Evergreen Packaging, Memphis, Tenn., released a report based on data from the annual EcoFocus Trend Study, produced by EcoFocus Worldwide, St. Petersburg, Fla., which forecasts key trends that will shape the U.S. food and beverage industries in the year ahead. Now in its eighth year, the EcoFocus Trend Study examines how consumer attitudes, actions, preferences and values are re-shaping grocery purchasing decisions.

“Our partnership with EcoFocus Worldwide is driven by our deep commitment to provide our customers with insights that enable them to identify opportunities in the market that help them build their businesses,” says DeWitt Clark, vice president of sales and marketing North American packaging for Evergreen Packaging. “We are excited to share some results from this year’s study, which identified four emerging trends we believe will have a significant impact on the U.S. food and beverage industries in 2018, creating new product, brand and communication opportunities.”

 The four key trends identified by the study are as follows:

Authenticity becomes priority. New consumer segment called “Fresh Authentics” emerges. Authenticity has long been a strength for certain grocery brands, and is now trending as a priority for grocery shoppers in 2018, impacting brands across all categories. Beyond health-conscious shoppers, an emerging segment of shoppers is seeking brands that they believe are authentic and products that they believe will offer an authentic experience. These shoppers – deemed “Fresh Authentics”– embrace healthy, clean and sustainable foods, beverages and packaging. Of the more than 4,000 grocery shoppers who participated in the study, 11% were defined as Fresh Authentics, and the segment is expected to grow in size and influence.

Packaging becomes an integral part of the ingredient list. As more shoppers choose authentic foods and beverages, they are gravitating toward packaging that they believe is authentic as well—clean packaging that helps retain the good taste and nutrition of foods and beverages naturally, without preservatives, and that does not leave undesirable chemicals in the products. The study found that 64% of grocery shoppers reported changing what they buy to reduce exposure to chemicals in food or beverage packaging.

Certifications communicate authenticity and establish trust. Companies will earn shoppers’ trust through transparency and commitments to desirable food and beverage business practices in 2018. The study found that 46% of grocery shoppers reported avoiding purchasing products from companies after learning that their business practices were not environmentally responsible, up six percentage points from 2011. One way to clearly communicate authenticity and establish trust is through recognized third-party certifications.

Consumers are seeking authentic store brands from retailers. In 2018, shoppers are seeking retailers who stand behind their corporate commitments and who can help shoppers sort through the thousands of products on the shelves to make healthy and eco-friendly choices easier and accessible. Demand for healthy, clean and sustainable choices is driving movement to trusted store brands that deliver these attributes. According to the study, 68% of grocery shoppers said it is “very important” to shop at a grocery store that makes it easy for them to make healthy choices.

“The study results illustrate that the movement toward fresh, high-quality, natural foods and sustainable packaging is continuing to gain momentum for all grocery shoppers, and is already a lifestyle for the Fresh Authentics,” says Linda Gilbert, study author and CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide. “For brands that possess these advantages, it’s more important than ever before to clearly communicate these values to stand out on the crowded grocery shelves and aid consumers in their purchasing decisions.”