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Denmark: Consumer food trends for 2017

The wish for transparency and credible stories is behind some of the key food trends for 2017. Sustainability is also becoming increasingly important in consumer decision-making.

The sheer amount of information on food bombarding consumers is confusing and contradictory. This and the various media scares and food scandals is leading to increasing consumer demands for food quality. They want transparency; a full insight into food content, how it is produced and so on. This, in turn, will give them reassurance about the food they eat and the story of its journey from farm to fork.

Producers and retailers have to be honest about food content and its production – as in the interaction – the personal touch – between the customer and the store, as seen in market squares and delicatessens.

There is a need for food to be seen as “the real thing.” Real Food is natural, nutritious and is perceived as being close to nature and stems from the ubiquitous focus on health. Consumers are looking for food that is less processed and therefore closer to its natural origin. There is a move away from production methods that are regarded as incomprehensibly complex and that undermine a product’s naturalness. It can be difficult for the consumer to understand the nutritional value of, and possible long-term effects of obscure ingredients on the body. Consumers want to know that each ingredient is something that might be found in the kitchen cupboard.

A growing interest in products whose packaging and marketing clearly states that they are “free from” something undesirable is also apparent. Consumers want assurance that a product does not contain anything that might be unhealthy or even harmful.

Then there is the emerging backlash against the prevailing zeitgeist – about living healthier through exercise and adapting food and drink to different diets. Consumers are tiring of the continuous pressure from all sides on calorie counts, sit-ups and treadmill regimes. The focus is more on living a balanced life, where there is time for relaxation and family life, and it is as much about mental well-being as it is the physical.

Enjoyment and quality of life will carry more weight in discussions about health. In food terms, this means a greater focus on flavour and satiety rather than low fat, vitamins and protein-rich food. Healthy food is about variety, natural ingredients and should be an enjoyable, social experience.

Issues such as unfair production conditions, inappropriate environmental impact and lack of animal welfare are increasingly important. Consumers want to help make a difference through consumption and action. They want a clear conscience and want producers and retailers to display the same attitude and accountability.

Organic production has grown strongly in recent years and its popularity is largely because organic production has a positive influence on a number of important consumer wishes. For example, the demand for food to be “pure,” “free from,” and “environmentally correct”.

There is a growing awareness of the need for greater sustainability, such as a more efficient use of resources, renewable energy and better animal welfare, as well as minimising waste, packaging and environmental impact. Consumers are looking for responsibility from producers and retailers, along with stories about how efforts are being made to improve sustainable food production through new developments and innovation. Sustainability is a constantly evolving process and includes reducing food waste and an ongoing battle against food transport of over long distances.

Meanwhile, the need for fresh meat - and the protein it contains - to be at the heart of the meal is under threat. Some are limiting or completely opting out of meat for dinner on certain days of the week. The most frequently cited reason for eating less meat is health – ahead of saving money, the environment and animal welfare. Food budget thrift has a number of motives, however, and can be about freeing up resources to buy better quality, animal welfare and organic.

Long live foodies and roots movement nerdery
Food, for a growing number, is about exploration, experiences and challenging taste buds. It is also about rediscovering old traditions and where cooking from scratch (along with curing and fermenting) has a particular value. Creativity will flourish, while naturalness and purity are retained because of control over content and composition.

About the analysis
The analysis of consumer and food trends for 2017 onwards is based on several sources and studies. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council conducted qualitative and quantitative surveys among Danes in 2015 and 2016. At the same time, the analysis of trends for 2017 is also based on insights from GfK Consumer Scan reports that draw on data collected from a panel of 3,000 representative consumers who report on what they buy on a regular basis. Last but not least, DAFC based its analysis on sources such as Innova Market Insights, Euromonitor International and Mintel, which, in their trend reports, monitor demographic developments, imports and exports as well as product launches, both globally and in various regions. Taken together, these different outlooks work to shape our idea of major consumer and food trends now and over the next five years.