What will be the most significant new food trends in 2018?


Predicting the future is hazardous, but we reckon The Brand Nursery crystal ball is a little more in focus than most.

So if you’d like to find out what’s likely to be impacting in the world of food and drink in 2018 here are half a dozen trends that we think will be really important over the coming year.

They come from our experience of working across a range of sectors in the food and drink sector. From our fascination with spotting exciting new products in supermarkets and delicatessens in the UK, Europe and across the Atlantic, to our attendance of the major global food shows during the past decade.


  1. Sugar Free
  2. Let’s start with the obvious one. There’s a Sugar Levy coming this Spring that means that manufacturers of soft drinks need to either reduce the amount of sugar contained in their products to less than 5% or pay tax on the income they derive from them.

    In all probability it means that consumers will be faced with either accepting new formulations of these drinks containing reduced sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, or paying a higher price for those that choose retain their sugar level.

    Plenty of ‘Zero’ sugar products are already evident on the soft drinks fixture and more will no doubt enter the fray during 2018 – although many of manufacturers may have taken heed of the response to Lucozade ‘Zero’ leading to garish headlines (“Disappointed shoppers slam ‘horrific’ new low sugar Lucozade that tastes like bleach and has potentially deadly risks for diabetics”). Changing the formulation of a well-loved beverage needs to be handled with care, as Coca-Cola found out a few years ago and Irn Bru are facing now with the backlash campaign ‘Hands off our Irn Bru’.

    But perhaps the biggest impact of the Sugar Levy will be driven by the inevitable re-raising of the whole sugar-obesity issue that its introduction will fuel.
    ·      If soft-drinks manufacturers merit this tax, then why not apply it similarly across other products laden with sugar?

    ·      Are artificial sweeteners actually worse for our well-being than sugar?

    ·      Will there be a short-term impact on soft drink sales followed by a gradual recovery, or will this lead to a major shake-up for the sector?


  3. Natural Energy
  4. One way in which drinks manufacturers can look to address the Sugar Levy issue is by using natural sugar substitutes – our FD currently has a tetrapak of ‘Just Bee’ on his desk; a flavoured water infused with honey.

    Honey has enjoyed a significant revival in recent years, both as a healthier sweet spread and as an ingredient, so don’t be surprised to see more of it within beverages and other products in 2018.

    Over the past couple of years we’ve noticed plenty of examples of ‘natural’ energy drinks on display at various international food shows, although to date none have made an impact in the UK. The Sugar Levy may be the prompt for their flourishing, although there are other, more positive reasons why the maturing energy drink market is ready for the emergence of ‘better for you’ alternatives to the taurine and caffeine powered concoctions that currently dominate.


  5. Gluten Free – By Choice
  6. Bread has been getting a bit of a bad press in recent times, and plenty of people are choosing to reduce the amount of gluten they consume. In many cases this isn’t a necessity – it’s a positive choice that they believe will make them feel less bloated and more alert.

    As a consequence, lighter alternatives to the traditional sliced loaf are likely to continue to grow. There’s been plenty of activity and innovation within the savoury cracker and crispbread sectors in recent times and we expect to see more new product introductions in this area as many consumers look to lighten the gluten load in their diets.


  7. Slow Down
  8. One of the key drivers within the food sector for several decades has been the desire for quick, easy, almost instant meal solutions.

    However, in recent times the slow cooker has been as likely an addition to the UK kitchen as the microwave – over half our households now use one, and ingredients producers are bringing more new products to market that specifically address slow cooking.

    ‘Slow Cooked’ is also one of the few new recipe innovations to have emerged in the faltering chilled ready meals sector, pointing to the unctuous taste benefits that allowing time to infuse flavour can bring.

    And, of course, we are also being encouraged to prepare more meals from scratch using fresh ingredients to deliver better nutrition to our families (and to feel better about actively making the food that we provide). So products like ‘meal kits’ and suppliers like Hello Fresh are likely to benefit from our preparedness to spend just a little bit longer on cooking up our main meals in 2018.


  9. Korean Spice
  10. South Korea will be hosting the Winter Olympics early in 2018 and North Korea is also likely to be in the news this year, albeit for other, less welcoming reasons. For UK food consumers there may also be increasing opportunity to enjoy the influence of Korea via a range of products ranging from sandwich fillings to ready meals to spices and sauces.

    Maybe this is just a fad – I seem to recall that 2017 was supposed to be all about Peruvian flavours – but there are enough Korean inspired products now available in our supermarkets to give this cuisine the chance to build a real foothold.


  11. Mindfulness
  12. Finally, we expect to see more and more emphasis across the course of this year on products and ingredients that have been handled, nurtured and prepared with real care and attention.

    Food provenance has become increasingly important in the past decade in response to a string of production scandals (Two Sisters ‘chicken football’, Horsegate, that egg thing..) but this year we expect to see this taken a stage further as food manufacturers seek to show that they’ve put plenty of love into their products.

    For example, Denhay Bacon proclaims that it is made from “Outdoor bred pork” that has been “Dry cured by hand”.

    There are also brands emerging that pledge to make contributions back to society, like Plant For Peace (that seeks to change the lives of farmers around the world that through conflict are trapped in poverty) and Goodness Knows from Mars (that promises 10% of all sales profits to a Fund to support UK community projects and local initiatives). Mind you, they have a way to go to match Newman’s Own, a brand that we know well and that has donated all its profits to charity for over 30 years.

    Perhaps this is the overall theme for this year – more thoughtfulness about what we put into our bodies, more care about where this food comes from, and a desire to take a little more care about ourselves and the planet that we live on.


If you like this, you might like to read more in our Mind, Body and Soul white paper – download it here.

If you’d like to find out more about The Brand Nursery’s perspective on these trends and how they might impact on your brand and sector, please contact us here

And if you are thinking of reviewing any aspect of your brand strategy, or need help shaping your NPD strategy or brand presentation take a look at the case studies on our website here or give us a call. We’d love to help you make 2018 a year for growth!