The Food Channel has released our 2011 Trends Forecast – the Top Ten Trends we see for the coming year, and the top ten foods to watch. This report is put together in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists® and Mintel International.
Our values have changed in recent years. We now value different things than we did before the economy slumped, jobs became a precious commodity, and technology turned out to complicate our lives as much as it gave us shortcuts. Sure, for years we talked about simplicity, sometimes under names like “local” or “social consciousness,” or “green.” But it was like true simplicity was second string—something that we should probably want, but didn’t, not really.
Well, that whole paradigm is quickening thanks to the economy. As we head into 2011, we see people beginning to cherish simplicity. Yes, we have tasted simplicity and have been won over.
Here’s the rub: just as a good writer understands that writing fewer words is harder than a lot of words, removing things from our lives is harder than adding to them. And, yet, we see that the 2011 Food Trends are about embracing what may be a little more difficult, because it has proven its value.
Farming. Diet and exercise. Venturing out into new tastes and flavors. Finding our food identity in the kitchen, in the halls of government, and in technology. We value things that are, if not exactly close to us, are at least close to the little guy. The new food simplicity is about putting value on the independent grower, on the person who is striving to make a difference—one farm, one person, one business at a time. In 2011, the consumer is all about buying from a business that is dedicated to creating a quality product, dedicated to doing the right thing, regardless of the size of the business or the number of products they produce.
In that spirit, we have taken a look into the future and seen that it is local, it is individual, and it is valuable. Take a look at what we see.
Food preservation has a rejuvenation. They used to call it “putting up,” as in putting up tomatoes or corn for the winter ahead. Maybe your grandmother still refers to it that way. What it means of course is canning, pickling, and preserving—and more and more folks will be getting into it for a number of reasons. One major one is the concern for food safety. The recent scares over contaminated tomatoes, peanut butter, and eggs have driven people to take more control over what they put on the table. Read more.
A gender role reversal is bubbling up in the kitchen. The slumping economy has hit men harder than women, with job losses in traditionally male fields such as finance and construction. Women, on the other hand, are employed in fields that are expected to flourish in the years ahead. As Mintel points out, it’s left many couples with a new balance of power: female breadwinner, male bread buyer (and baker). The rise of the Sheconomy, TIME magazine calls it, and it’s expected to last for a while. For every two guys who graduate from college, three women do. The recession is only part of it. Men have been influenced by macho chefs on TV’s cooking shows, where it’s all about culinary competition, achievement and triumph. Plus, what guy doesn’t love a cool new gadget or tool? And there are lots of those in the kitchen these days. Read more.
Support a local grower . . . anywhere. Politicians say that all politics is local. It’s becoming more and more evident that the same is true for food. This trend understands that mindset—that it’s all about eating local, but that local goes beyond a geographical definition. The new local is really about the independent spirit that causes entrepreneurial people to develop new food products, open new restaurants, and bring new food ideas to life. In other words, local has moved, and it didn’t leave a forwarding address. Read more.
Sometimes we don’t want to know the nutrition numbers. Politicians on the local, state and federal government level are stepping up efforts to legislate healthier eating. These well-meaning efforts have led to calorie counts on restaurant menus, bans on trans fats, and a war on sodium. They’ve also brought about a backlash. Let’s face it. Some things we just don’t want to know. We’re okay having pamphlets on nutrition being available, but do we really have to have the calories and fat listed in bold type on the menu right next to our favorite megaburger? For many, it’s just another example of the growing Nanny State, and the answer is simply “No, thanks.” Read more.
Discount eats make the new smart phone apps delicious. Just as the adorable antics of cats have become the unexpected stars of the Internet, food has become the dominant attraction of smart phones. It seems like there’s a new mobile food app popping up every time you start to feel hungry. You can shake your phone on Urbanspoon to create a slot machine effect that spins neighborhood, cuisine type, and price to help you find a restaurant; VegOut helps you find one with lots of vegetarian choices; and Open Table not only locates restaurant choices using GPS technology, but also lets you know if there are tables currently available. But it’s the instant 24/7 availability of mobile grocery coupons and restaurant deals on smart phones that consumers will really grab onto in the coming year. Read more.
Getting closer to the customer. Go ahead. Look closely at the pizza in the photo above. It’s not food styled. It’s not machine produced. And yet every ingredient on this pizza is real. This is a big business pizza that laid down the gauntlet after listening to its customers. As anyone who works for a big corporation knows, the bigger your brand, the larger a target you may become. In today’s world, a corporate mindset might be bad for business. Read more.
Rediscovering the butcher, baker and cheese maker. We see American food shoppers going about their marketing a bit more like our European counterparts in the coming year. People will be returning to the neighborhood butcher shop to pick up fresh meats and grabbing their specialty breads and pastries at the corner bakery or bakery-café, and shopping on nearly an everyday basis for the evening meal. Yes, the large supermarkets and everything-under-one-roof big box stores will still get the lion’s share of our grocery dollars, but the increased popularity of farmers markets has whetted our appetite for locally-sourced foods and one-on-one personal attention. Read more.
Living up to their pledge, chefs join the cafeteria crews. This will be the year we finally get really serious about feeding our children healthier, better quality foods. We’re no longer just talking about childhood obesity, we’re doing something about it. Jamie Oliver came with TV cameras to the “unhealthiest city in America” and showed what a difference one person can make. In 2011 thousands of chefs will be working with school districts to get better, fresher foods on the kids’ trays. Read more.
Eating your way out of your comfort zone. In some ways, we’ve grown accustomed to a topsy-turvy world and are embracing food that accentuates that. However, at other times, we find the situation just a little bit unnerving. This trend is about consciously trying new things that stretch our food vocabulary and experience. Read more.
Looking for foods that keep us young, strong and active. It’s no secret that Americans are reaching retirement age in record numbers, now that the Baby Boomers are starting to hit their mid-sixties. And, as they have since they first began to walk, boomers will influence nearly everything in 2011, including foods. As Mintel reports, many boomers will continue to work—and they’ll demand foods that provide the energy and vitality to get them through the day. And, as sales for Viagra prove, boomers want to stay in shape for nighttime activities, too. Look for more food products to make bedroom performance claims in the years ahead. Nutmeg, for one, has gained a lot of press recently for its reputation as a female aphrodisiac. Read more.