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Key insights from Bord Bia’s ‘Food for Thought?’ event.

Thursday morning was bleak but amongst the rain and darkness was a packed venue at The Thinking House at Bord Bia. Full of eager marketing professionals, The Marketing Society of Ireland organised ‘Food for Thought’ a talk on the future of food in Ireland and the consumer trends to be aware of. Our Account Director, Olivia Farrell attended and has summarised her key take-outs from the event. So what do brands need to know? Grab yourself a coffee and learn more.

A packed-out room in the Thinking House was a great sight to see – consumer insights at the forefront of brand planning. Grace Binchy, Consumer Insights Specialist at Bord Bia took the stage with a rake of insights based on 3 categories: responsible living, health and well-being and community and identity. With sustainability being strongly linked with health and wellbeing, it is no surprise that the planet is top of mind for the consumer. Consumers are demanding ‘what is good for me and good for the planet’ according to Grace.

Without further due, let’s dive into the 3 categories:


Responsible Living

With a rise in diabetes and the rise in population globally (9.7 bn by 2050), this places pressure on health and our environment. As such, consumers want healthy products that are kind to the planet. With new ingredients on the rise such as cauliflower and pea flour, people want more functional benefits from foods. Mushrooms are now being coined as the next superfood with new transparent products hitting the market such as Umamis Crunchy Snack.

Consumers continue to move to a more flexitarian diet. The vegan trend is nothing new but its the integration of this diet into every day is becoming more common. Plant-based foods are increasingly more visible on shelves, however as consumers become more aware of fad based diets and products, they will begin to question the ingredients of these products more. For example, in meatless fast food, the sodium content is much higher than that in actual meat. Consumers are beginning to understand the technical information of ingredient decks and questioning of plant-based foods will be more frequent in the near future. For example, the graph below shows the sodium levels from Beyond plant burger vs. a meat burger.


Waste-free culture was also something that was covered. Consumers are more interested in buying products that are from something that would be typically wasted. A good example of this I came across recently is AB InBev’s ‘Canvas’ – a fibre and protein shake that is 100% plant-based made from barley fibre and protein that are leftover from the beer-making process. This sustainable product is nutritious and allows consumers to feel good about themselves, and the planet.

It’s not just the manufacturers that are responding to these demands, Retailers are also responding to the waste-free culture. Waitrose took the lead at its Oxford Street store facilitating a refill station. Other large retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s are also responding to plastic-free demands and have pipeline plans to deliver upon.


Products are now being packaged in new materials. With Beck’s producing label-less bottles and Carlsberg bringing the paper bottle to the fore using recycled materials, the theme of ‘re-use’ is being implemented at many levels. Tom Zaki has launched The Loop – a service combining re-use and convenience – it allows consumers to refill their favourite products delivered to their front door, whilst IKEA has introduced a leasing model on their products which is rolled out across 30 countries.

Lastly on responsible living was ‘source reinvention’.  Iron Ox is reinventing farming through robotics to ensure that produce can be locally grown. We see demands for this already with retailers like M&S now beginning to introduce urban farming instore.

Health and wellbeing

Next up on the agenda was health and well-being. Gut health remains high on the agenda with superfoods being high on consumers’ radar as mentioned above. But this awareness is now hitting parents in terms of what they are feeding their children. There are new products on the market that offer superfood for babies. Cerebelly is a great example of this, this organic baby food supports early brain development. It has also been developed by a neurosurgeon – this transparency also makes the product seem more trustworthy.

Speaking of transparency, this is becoming key to customers. Grace outlined that products with ingredients you can see and pronounce are more reassuring to consumers. For example, Kind bars continue to grow due to this.

Call-out culture is now becoming even more popular, with Greta Grunberg flying the flag. Activism continues to be strong, especially when related to the environment.

The pressure of social media continues to be a concern for mental health. So much so that people are beginning to rebel against the facade of Instagram. People are now seeking out more real and authentic content over polished perfection. Alas, the Insta-aesthetic is dying – influencers, time for a quick course correction.

Community and Identity

The last trend Grace discussed was ‘community and identity’, this is something we started to see last year with Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ campaign where brands are creating hyper-local content. This creative took a different approach – typically Nike uses professional athletes as inspiration in their ads, whereas this uses real people from the city. It’s non-cliché in a way that there’s no sight of London Bridge or the usual landmarks, instead, it’s set in places like the streets of Peckham and the inside of a boxing ring – effectively showing more authentic ways the consumer experiences sport in everyday lives, with Nike at the heart of it. Clever.

Consumers want more inclusive options with the customisation and ‘make your own’ becoming more mainstream, xBox controllers being the perfect example. It’s coming into the food and drinks sector too with Starbucks now having over 87k flavours (wow) due to the demands from its customers. This trend is even bleeding into the beauty world – Haia (Happy as I Am) offers gender-neutral products and they promote a ‘you are enough’ inclusive philosophy and aim to create a new narrative around skincare. Time to pop that on the Xmas shopping list.