TRENDING: The pursuit of happiness

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Consumers want to be happy; they want less stress, more convenience; and they want to be heathier. How can brands make it happen?

By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. As we head into yet another year underlined with uncertainty, marketers and retailers must be clear on consumer influences, what they value, and how to ensure key marketing messaging is able to drive sales, while reducing price sensitivity. Consumers want to be happy; they want less stress, more convenience; and they want to be heathier. How can brands make it happen?

With multiple factors impacting business and consumer confidence as we rapidly transition from the rollercoaster of 2023 with hardly a pause, speeding into 2024, it seems that the only way to make sense of it all is to look at the data. Marketers must understand the state of mind of our customers and their changing habits in relation to environmental stresses. The UK’s FMCG consumer thinktank, FMCG Gurus, produces its Top Ten Trends each year for the consumer packaged goods industry, and the focus for 2024 is very much on consumer day-to-day survival strategies and how brands and retail strategy stays on top of the prevailing trends.

“The markets have been shaped by a prevailing theme of uncertainty and worry, as consumers face challenges such as war, the pandemic, price inflation, and growing pressures on food systems. As a result, consumers have accepted the inevitability of uncertainty and have adopted a day-to-day focus, striving to protect their physical and emotional wellness,” the report states. Retailing Africa lists the top retail and brand trends for 2024 from FMCG Gurus, with our takeaway from each one:

1. MAXIMISE MY VALUE: While the cost-of-living crises continues on a global scale, retailers and brands need to be reminded that consumers are not looking for the lowest prices, but good value for money and efficiency.

FMCG Gurus calls it the “Age of Affordability” as consumers struggle to afford even everyday necessities, so price and value become extremely important. Entertainment is also getting the chop, as consumers stay home and entertain. “As consumers adopt recessionary-style spending habits, brand loyalty decreases, and they become more willing to shop around and engage in high/low consumerism. However, consumers also have a high sense of entitlement and aim to minimise compromise. They will seek resourceful ways to minimise the risk of going without, including reducing food waste and taking advantage of promotional offers. Brands and retailers should respond by offering packaging innovations that extend shelf-life and personalised promotional offers tailored to individual needs.”

Takeaway: Brand and retail promotions are where consumers will focus attention; and premium foods and home cooking kits rise in popularity as consumers prioritise entertaining at home for special occasions.

2. GREEN HORIZON: An increased focus on minimising the impact of the food and drink industry on the environment by reducing waste, conserving resources, promoting ethical sourcing and production, and ensuring transparency in supply chains.

Consumers are suffering crisis-fatigue and that unfortunately translates to “eco-fatigue”. They are simply overwhelmed by sustainability messaging, despite an increased global focus on ESG strategies at major corporates and brands worldwide. Coupled to this, however, is the consumer demand for ethical products and the rise of upcycling within communities. A fallacy still exists that sustainability equals high-cost products, so it is up to retailers and brands to engage with consumers on affordable ways to reduce their footprint, choose more sustainable options and include price promotions that show the value of choosing eco-friendly options. It is a conversation retailers and brands should already be having.

FMCG Gurus found: “As consumers become more conscious of global warming and food shortages, they expect all producers, regardless of size, to adopt resourceful and environmentally friendly practices that safeguard biodiversity and natural resources. It is not just large multinational corporations that face scrutiny, but also small scale and local producers. While consumers acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis, it is essential not to overestimate the influence of sustainability claims on purchasing decisions. Many consumers feel overwhelmed by environmental messages, especially during uncertain times and the association of these products with a higher price point.”

Takeaway: Since 53% of global consumers believe environmentally-friendly products are too expensive; and 47% of global consumers are sceptical about environmental claims made by brands and manufacturers, brands need to focus on promoting the value in environmental products through added benefits, such as improved health, quality, and enhanced safety, reports FMCG Gurus.

3. MY PLATE, MY PROFILE: Leveraging technology to create tailored dietary solutions that meet the unique nutritional needs and preferences of consumers.

This is where personalisation comes in, with a focus on bespoke products and services for consumers, to ensure products and solutions, particularly in health and wellness, are meeting the needs of the individual consumer. Ingredients that boost health and functional products that support overall consumer wellbeing, and fitness-related offerings are still a growth category, as long as they are “personalised, tailored and customised to individual preferences, needs and lifestyles”, FMCG Gurus reports. “Consumers encounter various challenges when looking to improve their health, including the perception that there is a lack of suitable products on the market to address specific needs. As consumers have become more thoughtful in their spending habits, they are increasingly questioning the value of products. Over a third of consumers have indicated that spending on health and wellness is less of a priority. However, this does not imply that they will completely refrain from spending in this category. Instead, they will be more cautious in their health-related purchases, questioning the essentiality and value of products.”

Takeaway: Don’t miss the next wave of innovation in the health space as customised customer solutions using DNA/genetics to target personalised health solutions and technology innovation.

4. STRIVE FOR HAPPINESS: Prioritising happiness by seeking products that enhance well-being, provide enjoyable experiences, and evoke emotions of comfort and escapism.

Simplicity, self-care, mindfulness and positivity are the consumer watchwords here. A frenetic and uncertain world makes consumers want safety at home and reassurance (remember the “cocooning” trend coined by Faith Popcorn during another turbulent decade?). Brands can step up here and create positive experiences for consumers, both online and in store and at home. It is a unique time, where we are so connected to global events, as well as within our own communities, and brands are still grappling somewhat with helping consumers with that uncertainty, given the scramble to provide value as prices soared over the past couple of years. But value is about more than price, as the “affordable indulgence” trend identified by FMCG Gurus, takes hold.

“This trend is fuelled by a broader desire for moments of daily escapism that can help alleviate stress and boost feelings of happiness. Consumers are actively seeking out products that can improve their mood and happiness. They are interested in products that help maximize social relationships, provide a form of escapism and incorporate ingredients that enhance mood.”

Takeaway: For brands, this means providing consumers with opportunities to treat themselves and indulge in escapism or boost happiness, even if it is in a daily micro-moment.

5. NATURAL HARMONY: There is a growing demand for products that are free-from artificial additives, preservatives, and chemicals. Many consumers perceive naturalness as healthier.

The affirmations continue in this report with words like “transparency, harmony, balance, integrity and locality” being applied to the supply chain as well, so that consumers feel confident about where products on shelf are sourced and where the ingredients originate. When pandemic lockdowns disrupted the global supply chain, it brought home to all of us how important a local product pipeline is, to reduce costs as well as to support local business. It is wonderful to see how many of our own retailers in South Africa are sourcing product from local suppliers to support the local economy – and of course create goodwill in the communities they operate in.

FMCG Gurus reports: “In 2024, a prominent theme among consumers will be their pursuit of happiness. This includes a desire to feel good, not only by improving their own well-being, but also by making responsible and ethical choices. Consumers will actively seek out food products that are both nutritious and produced in a fair and accountable manner throughout the entire supply chain. This trend will be reinforced by an increased focus on home cooking, driven by health and financial considerations.”

Takeaway: Brands need to prioritise labelling even more, as consumers check labels for “bad ingredients” and transparency and authenticity. The issue is that this is often driven by “guilt” as it talks to their consumption patterns and is not associated with positive emotions. So there lies the challenge for brands – to create a more positive experience with packaging and labelling, so consumers feel good and not guilty for what they put in their bodies.

6. BREAKING BARRIERS: Promoting open conversations and breaking stigmas. Developing products and marketing strategies that embrace diversity, and promote inclusivity in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, body type, and other demographics.

Brand messaging must be inclusive, using diverse narratives to create “storytelling for all”, reports FMCG Gurus, in highlighting the need for an inclusive future that celebrates all communities, to ensure all consumers have a sense of belonging and connection. This is especially true of the younger generations who are more gender-fluid and accepting of all lifestyles. Break barriers or invite boycotts. Our influencer teens are coming for brands.

“Consumer self-expression is a key factor when it comes to brand preferences. Consumers seek brands that align with their attitudes and perspectives on life. This is important in the age of social media, where consumers can learn more about brands and use these platforms to showcase their identity to others. This behaviour directly influences purchasing decisions, with more than a quarter of consumers stating they have boycotted brands due to perceived ethical shortcomings. Generation Alpha, raised in the social media era, will challenge societal norms and value self-expression. This highly educated generation faces challenges like housing affordability and changes in the job market. Brands must understand their attitudes, avoid being seen as outdated, and actively support social causes. Generation Alpha expects accountability, kindness, inclusivity, and progressive thinking from food and drink brands. They prioritise brand transparency and believe brands should play a role in protecting society.”

Takeaway: FMCG Gurus research has found that most consumers view branding and advertising in the FMCG market as “outdated” and “stereotypical”. Whether it is outdated traditional gender roles or how we perceive the elderly or even market to younger generations. Brands and their agencies are out of touch in the main with their consumers. Messaging must reflect broad societal change to resonate with consumers and their desire for self-expression – especially the younger generations. This is what the researchers advise marketers to do: “Showcase progressive values, champion social movements, and exhibit qualities such as kindness, empathy, and understanding.”

7. TECH MEETS TASTE: The integration of technology to optimise, innovate, and enhance customer experiences, and drive efficiency across supply chains.

This is an important one, especially with the rise of AI tools which aid customer personalisation. We will also see product categories converging and the exploration of new flavours in product innovation. Worries over food security and supply chain shortages over the past few years have meant that consumers are ready to try protein alternatives of hybrids.

“The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has received significant attention. The food and drink industry must recognise and explore the potential benefits AI can offer by optimising agricultural supply chains. Climate change has made crop production more unpredictable, highlighting the importance of addressing waste. To achieve maximum efficiency, farming processes can leverage AI to monitor and predict weather patterns, identifying optimal production times. AI can also measure carbon emissions and food waste, facilitating quality control and streamlining adherence to criteria throughout the supply chain.”

Takeaway: Brands need to do more consumer education around protein alternatives and plant-based products, from a health, value and food security point of view.

8. FOR TODAY, BETTER TOMORROW: Acting for today from a health-conscious and environmentally-conscious perspective. Consumers want health-boosting and ethical products to improve their health on a day-to-day basis.

Fortified and enhanced products is a trend that was amplified during the pandemic and continues to evolve as a mainstream product category as consumers demand functional, health-boosting, and convenient options for their day-to-day healthier lifestyles. Product innovation in healthier and sustainable products should be top of the agenda of any food or lifestyle brand.

“This proactive approach to health is driving the demand for functional products, with a preference for food and drink formats over nutritional supplements. Food and drink options are associated with sensory appeal, convenience, and affordability, which makes them more appealing to consumers. In contrast, consumers may have concerns about certain ingredients in nutritional supplements and experiencing side effects. Recognising these concerns, the industry is working to address them, which has contributed to the rising popularity of functional gummies in recent years. Despite sometimes offering lower dosages, these products are seen as blurring the line between food and supplements.”

Takeaway: Post-pandemic, stressed out consumers want products that boost their immune systems, give them ‘clean’ energy (without harmful side effects), and address specific benefits like cognitive focus and weight loss.

9. PURSUING SIMPLICITY: A shift towards back-to-basics nutrition, through streamlined ingredients, adaptogens, safety credentials, and convenient, on-the-go products to meet the needs of consumers seeking clean and convenient options.

In a world growing more chaotic it seems, consumers want convenience, simplicity and efficiency – product ingredients that are easy to understand, a shopping journey with quick and easy steps online and with delivery options, and solutions for busy lifestyles – without worrying about harmful ingredients. “In the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in meal-time fragmentation, with consumers opting to skip meals and replacing them with snacks or food service options. However, the current rising prices may reverse this behaviour, causing consumers to cut back on out-of-home spending and prioritise eating at home.”

Takeaway: Focus on at home, convenient meal options with value, and transparent packaging,

10. REVIVE AND THRIVE: Prioritising various areas of health and wellness through clean, health-boosting, natural ingredients.

Health remains a top priority for consumers this year, and with more understanding of the importance of gut health and the gut microbiome, there is increasing focus on functional medicine and holistic health. “Brands must offer products which promote health and wellness. Consumers are proactive with various areas of health and well-being. There is a focus on natural, back to- basics nutrition. Many consumers recognise how health and sustainability are interlinked. Brands should position products as healthy and ethical, without compromising on taste,” FMCG Gurus asserts.

Takeaway: It boils down to how well you know your customer, how you build brand loyalty through personalised customer experiences and what the data is telling you. It is time to get back to the basics of marketing to help your overwhelmed consumer deal with this uncertain world.

A last world from FMCG Gurus: “Offer personalised, tailored, and customised products. With the magnification of health and the rapid evolution of technology, there is an opportunity for brands to cater to consumers’ individual nutritional needs and preferences. Some opportunities could involve DNA testing and applications to assist specific health goals based on genetics, dietary restrictions, allergies, and more. Prioritise at-home occasions and happiness. Fostering social connections with family, friends, and local communities will be key over the next 12 months. Consumers are striving for happiness and deem social interaction highly valuable. This trend is leading to increased at-home occasions, in which consumers are seeking more premium foods and beverages to eat in the home.”

FMCG Gurus’ unique trend wheel summarises the headline trend indicators:

DOWNLOAD: Explore the Top Ten Trends that will define the food, beverage, and supplement markets in 2024 in more detail by downloading the FMCG Gurus Top Ten Trends for 2024.


Louise Burgers is the Publisher & Editor of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She is also an Adjunct Lecturer in Marketing and Advertising Communications at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business; and works with the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council as Editorial Director. Specialising in local and Africa consumer trends, Louise is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger this decade.

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