The food industry is in the midst of a seismic shift that is forever changing the way we eat.

In the past few years alone, dynamic changes in the industry have broken down traditional food channels, products, and ingredients - driving Big Food to lose an estimated $4 billion each year, and an exciting rise of startups that are shaking the foundation of the business.

It was a trend I saw emerging when I started Simple Mills a few years ago. Every time I visited the grocery store, almond flour was sold out. Fast-forward to the present, and alternatives to traditional flour are a multi-million dollar business. It's put my company on the path of fast growth.

As 2017 rounds the corner, this new era of food isn't about to stop changing anytime soon. A look at what's ahead:

1. The Continued Rise of Organic and Natural Foods

Studies point to the end of traditional food business, with 30% of millennials preferring organic foods and ingredients.

Additives and dyes are increasingly unacceptable. Consumers no longer want to see a laundry list of things they can't pronounce in the foods they eat.

It's driven legacy food companies to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to change - but the damage is already done. Trust in Big Food is at the lowest it has been in history, with less than half of the country putting their trust in large food manufacturers. For startups offering organic, natural and other clean food products, it's the opposite.

2. Food as Function

Consumers want more health benefits in what they eat, seeking out foods that pack more punch. They're looking for higher protein, more vitamins and minerals, foods with anti-inflammatory ingredients. Food is no longer something that just fills your stomach, but instead something that fuels your day and optimizes your body.

Continue to watch for this trend as consumers look to their food to work harder for them in foods like bone broth, which is touted for improving joint function; hidden veggies like cauliflower rice, which delivers higher vitamins & minerals than traditional rice; turmeric drinks, consumed for their anti-inflammatory properties; or probiotics to optimize focus and mood.

3. The Return of Fat, and the End of Sugar

In 2016, consumers were shocked by the studies proving that the food industry minimized the harmful effects of sugar, while pointing the finger at fat. The untruth has, over the past forty years, driven the near elimination of fats in our diets, while keeping the risks of sugar hidden.

Also in 2016, the FDA announced changes to the nutrition facts label that will be required of all companies by mid 2018. For the first time in history, the label will require a percent daily value for added sugar. One can of soda will exceed that value. Building on this momentum, four cities passed soda taxes in the 2016 election with 12 more now considering this measure.

Anticipate increased scrutiny on sugar levels and growing acceptance of healthy fats. More food brands and products will follow suit as diets change.

4. Food as a Solution to the Healthcare Crisis

The link between food and chronic illness was recognized nearly a half decade ago. It's sparked much of the new food market we are in today.

But this is likely to become paramount in the year to come, particularly as consumers and the healthcare business search to elevate the burden of illness.

Preventative diets of the past will continue, with a larger growth in ready-to-eat and quick foods that make it easier than ever for people to eat for optimal health - with little effort and more ease.

5. New Packaging, New Labeling

The battle to keep food labels from telling consumers the truth carries into 2017. But, an expanding number of people are using technology and the Internet to decipher labels and discern ingredients.

Minimally prepared, organic, non-GMO, grain-free, low sugar, and natural only touch the tip of the iceberg. Tomorrow's food eater will simply skip products packed with ingredients they can't recognize, pronounce or identify.

Equally, new packaging trends are on course - look for the end of aluminum cans, recycled packaging and reduced plastic in much of 2017.

Published on: Dec 14, 2016