Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”, and in 2014, it just seemed that Americans finally took notice of his advice. A year where virtually all food trends were health-based; the themes of honesty, transparency and wellness that have acutely manifested since the recession, have now become steamroller trends that will unquestionably maintain velocity over the coming years.
The fact is that consumers are now very much in charge of food trends in today’s world – they have demanded and instigated change. Those restaurants and retailers that have responded positively have already seen highly favorable benefits.
The dichotomy, however, between modern eating and today’s advanced technology is uniquely enigmatic. Actually, modern eating is not so modern – in fact to the contrary – today’s consumers’ desire: traditional farming methods, organic foods, and above all, honesty in their food. This is becoming so extreme that consumers are buying food that uses 100 year old production methodology, while learning about and researching the very same food on the most advanced 4G mobile technology.
Regardless of how old our food is – it is undeniable that the impact the digital community has on trends and food culture is enormous and growing. Research illustrates that consumers react to social media content far more than they create it, which means many are mainly exploring. As a result, one person’s post to taste a Peruvian taco or drink a raw juice with nasturtium leaves ---- or, even more powerful, posting a photo of the product ---- can reach thousands of people in just one hour.
As we look into future food trends, it is essential we understand that information and connectivity are primary drivers in today’s food culture. This revolution is being forced by consumers’ appetite for healthier, safer food choices.
As we head into 2015, there are six primary themes when establishing future food trends:
1. Health and Wellness
2. Food Source
4. Bold Flavors
5. Raw Material Technology Reversal
6. Creative Food Innovation
These themes relate to all future food trends, in some cases at multiple levels, and as such are the foundation to current and future trends.
1. Health and Wellness
Sugar’s reputation took a gigantic hit in 2013, and it continues to worsen. In fact, it is now generally understood that added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. The evidence is mounting that sugar, NOT fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism.
Recent studies show that elevated fructose intake can raise triglycerides--small, dense LDL (low-density lipoprotein / aka ‘bad cholesterol” and oxidized LDL, raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity… in just 10 weeks.
While sugar leads the pack in health concerns, food in general is under scrutiny from a health perspective. From sodium levels, to dietary fibers, gluten-free, and trans-fats, to name a few – consumers are more aware than ever about what they are putting in their bodies.
2. Food Source
It’s not new that consumers want to know what is in their food. They are, however, seeking a far more honest description combined with sources and nutritional data. The need for information driven by general awareness and in many cases dietary needs means that labeling is a primary driver in consumer food purchasing. Labeling is not just needed in print. QR codes (an optically machine-readable label that is attached to an item and records information related to that item) are increasingly used by consumers to access additional product and nutritional information.
Food source is becoming more and more important to consumers – the buy local concept has virtually become a quality distinction marker for food and ingredients as well as community and environmental causes.
Since the recession, we’ve been reporting on the consumer’s desire for honesty. Far from fading, however, this theme is becoming increasingly more important to the consumer. Honesty is not just about the truth in food, it’s about the concept of the truth the consumer seeks: Brands that are fair and trustworthy, that have a social responsibility policy, and that sell products which are genuinely fresh and natural.
4. Bold Flavors
The farm to table movement keeps growing stronger every year. Farm-sourced foods are not just about better flavor. Local farmers can grow produce for optimal flavor and nutritional value instead of focusing on the resiliency needed for produce to travel long distances before being consumed. Organics have proved to be more flavorful than regular farmed food and livestock; hence the increased market share.Chefs are employing old-world cooking techniques, like using skewers, open fire, rotisseries and smoke, to add distinction and depth to dishes.
5. Raw Material Technology Reversal
Healthfulness is also now a reflection of a combination of attributes—fresh, real, avoidance of certain substances, inclusion of positives, high quality, close to the farm, and, for some, ethical practices or humane treatment. This is the main driver to buying less processed / un-processed foods – and thus naturally grown and fed ingredients. This represents a technology reversal – which is really unprecedented in the past 100 years.
6. Creative Food Innovation
Food innovation has always been prevalent in the deeply competitive culinary world. Velocity in this area, however, will increase over the next few years as companies accelerate their search for The Next Idea in food creativity. Aside from short-term fads like the Cronut, a combination of health, nutrition, and food source will be the primary innovation drivers in food and food service.
2015 TNI’s Food Forecast: The Consumer is now in charge of your brand
Based on The Next Idea’s ongoing research and market experience, we have identified the following trends that represent change in the coming years.
Social media has had a considerable impact on the restaurant industry in the last decade. It simultaneously represents both a new range of threats and opportunities to this trade. By 2015, the social media frenzy will have become truly integrated into the restaurant and hospitality decision-making process.
The lines between peer-to-peer, customer-to-business, and business-to-business are becoming more blurred. In this sense, social media can be viewed as a double-edged sword: on one hand it represents a challenge for brand owners who are realizing that websites such as Yelp are quickly becoming the first point of call for customers. On the other hand, it also offers opportunities for consumer feedback, facilitating customer service and recovery, as well as opening new channels of communication between a brand and its customers.
More time is now being spent on digital media than any other form of media. Overall, consumers now spend an average of 10.7 hours a day with all forms of media, and over half of that time (approximately 5.6 hours) is spent on digital media. On a global scale, digital media (including social media and mobile Internet usage) now accounts for 57% of daily media time.
92% of consumers read reviews, and 89% have their purchasing decision influenced by user-generated reviews. Monitoring reviews is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. Embracing reviews allows a restaurant or hotel to react quickly, identify and solve issues, find opportunities etc.
Some of the data generated every minute:
- Google receives 2,000,000 search queries
- Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content
- Twitter users send over 100,000 tweets
- Brands &organizations on Facebook receive 34,722 ‘Likes’
This new phenomenon has placed the consumer firmly in charge of corporate brand reputation – given that consumers can essentially say whatever they want, when they want, about a product or experience. Notwithstanding, social media experts say that user-generated content is the next big thing and can be a marketing goldmine if executed well.
2. The concept of local
With associations of community, economy and environmental awareness, the concept of local establishes engaging ideology that resonates with small-scale / family owned production along with closer, reciprocal relationships with food producers. Although local products can sometimes be overly expensive for certain consumer profiles, it appears that all segments are turning toward local to specifically to help their uncertainty in understanding organic certifications and what is and isn’t genuinely organic.
Just as important, consumers understand that buying local keeps their money in the community, and potentially means that their food is more likely to be fresher and less processed. This, combined with seasonality, offers consumers faith in a more natural and ergonomic lifestyle – while they search for the best local producers on their i-Phone 6 or Galaxy.
Juicing will continue to be popular, though the focus will be on cold press. The cold press method preserves nutrients and live enzymes during the juicing process.
A cold press method doesn’t generate the heat that regular blenders produce, and thus ingredients don’t ‘cook’.
Juicing is taking on new ingredients: coconut, bee pollen, vanilla bean, almond milk, and colloidal silver are all in play as we migrate through the following years.
Of course, consumers juice for various reasons: Detox, cleanse and just to stay healthy. However America’s embryonic “ultra-premium juice” business from Starbucks to the neighborhood juice bar has expanded to an estimated $200 million in annual sales. Combined with the home juicer business, estimated at $300 million, juicing is a half billion dollar business that is only just being born.
4. Farm to Table
The farm to table trend grew from a post-industrial culture’s respect for agricultural products, a growing awareness of inhumane factory practices, increased attention to healthy foods, and the growing interest in handcrafted artisanal foods. The idea of knowing where the food you’re eating comes from extends to caring about the source and purity of the ingredients. For example, identifying the farm and region from which the ingredients originate is becoming essential for consumers.
This movement accelerated post-2007/8 recession, a turning point in consumer behavior and attitudes, and today has become almost a pre-requisite for newcomers to the market. Indeed, even QSR brands are adopting farm to table philosophies within their menus, and talking more about their product integrity philosophies.
5. Global Food
As the world becomes more interconnected, more new ethnic food becomes available. Although the U.S. market will take time to react to global food trends, the rest of the world will move faster.
Fusion food will take on a highly mainstream position internationally with new global fusion food concepts expected to pop up in Asia, India and Europe at an increasing rate.
The influence will primarily be Pan Asian street food, which will surely take root in America. Think next generation of food truck, yet executed at farmers markets, mash-ups and brick and mortar locations.
The Next Idea predicts that particular food types will take on a new meaning; taco concepts, for example, are opening in cosmopolitan cities, Alex Stupak’s Empellon al Pastor in New York; Sean Brock’s Minero in Charleston, S.C.; and Rene Redzepi’s taco shop, called Hija de Sanchez, in Copenhagen. This will be combined with new spices and some culinary heat elevation – more jalapenos, raw wasabi, habanero honey, Thai bird’s eye chilies will start to replace mainstream Sriracha to an ever-excited and inquisitive consumer.
6. Gluten Free
Many food writers question the importance of Gluten Free (GF) and its longevity; however the reality is that the GF movement is only going to grow. In 2013, the U.S. GF market size was $10.5 billion. Combined expert predictions show growth to $15.6billion by 2016. This is staggering for one sector. At a more grass roots level, GF cuisine was a top-five trend identified in the National Restaurant Association’s survey, targeted by more than three-fourths of chefs as a niche area they planned to explore more.
Combined with general health awareness, the inexplicable [almost epidemic] rise in childhood disorders, along with growing diseases such as Diabetes, is fuelling this trend.
So, what does this mean? Currently, higher use of pasta noodles made from buckwheat and other grains, as well as more nutritious grains such as quinoa and amaranth are appearing in dishes that once had wheat flour. Breads are made from ancient grain flour that holds less gluten. As time progresses GF products will become an alternate staple for consumers with or without health management concerns. 7. Superfoods
Health-conscious consumers look to superfoods for daily nutrition and antioxidents. The 2015 superfoods feature: Chlorella, SachaInchi, and Moringa ‘miracle' tree, native to Africa and Asia and one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet. It has been claimed that it boosts immunity, lowers blood pressure, alleviates stress, fights fatigue, improves digestive health and increases libido. And that's just on the inside of the body. It's also a tonic for hair, nails and skin.
Chaga mushrooms - a hard black fungus which has been central to natural medicine in northern climates for centuries. It is considered the mushroom of immortality in Siberia. Chaga is a nutrient-rich medicinal mushroom, growing on the birch tree.It also includes nutrients that are directly generated from the tree.
Chaga contains B vitamins, flavonoids, minerals and enzymes. Given it is a dense source of pantothenic acid; it represents an essential nutrient required by the digestive organs and adrenal glands.
Chlorella - is a green algae and superfood detoxifier, popular in Japan. Chlorella contains iron, folic acid and B vitamins; it is also popular for its abdominal properties, as it dissolves and expands to coat the stomach when eaten.
Other super foods that will gain traction in 2015 include: Matcha, coconut sugar, fermented foods like kimchi and kefir, the ancient grain amaranth, dandelion greens and black rice.
In addition, more established foods like pomegranates, quinoa, beetroot, and kale will remain popular.
8. Healthier Kids Meals
Finally, parents are fighting back against childhood obesity and want healthy restaurant choices. Wholesome meals with more sides of apples, yogurts, and baked fries instead of French fries are being forecast. Although this trend is in its infancy, it is growing fast.
Many new companies providing nutrition-based school meals have opened, with notable success.
Most importantly, children themselves understand the importance of a healthy diet. With full access to the internet from their tablets and 3G phones, today’s children are seeing a barrage of wellness messages all day and every day – and they are taking note. Indeed, as research becomes more available, kids become well aware that Fast Food = Bad Food!
It is no surprise that McDonald’s sales have been in decline for the past 12 months, and this is just the beginning.
For a while, vegan had been identified as a new dining trend, yet it keeps growing stronger.
Vegan is now a diet form in its own right. Many high-profile people are choosing a vegan diet: Bill Clinton, Steve Wynn, John Mackey (Wholefoods CEO), and even Mike Tyson.
There are already a few vegan restaurant chains in the U. S.: Veggie Grill (mainly Vegan) and Native Foods, along with a growing number of one-off independents. Where it becomes even more interesting is when groups like Chipotle hop on the vegan bandwagon as they expand tests of their vegan Sofritas filling-- tofu braised in chilies and spices.
10. Foods in Fashion
At The Next Idea, we are always asked what to look for in the coming year. Unlike most food trend reports, we prefer to examine trends fora longer spectrum than a year. That said, never believing in saying no, we predict the following:
Oysters are poised to make a comeback – more due to cleaner bays and growing demand. Expect oysters to be served with spicy sauces and cooked using various smoking techniques. Celery root, sunchoke (again), ugly root vegetables, parsnips and kohlrabi are all favorites for 2015. Seaweed is becoming bigger and bigger in both snack and raw form.
The big surprise is the insect – yes, we know – YUK!! Still, ladybug flour, and cricket powder are now available and being sold as alternatives to regular flours.
The advances in technology have been so massive,it is essential to understand the importance it now plays in food trends and consumer behavior. From online ordering through advance ordering and tablet-based table orders, to social media integration interacting with guest-facing technology platforms and product/menu information – consumers are able to interact with their favorite restaurants and food brands24/7.
Going forward, some new concepts will include Google Eyewear that has face-recognition software, enabling servers to recognize their guests and possibly a regular guest’s favorite beverage or meal choice. ApplePay and other electronic wallets will be generating substantially more consumer behavior-based data. Lastly, social media integration with almost anything means that consumers can research ratings and nutrition and directly interact with the restaurant management.This developing cyber food world has endless possibilities and will grow more – providing more consumer choice and information.
Americans are becoming smarter and healthier about their food choices. This trend was very much in evidence throughout 2014 and will undoubtedly continue growing throughout 2015. To recap, food lovers are demanding and receiving:
• Honesty and transparency
• Traditional farming methods
• Organic and vegan foods
• Technology that enhances culinary knowledge and choices
• Creative food innovation and bold flavors
• Less sugar, sodium, gluten and trans-fats
• Identification of food source and buying local, farm to table
• Less-processed/Un-processed, naturally grown and fed ingredients
• Cold press juicing
• Global and fusion food
• Healthier kids foods
• Oysters, ugly root vegetables, seaweed and insects
Clearly, American food orientation has been going through a slow but seismic shift, back to healthier eating in some ways, forward to more tech-savvy eating in others. Our nation’s former attitude about food might have been summed up as follows by this Mark Twain gem: “The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” That way of thinking and eating eventually took its toll, thanks to health statistics, and professionals recommended that we be more aware of and savvy about our food choices. As Orson Welles once said, “My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” Perhaps Virginia Woolf said it best: “One cannot think well, love well, and sleep well, if one has not dined well.” As we continue to redefine the “well,” we make smarter choices that enhance our lives.
About the Author:
Robert Ancill is founding partner and owner of The Next Idea Group. He is considered one of the most authoritative voices on international restaurant and food brands, and has been responsible for launching and developing many new brands in emerging and frontier markets.
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