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European Food Trends Report 2017

Food becomes the "new pop"

Nutritional trends are influencing constant changes in the food sector. Christine Schäfer, a researcher at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, has summarised the latest and most influential changes in the European Food Trends Report 2017 in collaboration with Dr David Bosshart, GDI CEO, and Prof. Christopher C. Müller, a leading American academic expert in the field of corporate/chain restaurant management. An interview.

What is the main message of the European Food Trends Reports 2017?

Food has touched every aspect of our life and has become more than just dietary intake and the satisfaction of a basic need. We keep assigning new functions to food such as health, wellness, lifestyle, sustainability, morals, religion, identity, convenience, high-tech, and investment. Food is everything and everywhere. Food has become the new pop.

What are the most important trends in eating habits in 2017?

The three emerging trends for 2017 are: firstly, the growing importance of health and how closely it is linked to food. More and more consumers realise that the phrase "input influences output" is also true for food. What I eat has a direct impact on my health, my well-being, and my efficiency. Moreover, social media is increasingly influencing our eating habits. We eat with our smartphones. Imagery and aesthetic food are becoming very important. Additionally, there is an increased need for transparency among the population. Various trends and innovations such as alternative sources of protein, regional products or vegan diets are the outcome of this desire.

Christine Schäfer

How has nutrition changed with respect to health?

There is an increased awareness of the influence of nutrition on health. The fitness trend has also contributed a great deal to drive this development. More and more people are paying attention to how their diet affects their physical well-being, "Digestive Wellness" being the magic word. The consumers are starting to experiment. How do I feel when I avoid dairy products altogether? What happens when I consume less or no gluten? How does my body react to purely plant-based nutrition?

"High-tech conquers the world of food" — a quote from the European Food Trends Report 2017. Can you briefly explain what you mean by this?

In a society where everything is increasingly connected, the world of food will not be spared by digitisation. High-tech is shaping the way food is produced today — from precision farming and meat prepared in a laboratory to 3D printers. An additional aspect is how food is delivered to customers. For instance, customers can now choose from a vast selection of online menus, which are delivered straight to their doors with just a few clicks, ideally by drones or robots.

How exactly is the customer shaping the food trend in 2017 and will continue to shape it in the future?

Customers are better connected than ever thanks to digital communication technologies and social media. This has led to a shift in the balance of power. Customers can determine more easily what the offer is going to look like. Trends are emerging at lightning speed around social media — more or less globally. Influencers are playing a major role in shaping trends.

Biohacking, smart packaging, and food disruption map are the key points outlined in the report. What are these innovations?

Biohacking allows consumers to better understand their bodies so they can optimise and "hack" them. This can be done with the help of natural products or using prescription drugs.

Smart packaging implies that the product packaging offers more benefits. Nowadays, it often does more than its basic function of protecting the contents. For instance, smart tags will replace best before dates as these tags can clearly specify how fresh a product is and how long it can be used.

A food disruption map is a tool which allows various innovations and concepts to be identified according to their level of development — how far have technological changes progressed and how likely is it that the concept will be accepted by society?

You use the terms "moral compass" and "Ersatz religion" in the report. In your opinion, to what extent do new eating rituals contribute to the forging of identity in people?

The link between food and identity is not new in itself. It has tended to grow even stronger. Especially in Western Europe where the Christian religion is becoming less relevant but people are still looking for stability and meaning, food can serve as a substitute. Food can act as a common denominator within social groups. It can also be used as a means to differentiate from other groups. Vegans and meat eaters are good examples of this trend.

What other nutritional trends can you predict for the future?

The industrial production of foodstuffs is going to reach its limit sooner or later. Consumers are increasingly attaching greater importance to naturalness, freshness, regionality, and origin. Transparency in the value creation network is becoming ever more important and is finally achievable thanks to new technologies.

Header image: © Pixelbliss | Adobe Stock

The European Food Trends Report 2017 is published by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) from Switzerland. The NGO focuses on carrying out scientific research in the fields of economy, society, and consumption. The European Food Trends Report is published every two years and discusses several topical trends in nutrition. In addition, this report examines long-term trends which influence the production and consumption of foodstuffs. The current European Food Trends Report is the 44th report published by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and is authored by GDI researcher Christine Schäfer, GDI CEO Dr David Bosshart, and Prof. Christopher C. Müller, a leading American academic expert in the field of corporate/chain restaurant management. The report is available in German and English under the following link: www.gdi.ch/eftr2017.

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