2018 Food Trends – Part 2

In Part 1 of our 2018 Food Trends series, we featured insights from Mintel: transparency, personalization in both diets and shopping, multi-sensory engagement, and the role of technology in disrupting the traditional food chain. In this post, two retailers weigh in…Whole Foods, headquartered in Texas and Waitrose, based in the UK. While these chains operate an ocean apart, their trend forecasts paint an exciting picture for the role of produce in consumer diets as we look ahead to 2018 and beyond.

Floral flavors: A culinary favorite for years, floral inspiration is beginning to move mainstream. Whole flowers, petals, and infusing botanical flavors add a subtly sweet taste and fresh aroma to drinks and snacks. Lavender, rose, pink hibiscus, and elderflower are leading the pack.

Powders with super powers: Easy to add into smoothies, lattes, nutrition bars, soups and baked goods, powders are on the rise as a great way to add energy, nutrition, color, and kick to foods. Matcha, maca root, cacao, turmeric, spirulina, kale, herbs, and roots are among the most popular.

Functional mushrooms: Traditionally used as an ingredient in dietary supplements, mushroom varieties like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane are now being used in bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies, teas, and broths, as well as making an appearance in their fresh form in the produce department. Blending fresh mushrooms with ground meat for a healthier and tasty option is all the rage in restaurants and at home. Research at Penn State has found that mushrooms have unusually high amounts of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione, both associated with anti-ageing benefits.

Global cuisine goes mainstream: Both retailers cite the increasing influence of cuisine from around the world on menus and shopping lists just about everywhere. Three big influences for 2018 include:

  • Taking Middle Eastern flavor up a notch: While hummus, pita, and falafel were the entry points for most consumers, many are moving into more regional nuances and classic ingredients, including spices like harissa, cardamom, and za’atar, and dishes such as shakshuka, grilled halloumi and lamb. Other trending Middle Eastern ingredients include pomegranate, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, mint tahini, tomato jam and dried fruit. Waitrose calls it Indian Street Food: smoked, grilled, or seared delicacies, such as scallops in pickled ginger, and says food trucks selling puris stuffed with zingy vegetables and drizzled in chutney could become a common sight. The cuisine also lends itself to hybrids, such as spiced burgers or lamb keema tacos.
  • Japanese ‘dude food’:  Gutsy sharing dishes favored in Japan’s izakaya bars are set to become a big thing, too. Whether it’s yakitori skewered chicken or deep-fried tofu in broth, the trend will combine the hearty ‘dude food’ of the southern US states with the rich and surprising flavors of after-hours Tokyo. 
  • Trendy tacos: Among the craze for all things Latin American, the taco trend has taken on a life of its own. No longer limited to a tortilla or to savory recipes, tacos are showing up for breakfast, and trendy restaurants across the country have dessert variations. Tacos are shedding their shell for new kinds of wrappers and fillings too – think seaweed wrappers with poke filling. Classic tacos aren’t going anywhere, but greater attention to ingredients is upping their game. One end of the spectrum is hyper-authentic cooking with things like heirloom corn tortillas or classic barbacoa. There are even grain-free options for paleo fans.

Taking transparency to the next level: Like Mintel, these retailers point out that consumers want to know the real story behind their food and how it made its way from the source to the store. GMO transparency is top-of-mind, as is Fair Trade certification, responsible production, animal welfare standards, and greater clarity in nutrition labeling.

Root-to-Stem recipes: The focus on reducing food waste is inspiring 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.

Plant proteins take center plate and go high-tech: The demand for high protein foods will continue, but as more people choose a flexitarian diet (a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of meat) the buzz is all around new plant-based proteins. Whether with pulses, shoots, grains, seeds, soy or even algae, everyone from tiny start-up companies to big brands is looking for new ways to add a protein punch. The use of science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins is creating unique 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 getting so delicious, everyone enjoys them…vegan or not!

And speaking of technology, better-for-you snacks get puffed and popped: Crunchy snacks are perennial favorites, but new technology is revolutionizing all things puffed, popped, dried and crisped. New 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. Good-old-fashioned chips also get an upgrade as part of the trend, with better-for-you bites like jicama, parsnip, or Brussels sprout crisps.

Snacks evolving into a “fourth meal”: There is growing evidence that we are starting to squeeze a small, fourth meal into our daily routine. This is not about overeating, but about adapting our eating schedules to our busy lives. If dinner is particularly early one evening, have a mini cheese on toast before you go to bed. If you’re going to the gym after work, have an energy-boosting salad mid-afternoon. Whether it’s a healthy snack or an indulgent treat, expect to see more of this in the future.

New-age sparkling beverages: There’s a new category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention: flavored sparkling waters like plant-derived options from Sap! (made with maple and birch) and sparkling cold brew from Stumptown are shaking up a fizzy fix. Shoppers are also toasting with mocktails and sparkling mineral water infused with lime, mint, and elderflower, among other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and florals.

The experiential supermarket: Recent years have seen a seismic shift in food shopping habits. As Mintel noted, consumers are increasingly going online and to their mobile devices to make shopping as easy as possible. To differentiate and remain relevant, supermarkets will need to give consumers a reason to come to the store. The future of supermarkets is likely to be an experiential retail space – immersive hubs where shopping is only one of the activities available. After all, who’d have thought 10 years ago there’d be restaurants and wine bars in supermarkets?

What does all this mean for you? These trends represent new opportunities to drive fresh produce and floral sales. For example, retailers might bring together the floral flavors, multi-sensory, and experiential shopping trends by cross-promoting floral-infused foods and fresh floral products together. Merchandising and promotions could position ready-to-eat fruit and veggie snacks and salads as “fourth meal” options. Making root-to-stem recipes available to  shoppers could spark new usage occasions. Growers could tell their field-to-fork story, provide recipes, nutritional and other information, and think about how “less than perfect” produce might be used in better-for-you snacks and beverages.

These are just few thought-starters to help you leverage today’s trends. We’re happy to brainstorm more ideas and help you execute them in-store. Let’s talk  about how we can work together to take advantage of these trends to delight your consumers and grow your business.

Sources: The Waitrose Food & Drink Report 2017-2018; Whole Foods Market Reveals Top Food Trends for 2018
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