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Nutrition experts predict sustainability ‘most important’ trend for 2017

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By Elizabeth Crawford

Last updated on 09-Jan-2017 at 20:45 GMT2017-01-09T20:45:32Z

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Sustainability wins another vote for the “most important” trend to watch in 2017, followed closely by plant-based protein, according to a small, but well-educated group of nutrition experts, surveyed by Ketchum’s Global Food and Beverage Practice and supported by Ketchum Global Research and Analytics.

Based on feedback from 114 nutrition professionals around the world, Ketchum says sustainability issues related to food will “take center stage” in 2017.

“The term ‘nutrition’ continues to be redefined from nutrients to sourcing, ingredients and how and where food is made,” Ketchum explains in the report released this month. As such, it says, 67% of survey respondents believe more consumers will look for locally sourced ingredients and 56% say organic will be more important in part  because they are perceived as more environmentally friendly.

The respondents also suggest interest in sustainable foods could lead to more zero-waste grocery stores, where shoppers bring reusable containers and bags and select the amount of food they need. In addition, survey respondents suggest food waste prevention at home, restaurants and retail will become more important.

Plant-based protein continues to reign

Plant- and insect-based protein, which is closely “hitched” to sustainability for many survey respondents, also will continue to increase in popularity in 2017, according to Ketchum.

It explains that nearly three-quarters of respondents expect plant-based proteins will continue to rise in popularity in 2017. In particular, 60% expect to see plant-based proteins from pulses escalate in the coming year, thanks in part to the United Nations declaring 2016 the Year of the Pulse.

“In many ways, pulses embody many of the trends identified throughout the survey – they can be sustainably cultivated, are nutrient-dense, plant-based protein and have functional health benefits,” the report notes.

Health concerns influence eating

Health concerns are another driver in plant-based protein, and they also play a role in Ketchum’s third and fourth predictions for 2017: growing awareness about the microbiome and demand for fast but healthy food.

“The microbiome, the interactive ecosystem of our gut, is a term consumers are getting to know, and the gut-brain axis (the biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system) is an area of research that most excites the global nutrition community,” Ketchum said.

Members of that community also think the microbiome will excite more consumers in the coming year. More than half of respondents predict increased consumer interests in prebiotics, fermented food and beverages rich in probiotics and low FODMAP products, according to the survey.

More broadly speaking, they also predict consumers will want healthier options in general at home and in fast casual outlets. This will playout as a sustained interest in meal delivery kits, according to 65% of respondents, and as a rise in Buddha and poke bowls, which are filled either with grains, pulses and veggies or sushi and rice, according to 60% of the respondents.

The smoothie and acai bowls, however, will not continue to grow in the coming year, they predict.

Spreading the word

Not all aspects of 2017 are positive for the nutrition experts surveyed. Rather, a significant challenge they predict will grow in 2017 will be fake food news and misguided nutrition guidance from bloggers and social media influencers who are not credentialed.

Nearly two-thirds predict the influence of food bloggers will increase in 2017, forcing the nutrition community to try harder to “break through the crowded social and digital platforms full of fake food news to deliver nutrition guidance that is both science-based and attention-grabbing,” the report concludes. 

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