in the US market is high, with 47% of consumers indicating they are frequent consumers. This suggests a significant opportunity for brands to capitalize on the growing demand for healthy and delicious snack options.

Plant-Based and Special Diets

While the penetration of meat and dairy alternatives remains below the global average in the US market, consumers are increasingly seeking out these options, driven by health and ethical concerns. Plant-based is the top claim of interest on meat substitutes for US consumers. Additionally, one in three consumers are increasing their intake of non-dairy products (such as non-dairy cheese, yogurt, and milk). Natural claims are key for plant-based cheese and yogurt consumers. This emphasis on naturalness is particularly pronounced in the non-dairy cheese category, where consumers are seeking out alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of traditional cheese while also being free from artificial flavors and colors.

Consumers are increasingly incorporating plant-based products into their diets as part of a broader shift towards healthier eating habits. This is particularly evident in the sports nutrition category, where consumers are seeking out plant-based protein bars and other supplements to support their fitness goals.

What’s Next in US Food Trends?

Consumers in the US are prioritizing natural ingredients and clean labels, with a strong preference for products free of artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. This presents a significant opportunity for brands to focus on natural formulations and transparent ingredient lists. Additionally, consumers are seeking convenience and time-saving solutions, making it crucial for brands to offer products that are easy to prepare and consume. This could involve optimizing packaging, developing ready-to-eat options, or focusing on convenient formats like single-serve portions.

Furthermore, consumer recognition of brand activity helps drive consumption. Brands can leverage innovative marketing strategies, product launches, and collaborations to capture consumer attention and increase awareness. By focusing on novelty and variety, brands can broaden their appeal and attract new customers. Ultimately, by understanding and responding to these key consumer food trends, brands can position themselves for success in the evolving food and beverage landscape.

 

This article is based on our report, “Category Growth Drivers in the US.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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