Among the various predicted food trends for 2016, one is of special interest for anyone interested in the genetically modified organisms (GMO) debate, especially those who don’t quite get why opting out of growing genetically modified crops, as Scotland has chosen to do along with 18 other EU countries and counting, chimes with the global zeitgeist.

The billion-dollar US confectionary company Hershey’s has already committed to making its two iconic products, milk chocolate bars and Kisses, GMO-free by the end of this year. This has meant swapping GM sugar beet for cane sugar, using a non-GM soy lecithin and removing artificial vanillin and emulsifiers. It’s a significant move which, according to forecasters JWT Intelligence, will force other big confectionary brands to re-assess their own strategies.

This makes business sense as 2016 is predicted to be the year of what JWT dubs “natural junk” food. Other global brands are already taking steps to ensure their snacks contain unadulterated ingredients, such as PepsiCo’s launch of naturally flavoured fizzy drinks and Nestle’s confectionary range of free-from artificial colours and flavours.

All of this is being done to pander to growing consumer demand for non-adulterated “clean label” food. Put another way, big brands are being forced to respond to old-fashioned people power for fear of losing profits. This means re-thinking how they source their basic ingredients.

A fascinating agricultural commodities report by reveals that in the US, one of world’s largest growers of bio-engineered crops, sales of foods verified as non-GMO, including corn and soyabeans, have tripled since 2013 to $15 billion in the year to September 2015. This has prompted at least one major agricultural commodities trader to declare that “GMO-free is a force to be reckoned with and to pay attention to”.

The report also states that, in the US, organic food sales have doubled since 2007 to $36bn in 2014.

On a micro-level, things are moving a bit faster. Nimble-footed small start-up companies have already grasped the nettle and are responding to the new demographic of millennials: those consumers born between 1980-2000, or aged between 15-35, who are the big spending generation of the future. According to Bozena Jankowska of Allianz Global Investors, these consumers are the ones to listen to, rather than the baby-boomers, because by 2018 their spending power will be in the region of $3.39tr.

Influenced by a stream of media stories making the link between the global food industry and obesity, Jankowska says healthier food has now become an ethical issue that investors ignore at their peril. Millennials like food that is healthy, safe and fresh. Crucially, they also want more transparency around how their food is produced.

To capture that huge spending potential, she advises that brands must respond and innovate – and invest in organic.

The trickle-down effect is already apparent. Some 20 healthy fast-casual outlets opened in London last month alone, and in Scotland it’s a similar story. One example is the rapid expansion of healthy fast food start-up Martha’s in Glasgow.

When Waitrose reports that families now consider granulated sugar to be the new fat, that (locally grown) courgette ribbons are the new pasta, you know the ground is shifting.