As always, we at TrendWire™ start the new year with our predictions about what to expect in the world of food.
Healthful Eating Is Hotter Than Ever
The year 2007 saw more people than ever interested in their overall health, and restaurants and food producers are getting the message. Here are our top subtrends within this megatrend for 2008.
- Less is better. In increasing numbers, people are ditching the “more is better” mentality and realizing that often less is better, especially if the quality is higher. We’ll watch portion sizes continue to shrink in restaurants, even as prices stay steady. Consider the “Right Size Right Price” menu at TGI Friday’s and the Sweet Shot desserts at Chili’s.
- Increased snacking. People are beginning to eat smaller portions more often. Continue to watch QSRs create menu items geared to snacking. Think the McDonald’s Snack Wrap (http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/eat/features/chipotlesnackwrap.html), the KFC Snacker (http://www.kfc.com/menu/sandwiches_snacker.asp), and the new Quizno’s Sammies (http://www.quiznos.com/index.aspx) as examples.
- Healthier formulations of menu items. Starbucks announced it will finally put a skinny latte on the menu. Many of us have ordered our favorite coffee drinks “sugar free, fat free” for years; now it will be an official menu item. Jack in the Box announced a new Smart Choice logo program to identify healthy menu options.
- Increased interest in whole grains. One area that many food companies will continue to focus product development dollars on is whole grains. People will continue to watch and count the number of servings of whole grains they’re getting daily, and smart food producers will make this easier for them.
- Appreciation for heart-healthy foods. Among other heart-healthy foods, consumers are paying attention to Omega-3 fatty acids (which lower your risk of heart disease) in things such as flaxseed oil and salmon.
- Continued interest in antioxidants. People are aware of and interested in the benefits of antioxidants in their diets. They’re looking to familiar fruits (such as blackberries and blueberries) and exotics (such as açaí, mangosteens, and pomegranates) to help them meet their daily needs.
- Attack on HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup). Some experts believe that this widely used sweetener is the next “trans fat,” meaning it’s the next component of the American diet to be monitored, reduced, and eventually removed from many of the foods we eat. In the same way many companies reformulated their systems to use trans fat-free oils, look for some to follow suit by substituting new sweeteners for this metabolism-altering one.
Going green is a current catchphrase that is becoming ubiquitous in many areas of our lives. In a nutshell, the term “green living” describes a lifestyle that minimizes negative impact and, whenever possible, increases positive impact on the environment. Terms such as “organic” and “natural” are increasingly recognized by consumers and tend to impact their buying decisions. But consumers are increasingly moving beyond these terms and looking at the full picture of the companies they choose to spend their money with. Look for more restaurants and markets in the future to follow sustainable environmental practices (such as Chipotle’s Food With Integrity [http://www.chipotle.com/#flash/fwi_fare?sub=2], Burgerville [http://www.burgerville.com/html/our_company/fall-animation.html], and Whole Foods Declaration of Interdependence [http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/declaration.html] for example) and be rewarded at the cash register for it.
Americans seems to be looking for more and different flavors to test their palates. Look for these flavors to make news this year.
- Açaí—This Amazonian superfood made huge inroads into mainstream America this year, even showing up in toaster pastries and smoothies. Look for it to continue.
- Yuzu—A sour Japanese citrus fruit about the size of a tangerine. Most commonly, people use the dehydrated rind that’s been ground to a powder. It’s been used in higher-end restaurants for the last several years and is a key ingredient in ponzu sauce, but this might be the year that yuzu comes on strong.
- Aji Amarillo—This Peruvian yellow hot pepper with a slightly fruity flavor is commonly ground into colorful cooking powders. It has a two-fold attraction: it’s a “new” pepper and it’s Peruvian. All things Peruvian are poised to make a splash this year.
- Cherimoya—Sometimes called a custard apple, this Peruvian fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a custardlike texture. Some people characterize its flavor as a blend of pineapple, mango, and strawberry.
Watch for several categories of cuisine to make food news this year. Here’s the short list:
- Peruvian—Touted as the next Mexican cuisine, Peruvian food is poised to explode beyond major urban areas.
- Southern/Low Country—Maybe it’s our continued interest in Hurricane Katrina cleanup two years later, but more people are interested in down-home Southern cooking than ever before. Polenta is out, grits are in.
- Vietnamese and Korean—As Americans are increasing their love of all things Asian, they will continue to move beyond the ubiquitous Japanese and Chinese restaurants available in almost every town in the country. The cuisine will increasingly become more authentic to other regions, notably Vietnamese and Korean. Thai food will continue to become entrenched in our dining out experiences.
- Indian—Watch Indian flavors continue to move into menu items, often under the Pan-Asian umbrella. Raitas (yogurt-based sauces) and tandoori meats will become more popular.
- Breakfast—As more people attempt to eat healthily, they realize the importance of getting their day started with food. Look for more convenient, healthy breakfast options to appear both in restaurants and in markets.