Will ultra-processed food survive 2024?

Food processing is everywhere. The vast majority of food we eat has undergone some kind of processing, whether in a factory or at home.

This can be as simple as chopping, freezing, heating, fermenting, or adding functional ingredients. Although there is nothing wrong with processed food as such, a lot of the food products we buy are highly or overly processed. Now, that’s a different story.

Talks about ultra-processed food are making people pay more attention to ingredients, nutrition, and how food is made. The food and drink industry is facing more scrutiny over how they process their products. Could you call ultra-processed food the new junk food? Maybe…

 

2024 will be a year of change

In 2024, consumers will learn about how food is processed through news, rules, and labels like NOVA or Siga. This will make people think about how much they consume processed food and drinks. It will also make them reconsider how frequently they eat processed items.

Heavily processed food is facing challenges, but there are great opportunities for lightly processed food and drinks. These products emphasize the benefits of processing, such as enhancing nutrition, reducing contaminants, and promoting sustainability. Lightly processed food and drinks have the potential to thrive in the current market.

 

Communication is key 

A good level of processing is not enough to be recognized as a healthy option. Brands will have to find ways to explain what they sell, what’s in it, and how it is made. Be transparent and start using language that consumers can understand, especially when sharing the benefits of processing. Brands offering minimally processed products—such as frozen produce, fresh bakery items, and natural canned soup — should share how processing improves their products in ways such as enhancing nutrition, increasing shelf life, or reducing environmental impact.

This is far more challenging. As has been shown in markets that have front-of-pack labelling indicating high fat, sugar, and salt content, giving consumers more information doesn’t necessarily result in them abandoning specific categories of food and drink, especially favourite treats such as salty snacks, biscuits, and confectionery

What will the coming years bring?

Ultra-processed food will survive 2024, there is no doubt about that, but what about the years to come? Enhanced transparency around processing will create better-informed food and drink shoppers in 2 to 5 years. Automatically, the sales and intake of highly processed food products will decrease.

Some ultra-processed food and drink brands will find opportunities to develop less processed, ‘better-for-you’ versions of their products. Other brands won’t find suitable solutions. For them goes the saying: only the strong survive! If you are a powerful brand with a large fan base, consumers will continue to use moderation or make occasional exceptions in their diets for their favourite ultra-processed brand.

However, competition will be harsh. Minimally processed products that boast higher nutritional value will win over more consumers. Consumers and retailers will support products that last longer and don’t need refrigeration or freezing due to worries about energy costs.

People want more natural, less processed food. They are more willing to buy products that use healthy ingredients that would have been wasted before. In the future, more people will want to eat and drink foods that are less processed. These foods will be made with upcycled ingredients that are rich in nutrients.

 

Are you ready? 

2024 will have its challenges, but they are relatively small compared with what the future will bring. Use the time to experiment and innovate.

At Naturis, we have been innovating for over 30 years to make it easy to eat healthy. We are ready to be your partner in minimally processed ingredients. Whatever your question might be, we have a less-processed solution. The question is: are you ready?

 

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