Grains & legumes: what’s trending in 2018?

As another year draws to a close, we’ve been looking at key trends for 2018 – so what’s influencing innovation and driving consumer behaviour for the year to come?

“A key trend is a genuine growth opportunity. It’s a set of changes in consumer beliefs and behaviours, leading to a change in a market. It’s something on which a company can base its strategy to increase sales of existing products or create new products, to boost market share and profitability.”

In the first of a series of trends reports, we’ve taken a look at two of 2018’s top trends (with more to come) and the opportunities they present for industry innovation!

Number 1: Plant Based

Plant based is one of the biggest trends right now and this wide reaching category is having an effect on nearly every other foodie trend out there. In 2017, plant based was the second biggest trend, having a considerable impact on innovation and product development. And during 2018, the lifestyle shift that’s driving plant based is the rise of the inclusive Flexitarian diet, not so much an increase in the number of people adopting a vegan diet as many people think. A Flexitarian is defined as…. ‘a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat and/or fish.’ 

Emerging research is also helping to drive the prevalence of plant based eating with more and more evidence pointing to the many health benefits of eating mostly plant based, including up to a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and a lower frequency of obesity (1). Protein has a part to play here too with many consumers increasingly looking for alternatives to meat. In 2017, a massive 43% of Australians are strongly influenced by protein claims on pack (2).

As a result, consumer demand, changing eating patterns and technological advances are pushing innovation. Legumes are now appearing in all sorts of traditional foods, including breakfast cereals, snack bars and pasta as well as new development with smoothies, savoury snacks and bliss balls. Whole grains feature here too, due to their many health benefits and links with the benefits of increased fibre consumption, cereal fibre in particular. Both categories are driving innovation here.

So what’s new within this space?

Plant based meat alternatives – Gold & Green Foods latest product combines oats and beans to create their plant based meat alternative – Pulled Oats…

A focus on plant protein – The Lupin Company’s Lupin Flakes are highly versatile and can be used in baking, added to breakfast cereals or porridge or used in plant based patties to add plant protein, texture and additional nutrients…

Reformulation to up the veggie/legume content of many traditionally grain based foods – the bread market too is seeing diversification with Finnish bakery Fazer adding vegetable and legume purees to breads to create new and innovative offerings…

Plant based is an exciting trend that’s set to drive strategy within food for at least the next 5 years.

Number 2: Snackification

The next big trend for 2018, continuing on from 2017 and previous years, is the rise of the snack market. The younger generation is driving most of the growth within this trend, with millennials primarily looking to snack to tide them over between meals and increasingly replacing traditional sit down meals with a snack or two. And with 56% of us eating at least one snack every day (3), consumer demand is higher than it’s ever been and is set to continue to grow. This change in the way we’re snacking, from between meal and on-the-go snacks to keep you going until your next meal to whole meals based on a selection of snacks, has prompted a change in consumer demand, with many of us now looking for healthy snacks instead of typically indulgent snack foods that have dominated this category in the past. This shift has ensured both whole grains and legumes are now featuring prominently within the many innovative new offerings available.

Opportunities here are plenty, but where’s the biggest potential gain?

Creation of premium products – we’re increasingly willing to pay a premium for a great tasting snack that caters to our lifestyle and fulfils a genuine need. Good Thins crackers are a prime example with a range of different options for all (premium) tastes…

Ever more innovative offerings – Regrained Cereal Bars use leftover grains from the beer brewing process to create whole grain snacks…

There are no limits on innovation – perhaps the biggest opportunity of all within this spacefrom meat to dairy to veggies, any category is open for disruption. Health and often a focus on protein drives new development, take Biena’s new chickpea snack for example, which combines a typically savoury food with chocolate to create an unusual but delicious snack option…

Manufacturers and retailers will continue to experiment with new trends to fulfill consumer demand and as we become more adventurous with our food and more of us become food explorers, the opportunities for ever more exciting options continues to grow.

To find out more about the fascinating rise of the snack market, read our article here.


1. Harland J, Garton L. An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. 2016;41(4):323-38.
2. GLNC. 2017. Consumption & Attitudinal Study. 2017. Unpublished.
3. Choosi. Modern Foods Trend Report. 2017.

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