Milena Lazarevska, Head of Origination, Future Brands, Sainsbury’s

What Food & Drink Trends are Leading the Way?

As Head of Origination of Future Brands for Sainsbury’s, my division is responsible for finding exclusive brands that help Sainsbury’s build differentiated ranges and give customers more reasons to shop with us. Because of my role, I often get asked what the next big food or drink trends are.

While there are many different food & drinks trends, which are either emerging or continuing to grow in popularity, in 2019 these trends are leading the way:

Health & Wellness

It would be hard to miss the nation’s growing interest with health & wellbeing. This encompasses many different types of food & drink, and many different approaches.

As customers become more conscious of their sugar intake, products with less or no added sugar are becoming the norm across all product areas. The scientific advancement of our understanding of our microbiome has led to an explosion of gut health claims from new emerging brands, as well as consumer interest in products like kombucha, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, activated seeds/nuts/grains, and sourdough breads/pizzas. Added protein will also continue to be popular, even penetrating categories like functional drinks.

We’re also seeing more customers look for delicious alcohol-free alternatives. From no- and low- alcohol wine and beer, ready-to-drink mocktails, to no-alcohol spirit alternatives, the range of options is only going to continue to grow.

Alternative Proteins & Plant-Based Eating

Plant-based diets have taken off massively this year – more than any of us would’ve perhaps expected. As the trend matures, we’re starting to see more vegan alternatives across all categories, such as vegan seafood, wine, and vegan ice cream. It’s worth noting however that the majority of customers are flexitarian rather than vegan, i.e. will go meat-free on certain days rather than cutting out animal products out entirely.

Alternative proteins come in a variety of guises – plant-based but also including newer sources such as insects. Insects certainly offer strong nutritional benefits – they’re naturally very low in calories and suitable for gluten and dairy-free diets, as well as being packed full of protein. Insects are also incredibly sustainable and can help to reduce our carbon footprint.

It may not be a trend for 2019, however there has been significant investment and innovation going into lab-grown meat. It is not yet affordable for the average consumer, costing several hundred pounds per 100g, but will hit restaurants and even grocery shelves in the not so distant future.

Interest in plant-based diets and alternative proteins is not only due to consumer interest in health & wellbeing but also the drive to be more conscious of the environment.

Sustainability & Transparency

The sentiment of 2019 goes beyond recycling to focus on not creating waste in the first place. As such, we will see more brands providing complete transparency and methods for which consumers can lower their waste levels.

With many significant developments taking place in the food & drink industry and new consumer movements coming through, it’s both an exciting time. For the industry to meet and embrace these trends, we need brands and businesses that are continually innovating in a customer-centric and sustainable way.

Why I am excited to be an IFE Ambassador:

Being able to contribute to the largest food & drink event in the UK is an honour – I look forward to helping make it a roaring success!

My advice to exhibitors at IFE 2019:

Prepare – it’s a huge show so do some research beforehand, know who you want to meet and what you want to see, and talk to as many people as you can – you never know what useful contact you might bump into!

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given / heard?

Learn how to fail fast, and then get up and go again.

About Milena

Milena leads Origination for the Sainsbury’s Future Brands team, looking for exciting new brands that Sainsbury’s shoppers will love. Her passion for food & drink has seen her hold senior roles in strategy & trading, including leading the buying function for canned goods, food enhancers (sauces, stock, gravy), hot beverages, and homebaking, with sales of over £1bn.