’Tis the season for talking trends. And some of the big trends expected to impact the food business in 2018, both in retail and foodservice, have some relation to health and wellness.
Following is a rundown of trends that have a health, wellness and/or nutrition components to them that grocers may be encountering in coming months, or perhaps already have. There are some ideas that overlap among the lists, including plant-based foods. Transparency, though edited out of these lists, also is a predicted trend as consumers look to know more about what they’re eating.
Whole Foods Market’s forecast
The Austin, Texas-based retailer annually forecasts up-and-coming flavors, products and culinary influences.
Among its top 10 trends, compiled by a team of people with “more than 100 years of combined experience in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences,” several reflect health concerns.
- Super Powders—Because they’re so easy to incorporate, they can be found in lattés, smoothies, nutrition bars, soups and baked goods. For an energy boost or an alternative to coffee, powders like matcha, maca root and cacao increasingly are showing up in mugs. Ground turmeric powder, the popular spice used in Ayurvedic medicine, is still on the rise. Powders like spirulina, kale, herbs and roots are being used in smoothies, and protein powders have evolved to feature nutrients like skin- and hair-enhancing collagen.
- Functional Mushrooms—These traditionally are used to support wellness as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Now, varieties like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane are found in products across categories, like bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies and teas. The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavors. Body care also is getting into the mushroom trend in items like soaps and hair care.
- High-Tech Goes Plant-Forward—Plant-based diets and dishes continue to dominate the food world, and now the tech industry has a seat at the table, too. By using science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins, these techniques are creating mind-bending alternatives like “bleeding” vegan burgers or sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes. These new production techniques are also bringing some new varieties of nut milks and yogurts made from pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts and pecans. Dairy-free indulgences like vegan frosting, brownies, ice cream, brioche and crème brûlée are tasting more and more like their traditional counterparts.
- Puffed & Popped Snacks—New extrusion methods—ways of processing and combining ingredients—have paved the way for popped cassava chips, puffed pasta bow ties, seaweed fava chips and puffed rice clusters. Better-for-you bites like jicama, parsnip or Brussels sprout crisps are standing in for traditional potato chips for some consumers.
- Root-to-Stem—Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable, including the stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. Recipes like pickled watermelon rinds, beet-green pesto or broccoli-stem slaw have introduced consumers to new flavors and textures from old favorites.
- Say Cheers to the Other Bubbly—LaCroix may have pioneered it, but now there’s an entire booming category of sparkling beverages. Flavored sparkling waters like plant-derived options from Sap! (made with maple and birch) and sparkling cold brew from Stumptown are some new alternatives; Topo Chico (recently purchased by Coca-Cola) also is a popular mocktail base.
Packaged Facts’ take
Market research firm Packaged Facts also has released it Food Forecast 2018, featuring 10 Food Trends to Watch. Health-related trends among the researcher’s picks:
- Color Is the New Sugar—The vibrant colors of high-antioxidant botanicals signal natural and healthy; beets and purple cauliflower are among this group.
- Pistachio Country Transcontinental—Pistachios are “re-glamorized and nutritious,” according to Packaged Facts. The brightly colored, deeply flavored, protein-packed nut is being used in sweet and savory applications. Sahale Snacks Moroccan-spiced Pomegranate Pistachios were among the first pistachio snacks to combine the appeal of nuts, superfood cues and foreign flavors for exotic-but-accessible food innovation.
- Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing—Non-meats in meat formats. In the restaurant world, this has translated to such concepts as Beefsteak (tomato beefsteak, that is) by José Andrés in Washington, and menu offerings such as shiitake bacon at Gunshow (Brazilian churrascaria meets Chinese dim sum) in Atlanta.
- Vegan and Non-GMO Are the New Green Badges of Food Formulation Courage—With packaged food, innovation focused on clean label, vegan and non-GMO have become all-star package callouts, raising the ante on organic and all-natural. Vegan is a positive cue even among those who are merely friends of vegetarians or vegans, as has also been the case with gluten-free.
Specialty Food Association weighs in
According to SFA, food innovation is running at an all-time high. Its Trendspotter Panel has pinpointed what will be the hottest trends in 2018.
The panel draws perspectives from retail, foodservice, strategic marketing and culinary education, and includes Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect; Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University; Kara Nielsen, CCD Innovation; Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market; Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation; and Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market.
“Macro trends like sustainability and health are converging in the 2018 trends,” says SFA’s Denise Purcell, head of content. “The Panel is predicting more algae and other plant-based proteins and products meant to reduce food waste, as well as growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called ‘goth’ foods. But while a lot of these trends speak to health and better-for-you choices, consumers’ demand for deeper flavor exploration is still strong, as evidenced by the interest in Filipino and regional Middle Eastern foods.”
Among SFA’s trends:
- Plant-based foods. Plant-based options are proliferating in many categories beyond meat substitutes. Segments like cheese and frozen desserts are enjoying growth in plant-based subcategories. As for meat alternatives, algae is winning fans. 2018 will bring more plant-based convenience foods, too.
- Upcycled products. As consumers become more aware of how much food is wasted in the U.S., upcycled products made of ingredients and scraps that would have otherwise been discarded will hold bigger appeal. These include pressed juice made from imperfect fruit, chips made from fruit pulp, and snack bars made from spent grain from the beermaking process; more are expected.
- Goth food. Possibly a reaction to the 2017’s deluge of rainbow and unicorn foods, black is the new black. Activated charcoal—produced by heating coconut shells to extremely high temperatures until they are carbonized—is gaining superfood status for its reported detoxifying attributes and is being used as a surprising twist in everything from pizza crust to lemonade to ice cream.
- Alt-sweet. With sugar topping the list of dietary watch-outs, consumers continue to look to alternative sweeteners for lower glycemic impact, fewer added-sugar calories, and intriguing sweet flavors as well as sustainable footprints. Syrups made from dates, sorghum and even yacon and sun root will join monk fruit on the market as emerging options for sweet.
- Root to stem. Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking—utilizing the entire fruit or vegetable, including things like stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten.
The Trendspotter Panel also expects more cricket flour and non-grain sustainable proteins; fermented foods; cocktail mixers and bitters for home use; savory flavors where one would expect sweet; pasture-raised animals for welfare, better health and taste; and bananas transformed into milks, snacks, frozen desserts, and flours and baking mixes.
Also on the radar: Eating for beauty with products like collagen-infused foods; moringa as the new superfood and mushrooms (extracts, powdered or whole) as a functional ingredient in everything from chocolate to lattes.
Five Dairy Alternative Beverage Trends to Watch in 2018
The market for dairy and dairy alternative beverages will reach a projected $28 billion by 2021, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the new report, Dairy and Dairy Alternative Beverage Trends in the U.S., 4th Edition. Spurring the segment’s growth will be plant-based dairy alternatives, which are expected to come to represent 40 percent of the combined total of dairy and dairy alternative beverages, up from 25 percent in 2016 when dairy alternative beverages alone accounted for barely $6 billion in retail sales.
In recent years, the plant-based dairy beverage alternatives category has seen an expansion of several nut- and legume-based milk alternatives beyond soy, rice, coconut and almond to include varieties made from cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans and tiger nuts. In addition, there are non-dairy milks being offered made from bananas, cassava, oats and potatoes, among others.
These non-dairy milks are expected to find a wider audience in 2018:
- Barley milk: A startup called Canvas has developed a way to convert unused barley grain left over from the beer brewing process into a sustainable plant-based beverage. The line offers five flavors: original, cold brew latte, cocoa, turmeric chai, and matcha. All varieties are free from refined sugar, dairy and artificial ingredients.
- Flax milk: The key selling point for flax milk is its high Omega-3s content. The leading brand, Good Karma, reports that it offers 1,200mg per serving of the nutrient, and its flax products are free of all major allergens. In addition to its sweetened and unsweetened, flavored, and protein-enhanced flax milks, Good Karma offers flax milk-based drinkable yogurts and eggnogs.
- Hemp milk: Hemp is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids as well as being a good source of plant-based protein, with all 10 essential amino acids. May appeal to those looking for a new plant-based milk choice.
- Pea milk: Though the name may not be appealing, this milk has some things to recommend it. One manufacturer, Ripple, says that one serving has 8g of protein, the same as cows’ milk, compared to about 1g of protein in coconut or almond milk. Ripple also has half the sugar of cows’ milk as well as 50 percent more calcium, plus vitamin D and iron. Ripple offers a pea-based half & half product as well as its pea milk line.
- Quinoa milk: This beverage is reported to be high in protein, fiber, vitamins and all nine of the essential amino acids. It also contains important minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and phosphorus and has a low glycemic index.