The food market will experience rapid evolution in 2018, according to sector experts at MSL, Seattle, Wash. A broad array of technological innovations will make it easier to acquire and consume foods and beverages tailored to today’s consumer’s specific food needs, speeds and philosophies.

These insights emerge from the MSL's annual analysis of top food trends. Past forecasts have spotted the emergence of major marketplace successes, including turmeric, coconut, ugly produce, food waste reduction and coffee as an ingredient. 

In 2018, the agency's food experts expect these six factors to drive conversation and commerce in the food and beverage market:

  • Clean packaging. Building on the clean ingredients drive, brands will now want to look as clean as they are inside.
  • Plant milks and butchery. Almond milk was the gateway food. Now, consumers want coconut yogurt, vegetable steaks, squash pasta and more. 
  • Instant gratification. In a modern gold rush, competing food delivery solutions are racing to close the gap between hunger and satiation.
  • Regional artisan dairy. Drinking milk may be on the outs, but grass-fed and cultured dairy products, touting local terroir, are screaming for attention. It's local, artisan, probiotic and Instagramable. 
  • Retail experimentation. Amazon is scaring food retailers into a frenzy of innovation. Expect a buyer's market, rich with entertainment and special offers in-store and personalized inducements online.
  • Ultra-personalization. Consumers have become picky with their food choices, guarding against allergies and intolerance, accounting for genetics, catering to the latest dietary system. Food makers are responding.

"The large and sometimes lumbering food sector has had a fire set under it," says Steve Bryant, North American director for food, beverage and agriculture. "The speed of technology has transformed consumer expectations. Now, consumers are powerfully equipped to curate their food and drink choices, calling on trusted social influencers and freely experimenting in today's multi-faceted marketplace. Food makers will race to keep pace." 

"Smart marketers will tap into these trends as an opportunity for growth," says Joy Blakeslee, the registered dietitian who directs MSL's North America culinary and nutrition center. "The trends we're forecasting present valuable opportunities in product development and promotion, social media engagement and media and influencer endorsement."