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The leading food and drink trade organisation, Produced in Kent, are at the forefront of supporting and highlighting the food and drink produced in the Garden of England. CEO Floortje Hoette shares some of her industry insight and trend predictions for 2024.
Less Ultra Processed Foods
In recent times, we have seen a backlash against ultra processed foods, with leading specialists including Chris van Tulleken highlighting the fact that ultra processed foods are damaging our physical and mental health. Floortje says "Consumers want convenience but also transparency, we want to know what goes in our food and where it comes from. Most of us don't have the time to cook everything from scratch and so I think we will see more products that fit in that middle zone, they are processed for our convenience but not ultra processed with a long list of indistinguishable ingredients.
Floortje continues: "There are some really innovative independent businesses using ingredients, where quality takes precedence and processing is considered to ensure maximum taste and minimum additives. For example, Freddies Farm; winners of TV Show Aldi's Next Big Thing are making tasty kids snacks with British fresh fruit and veg with no added sugar and minimal processing, so parents can appreciate the convenience without worrying about nasty additives."
While the cost of living is still at the forefront of minds, restricting the purse strings altogether is too much for most of us to maintain, so small treats are just what we need to boost morale and feel good into 2024. Food and drink sits at the centre of the self-care and treats market with either guilt free pleasures like fresh local fruit or more indulgent moments like a shared bottle of wine. 2024 will be about the perfect balance of cost and enjoyment.
Floortje explains "Artisan brands are perfectly positioned to be able to offer people those small moments of joy; a box of chocolates, a local jar of honey or a hand decorated cake from a bakery are affordable treats that can brighten the day."
In recent times, we have seen how technology can improve our food, either by saving us time in preparing meals or by improving the nutrition of our usual favourites. Consumers are demanding more from their food and it now must be functional as well as tasty, the recent rise in protein- packed products and gut-friendly foods has demonstrated how we are looking for specific functions and benefits.
Floortje predicts that we will continue to demand more of our food and the winners will be those keeping up with technology capabilities. "Kent based Ro-Gro specialise in growing microgreens, they are leading the way in employing technology and renewable farming practices, showcasing a vertical farm powered by 40% solar energy. But not only are they making use of tech to maximise production, they are also focusing on growing salad which provides the consumer with maximum health benefits, as microgreens have more minerals and micronutrients than fully grown plants."
Consumers are increasingly recognising the link between gut health and overall well-being, driving demand for probiotic-rich options and creating a surge in gut health awareness.
Floortje sees a rising demand for these local gems, stating, "Kent-based Zak's Kombucha and Wasted Kitchen offer both flavour and health benefits. Zak's Kombucha offers probiotic-packed kombucha, while Wasted Kitchen tackles food waste with diverse, gut-friendly fermented products. As gut health gains prominence, these local producers emerge as go-to choices for both taste and well-being."
There is no doubt that the pandemic shook the hospitality sector to its core, and while this has undoubtably influenced an increase in home delivery and takeaway habits, eating out at restaurants and pubs is finally beginning to bounce back. "In 2024 I think we will see more eating out, but customers will prioritise quality over quantity, in other words they may eat out less than pre-covid but will spend more when they do, maximising those occasions. The traditional English pub now competes with fine dining restaurants, with many (like The Ferry House in Harty) picking up AA Rosette awards for their locally sourced menus."
More about Produced in Kent Produced in Kent is a trade organisation dedicated to supporting & promoting all types of food, drink and craft businesses in Kent. The team provide vital support to a diverse range of businesses which in turn provide valuable employment opportunities in Kent and are at the economic heart of our rural communities. Produced in Kent is a strong, widely recognised brand, benefiting and promoting its membership businesses. It provides business support, advice and networking opportunities for its members.