Food Processing Trends in 2017: Healthy Eating and Automation

In a report issued by The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI), 2017 and beyond will see continual change in markets, channels, and technologies due to the changing way that consumers will purchase and consume food in the future.

Current Trends Driving the Market

Global consumer food trends are driving growth for healthier foods. This growth is being driven by an ever increasing middle class throughout the world. This middle class consumer is looking for more on-the-go eating options but also the ability to prepare quick, full meal experiences that are healthy and convenient. This has also led to a significant change in how the consumer shops for food. From 1988 to 2014, there has been a significant swing from traditional grocery standard big-name stores offering a wide variety of products to more specialty neighborhood markets that offer limited selection of premium products and brands as well as convenience small retail businesses offering only basic food items.

Future Trends and Concerns

PMMI reports that the next fifteen years might bring significant changes to food manufacturing and sourcing based upon the following:

  • Degradation of vegetation due to environmental changes
  • Much shorter supply chains because of transportation expense
  • Local production is growing
  • Research on bioactive ingredients in plants is gaining popularity in the western world
  • Stronger competition for land use as food, fuel, and fiber battle for space
  • Benefits of microtechnology and nanotechnology for more sustainable production of food and improved taste
  • Biosensors that could reduce or eliminate batch-to-batch variations

Food Processors Response

This has caused food processors to respond by reformulating products and providing clean labeling for consumers. Food processors are continually reformulating their products to meet the demand for healthier products that remove unsafe ingredients, sugars, and other non-essential products. Food Processors continue to focus on fortified food additives such as added calcium, protein, and vitamins while improving labeling of products.

Because of this, food processors continue to look for advances in machinery and delivery solutions to meet safety standards and increase productivity to meet these changes in consumer demand. Food processors continue to look for advances that will meet or exceed the current food safety regulations. Food processors are also continually looking for machinery and processes that will provide flexible changeover options, produce smaller batches, have highly selective sorting to reduce food wastes, and provide greater automation of equipment to be able to combine a number of operations into one.

In order to meet these demands, food processors anticipate increased capital expenditures in 2017 and beyond. In a survey performed by PMMI, nearly half the companies interviewed will be spending more on capital equipment in the next 12 to 24 months and, of those interviewed, half of those companies forecast needing processing equipment and 3 of 4 companies will be looking for packaging equipment. Finally, of those companies interviewed, half of the companies are focused on increasing the level of automation through robotics and processing operations in order to increase predictability of preventative maintenance, read times of processing, and connectivity.

To learn more about this report, please visit The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies’ website at If you have any questions regarding this article or how this information may affect your organization please contact the Food manufacturing experts at McKonly & Asbury.