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5 Hot Trends for Food & Beverage Manufacturing in 2024

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is undergoing a rapid transformation driven by technological advancements, consumer demands, and regulatory changes. These shifts are reshaping how products are produced, packaged, and delivered to consumers.

Five trends currently influencing the food and beverage manufacturing sector in 2024 include:

  1. Automation and Robotics
  2. Sustainability Initiatives
  3. Clean Labels
  4. Smart Packaging Solutions
  5. Plant-Based Products

1. Automation and Robotics

Automation and Robotic trends in food manufacturing

Automation and robotics are revolutionizing food and beverage manufacturing by enhancing efficiency, consistency, and safety. These technologies are being integrated into various stages of production, from raw material handling to packaging and distribution. Industrial robot sales are projected to hit almost $950 million in North America by the end 2024, with 22% sold in the U.S. alone. Food will account for around $67.6 million of those sales as companies invest in robotic solutions for processes like palletizing, packaging, pick-and-place, and quality inspection.

Many companies have made a pledge to reduce their emissions. In May 2024, PepsiCo announced it will triple its electric-powered fleet across California to help the company reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2040. Nestlé has also detailed plans to be greenhouse gas emissions free by 2050. Danone has pledged to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050 starting by cutting methane emissions from its fresh milk supply by 30% by the end of this decade.

Key Developments:

  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs are used for transporting materials and products within the manufacturing facility, reducing the need for human labor and minimizing errors.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA is employed for repetitive tasks such as sorting, filling, and packaging, ensuring precision and speed.
  • Collaborative Robots (Cobots): Cobots work alongside human workers, enhancing productivity while maintaining safety standards.

2. Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable Food Trends

Sustainability has become a critical focus in food and beverage manufacturing. There is immense pressure from consumers, governments and environmental groups to reduce plastic waste from food and beverage packaging. Manufacturers are turning to more sustainable materials as well as redesigning packaging to be re-usable, recyclable or compostable.

Alternatives like paper, glass, aluminum and fiber-based composites are gaining ground. Kraft Heinz has been working with Pulpex to create a paper-based bottle made from 100% sustainably sourced wood pulp. Their goal is to make 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025.

Key Developments:

  • Energy Efficiency: Manufacturers are investing in energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources to minimize energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Waste Reduction: Innovations in recycling and composting programs are reducing the waste during production.
  • Sustainable Sourcing: Companies are sourcing raw materials from sustainable and ethical suppliers, ensuring that their supply chains are environmentally responsible.

3. Clean Labels

Clean label trends in food and beverage manufacturing

Consumers increasingly want simple, natural ingredients that they can recognize and understand. The clean label trend has taken the food and beverage industry by storm, driven by consumer demand for simple, natural, and minimally processed products. Manufacturers are reformulating recipes to remove artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and other synthetic additives in favor of clean label claims like “no artificial anything.”

Clean label is about more than just removing negatives though. It’s about showcasing the real, recognizable, whole food ingredients that make up a product. Packaging design is evolving to highlight clean label claims and provide transparency into sourcing and production methods. The growing prevalence of dietary-related health issues such as food allergies, obesity and diabetes is also prompting consumers to seek more natural food options.

Key Developments:

  • Removing Artificial Additives: Natural ingredients replace artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and other synthetic additives.
  • Increased Transparency: Consumers want simple labeling with identifiable ingredients.
  • Consumer Demand: Consumers will pay more for minimally processed foods and beverages.

4. Smart Packaging Solutions

Smart Packaging Solution Trends

Smart packaging provides a wealth of valuable real-time data insights to food brands and a direct digital communication channel with consumers. For an industry focused on safety, freshness and sustainability, it’s an essential technology for the future.

One major application of smart packaging is time-temperature monitoring. Small disposable sensors are embedded in packaging to track temperature fluctuations and trigger alerts if a product has been exposed to conditions that could compromise food quality or safety. This allows companies and retailers to remove compromised products before reaching consumers.

Smart labels that use QR codes, RFID tags, or near-field communication provide an easy way for brands to share detailed product information with consumers via smartphone. Coca-Cola has been using QR codes for years to interact with customers beyond the initial purchase.

Active intelligent packaging takes it a step further by actively preserving and extending freshness. This could include antimicrobial packaging that releases natural preservatives, moisture control packaging that absorbs or releases humidity, or modified atmosphere packaging that prevents spoilage by controlling gas levels.

Key developments:

  • Technology Advances: Advances in affordable printed electronics, sensors and data carriers
  • Functionality: Improved functionality of active and intelligent packaging materials
  • Improved Analytics: Growth of connected packaging ecosystems and data analytics capabilities

5. Plant-Based Products

Plant based trends in food and beverage manufacturing

Plant-based meat alternatives have been gaining popularity for years, driven by concerns over health, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. But the trend has now expanded far beyond veggie burgers into virtually every food category. Improvements in taste, texture and nutrition have made plant-based options far more appealing to the mainstream consumer. Cost is still a concern. A Good Food Institute State of the Industry Report found that, “Consumers continue to see higher prices at the shelf, making the price gap between plant-based and their conventional counterparts a relevant challenge to plant-based brands hoping to reach a broader swath of consumers.”

Manufacturers are utilizing novel ingredients like pea protein, coconut oil, and fruit purees to craft plant-based alternatives. Major brands like Nestlé, Conagra, Kellogg’s and others are investing heavily in new products like non-dairy milk, cheese, yogurt, dips, and egg substitutes. 81% of households purchased some time of plant-based food in 2023 at least once with plant-based milk holding 15% of that market share. Affordability and quality will continue to drive consumer adoption of plant-based foods beyond 2024.

Key Developments:

  • New Product Categories: More dairy alternatives (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), egg alternatives, dips and spreads are expanding into the current market.
  • Improved Taste: Pea protein, methylcellulose, coconut oil and fruit purees are improving taste, texture and nutritional profile of existing products.
  • Growing Consumer Demand: Large food companies like Nestlé, Conagra and Kellogg’s are making investments and product launches to meet demand.

Staying Ahead of the Trend for 2025

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is dynamically evolving, with automation and robotics, sustainability initiatives, personalized nutrition, and smart packaging leading the way. These trends are not only reshaping production processes but also addressing consumer demands for efficiency, health, and environmental responsibility. As manufacturers continue to innovate, they will need to balance technological advancements with sustainable practices to meet the future needs of the market.

To stay ahead of the curve for whatever 2025 brings, you need a system that will uncover trends and show what is happening on the factory floor in real-time. Mingo Smart Factory’s dashboard breaks down individual machine data into a dashboard that anyone can read from your VP to the line operator. Start simple with one data point. Find your inefficiencies, make changes, then customize your board to find the next data point. Mingo’s production monitoring system is built to withstand the trends of today and tomorrow.

Picture of Alyxandra Sherwood
Alyxandra Sherwood
Digital Marketing Manager @ Mingo Smart Factory I Adjunct Professor @ SUNY Geneseo I Boston Marathoner I Second Street Award Winner I Media Professional with 15 Years Experience