Food manufacturers should seek out new ways to replace sugar in products to satisfy consumers demands.

Finding ways to replace or reduce sugar without sacrificing taste will be a big concern for bakers in 2018. Skepticism of artificial sweeteners has consumers looking for new ways to fill their cravings with substitutes they perceive to be healthier. Clean label sweeteners and fruit-based replacements can be a good place to start when experimenting with alternatives.

Product labeling 2.0

The demand for greater transparency isn’t going away anytime soon. Consumers will continue to seek out any information they can find on the products they buy. Label visibility will play a key role in building consumer loyalty, and brands should make sure ingredients and sourcing information are clearly visible on labels. Shoppers want new depths of information across the spectrum, including fair trade certification, responsible production and no animal testing, Ms. Truesdell said. 

Root to stem
Root-to-stem cooking takes the goal of food waste reduction to a whole new level. This trend asks food manufacturers to use the entire fruit or vegetable — including stems or leaves — when creating products. Within this trend, new product development among packaged foods operators may be slow but early adopters have a lot to gain.

Traditional bread is poised to make a comeback in 2018.

Cannabis cuisine 
The legalization of recreational marijuana in some states is reshaping the way manufacturers create products. New varieties of marijuana-infused snacks and bakery items will increase as more states look to legalize the herb. However, those looking to get into the market must be cautious, as stricter rules and guidelines are required to produce these items. 

A (deeper) feast from the Middle East
Consumers love for Middle Eastern fare has proved to be strong one. Hummus, pita and falafel are popular, but consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional differences and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top, Ms. Truesdell said. To gain attention from consumers, snack makers can incorporate spices such as harissa or za’atar into seasonings while bakers can draw from the rich history of Arab desserts that include knafeh, mamoul, kashta and more.

The rise of traditional bread

“Although we’ve seen the explosion of gluten-free in the last few years, the traditional side of bakery has also been elevated by the same sourcing and fine-tuned production processes we see with proteins and vegetables,” Mr. Blanchette said. Bakers that go back to traditional production techniques and incorporate high-quality ingredients are poised to win with consumers. In addition, they are looking for breads that offer an array of health benefits. “Bread has become all or nothing, either high-end and artisan or low-carb and high-protein,” Mr. Deutsch said.