As we approach year’s end, many fresh produce industry experts release their predictions about what trends we can look to encounter during the coming year. We always value the Top Ten list presented by our friend Phil Lempert, and his predictions will be available later in the year – we will, of course, share those with you.
Some interesting insights have been offered recently – one from our nation’s biggest supermarket retailer (Kroger), and another from a respected foodservice industry research firm (Technomic). While the Kroger predictions might seem more applicable to your store / business, keep in mind that most item trends that show up in your produce department have their beginning in a restaurant. Each quarterly issue of United’s Fresh Insights for Foodservice begins with a “Menu Adoption Cycle”, which outlines how an item ultimately shows up on menus and, more appropriately, on supermarket shopping lists. Remember that most of the new items you chose to offer in 2018 progressed this way: initially Inception, where a specific is used in a fine-dining or ethnic independent restaurant. That progresses to Adoption, where fast-casual or casual restaurants offer menu items using that product at a lower cost. Next is Proliferation – the item has become mainstream, with a broader audience created by including that item in pasta, on burgers, etc. Finally, we have Ubiquity, where items become more common and widely sought after – including showing up on the shopping lists of your customers!
So, here is an initial list of predicted food trends for 2019, combining supermarket expertise with restaurant savvy:
Regional Flavors. (From a Columbus Business First article listing Kroger’s predicted trends) “Foods influenced by regions across the country are bringing flavor and fun to any meal. America’s culinary heritage is as varied as it is delicious. Consumers will see a growing number of products influenced by local, regional and global tastes.”
Plant-based Foods. (Columbus Business First) “Consumers are finding it easier than ever before to incorporate more plant-based fare into their daily diets. By choosing to go meat or dairy free, whether for a meal, a Meatless Monday, Flexitarian Friday, or every day of the week, there will be more plant-based options available to power through the day. Last year, 31 percent of consumers participated in meat-free days once per week.”
Eating Styles. (Columbus Business First) “More consumers are purchasing better-for-you products and subscribing to different eating styles, from vegetarian to flexitarian to keto and paleo. A recent study reports 15 percent of the U.S. population identify as vegetarian or vegan. Respond by offering and develop new products that make it easy for any customer practicing any lifestyle to find foods to support their health and wellness journey.”
Gut Healthy Foods. (Columbus Business First) “Medical studies show that a healthy gut is the foundation of overall wellness, and more than ever before, consumers are seeking foods that support self-care and healthy immune systems. Consumers will seek a growing number of products rich in probiotics – good bacteria – and flavor.”
Levitating Levantine Cuisine. (Technomic “7 Key Trends for 2019” report) “Growing interest in Israeli cuisine over the past few years has led to increased flavor innovation from Israel’s surrounding countries.” Based on that, expect heightened sales on: olives, figs, pomegranates, dates, Swiss chard, eggplant, and broccolini.
Natural Enhancements. (Technomic) “Functional foods are the ‘it’ health trend today. The first wave of the trend is in full form: operators are promoting natural remedies such as turmeric as ingredients that fix something in the body that’s lacking in some way. 2019 will see a blossoming of the second wave of the functional trend: natural enhancements, meaning ingredients that enhance something in the body such as brain function, beauty and mental health. Expect to see more innovative uses of ingredients such as collagen for beauty, cannabis for relaxation and karkade (hibiscus tea) for stress relief.”
A New, Multifaceted Transparency. (Technomic) “Mention transparency in years past and consumers would likely connect it to a product story around sourcing, food origins, and growing/processing methods. But tomorrow’s foodservice consumer increasingly will demand a more well-rounded transparency message and, in response, manufacturers and operators will craft a multifaceted approach. This means brands being fully transparent on several fronts, including pricing – revealing true net costs and unbundled costs – corporate performance emphasizing fair trade, diversity, living wages and executive compensation and the planet, publicizing real environmental impact, conservation initiatives and progressive stance on animal welfare.”
In Conclusion: What’s Next? (Technomic) I paraphrase the article’s summary remarks: “The next year will continue to reveal the power of disruption. All channels – including restaurants, supermarkets, etc. – will galvanize behind what consumers want and drive efforts to meet their needs. In an era of consumer hyper-choice, restaurants and supermarkets will have to do more to stand out – and execute seamlessly in terms of exceptional service, food quality/integrity, transparency, and sustainability.” 2019 stacks up to be another exciting year in our industry. As always, success comes with addressing the needs of the consumer.
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