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AI, gen alpha and brain health to trend in 2024: Nourish Food Marketing

Annual report forecasts 2024 to be dynamic time in food and beverage

Nourish Food Marketing has released its 2024 Trend Report, and while it’s no shocker that AI is on the list, the eighth annual edition identifies other trends set to dramatically impact the food and beverage sector. 

They include global competition for water, brain health awareness and generation alpha.

As Toronto-based Nourish president Jo-Ann McArthur says in the 34-page report (free for download here), “It’s shaping up to be a dynamic time in food and beverage, with shifting priorities for consumers, producers and retailers – and us marketers.” 

Read on for highlights. 

AI to accelerate product development

With its ability to identify patterns in data, McArthur predicts artificial intelligence will spur “new product and menu innovation at a previously unseen rate. New product concepting and development cycles will be shorter and risk mitigated, as AI can more accurately predict and advise on the potential success of a product.” 

Coca-Cola’s recent launch including in Canada of the limited-edition Y3000 Zero Sugar is cited as an example. AI-powered social listening tools were used to develop the beverage’s flavour and design from insights around the world about what the year 3000 might taste like. 

However, McArthur says marketers shouldn’t count on AI to predict real innovation. 

“Groundbreaking innovation is often unexpected or novel, deviating from previous trends rather than following them, and results from human creativity, serendipity and the ability to make intuitive leaps. AI can’t really replicate these aspects of innovation yet.” 

Water – a rising hot-button issue

This section of the report highlights a scary stat from World Bank Group: water supply is predicted to fall 40% short of meeting global needs by 2030. 

“Recycling water is rapidly becoming more of a consumer hot button than recycling plastic,” says McArthur, noting the percentage of consumers globally ranking water shortages in their top three environmental concerns increased this year to 35% from 31% in 2022, a jump bigger than any other environmental issue.

Farmers and food companies will need to advocate for policies supporting sustainable water use like government incentives for H20-saving technologies, she says, and help drive consumer awareness around products produced using less water.

Starbucks, for instance, has invested in a Follett Nugget Ice Machine, which uses less water to make ice. “If rolled out across over 35,000 locations worldwide,” says McArthur, “the water savings could be more than just a drop in the bucket.” 

Brain-friendly food boom

Canadians opening an app to complete a sudoku, crossword or Wordle has become a daily ritual for many, fueled by a desire to exercise their brain. Consumers are also looking to maintain and improve brain health with their food and beverage choices. 

The report points out that products with brain-boosting ingredients (like anthocyanins, choline, omega 3 and ginkgo biloba) are expected to be worth over $40 million globally by 2030, as forecasted by Grand View Research

The annual growth rate between now and then is projected at almost 11%. 

McArthur says more products are being developed that are fortified with B vitamins, omega-3s and natural cognitive enhancers like ginkgo biloba and synthetic enhancers like modafinil. 

She also notes online searches for choline – an essential nutrient for brain health used primarily in baby and toddler foods – has been on the rise. 

“Ninety per cent of Americans do not get enough choline,” says McArthur. The report cites “eggs, liver, meat, fish, dairy products, and plant-based foods like soybeans and cruciferous vegetables” as choline-rich foods.

Get ready for generation alpha

Typically defined as people born between 2010 and 2024, the oldest members of this cohort just became teens – and their eating habits are being shaped by households prioritizing “health, organic foods and ethical sourcing,” in part due to parents not having to physically commute to their jobs every day and being as time-strapped. 

Generation alpha is also “a highly interconnected generation,” with high exposure to diverse cultures and cuisine through travel, the Internet and a more multicultural peer group.

McArthur also notes that the most recent generation of parents are going old school with infant feeding, highlighting 2023 research from Datassential showing 43% of them have never fed their babies infant cereal or purées. 

“There is a movement towards ‘baby-led feeding’ where the baby is fed breast milk until six months old and then transitions to self-feeding small pieces of whole food from the family meal,” says McArthur. “By exposing infants to different foods early on, this could make for a much more adventurous palate at a much younger age.” 

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