By Jami Gibson

The food processing industry has been growing steadily in the past several years, and certain niches are emerging as the sector’s forerunners. While food manufacturers caught onto trends such as gluten-free, low-carb, all natural, and organic years ago, there are a new set of opportunities that lie ahead. Taken from Food Processing’s “2014 Food & Beverage Industry Outlook,” these are the five trends predicted to shape the food industry in the next couple years.

1) International Market Expansion

Although much M&A activity has taken place in the food industry over the years, there has been a rise in U.S. food manufacturers expanding into emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia. As foreign markets become increasingly interested in Western food, the opportunity for market expansion overseas looks brighter. Often, manufacturers can make fine adjustments in ingredients and branding to already successful products to appeal to a new cultural market.

2) Trans Fats Controversy

It is a likely possibility that the FDA will ban trans fats. While many large corporations are already phasing them out entirely, the cost to smaller manufacturers to reformulate their products could put them out of business.

3) GMO Debate

Many consumers are becoming more health conscious and interested in what they are putting into their bodies with the food they eat. GMOs, although not currently regulated in the U.S., have been restricted or banned in over 60 countries. There is a push to require labeling on all products that contain GMOs to inform the consumer in their purchasing decisions.

4) Continued Rise of Private-Label

Private label manufacturers got a sales boost during the recession as consumers tried to save money and purchase cheaper food products. However, private label foods are becoming more gourmet and higher in quality, leaving consumers to wonder why they need to pay a premium for brand name products.

5) All About Convenience

Whether it’s snacking on a breakfast bar on the way to work, microwaving a to-go soup while working through lunch, or popping a frozen dinner in the toaster oven after a long day, convenience foods can provide simplicity for busy people. There has been a rise in single-serve portion products (e.g. Keurig coffee, 100 calorie snack packs, etc.), just-add-water beverages and meals, and snacks that can be eaten cold or warm. Watch for more easily consumable food product innovations to come to market.

Source: Higgins, K.T. & Fusaro, D. (2014) 2014 food and beverage industry outlook. Retrieved from