A Repositioned Palate:
In the past consumers used to eat food for sustenance, today more people, one in four to be exact, are having eating occasions that can be described as “savoring,” a description that conveys a new upscale eating experience defined by freshness, distinctive flavors, foodie narratives, and more (Hartman, 2011). One in 10 shoppers now choose higher-end cuts of meat in order to recreate a restaurant dining experience (FMI, 2013). In addition, consumers are interested in more bold flavors such as tangy, smoky, salty, herbal, sour, and bitter, which is nearly double from three years ago (Technomic, 2011).
Date shows that consumers relate the word “fresh” with “healthy”. Nine in ten people think fresh foods are healthier, and 80 percent look for the descriptor “fresh” when it comes to retail and 58 percent in restaurants (Technomic, 2012). Healthy foods are also linked to the phrases “house-made” or “home-made,” as well as keywords like, “from scratch,” “artisan,” “authentic,” “seasonal,” “real,” and “never frozen” (Technomic, 2012). Consumers also have renewed interest in animal-welfare when it comes to their foods. “Farm-raised,” “grass-fed,” “free-range” and “cage-free” are perceived as conveying healthfulness.
Millennials are continuing to cut back on restaurant visits for the fifth year in a row, which means the market for the food industry to develop at-home meal products that appeal to the newest generation of cooks is on the rise. With limited cooking skills, millenials are the most likely to consume pre-cooked fresh retail meals and frozen dinners (Packaged Facts, 2012). While 44 percent of younger cooks say that preparing dinner with fresh foods is very important (MSI, 2011), they are also more inclined to use meal helpers such as ready-made sauces or meat, but have a lower preference for complete kits (Hartman, 2008).
Recently there has been a dramatic increase in the number of adults who are eating solo, regardless of family dynamics. A 2011 Hartman survey Surprisingly, when eating dinner alone (Hartman, 2011) observed that those adults were more likely to choose fresh/refrigerated meals over frozen dinners creating a new market for producers, (Hartman, 2011). In addition to adults, children are also eating alone more often opening the market for new fresh/refrigerated meals for kids (Technomic, 2012). People also have been eating breakfast in different ways often having something at home, stopping for coffee, and snacking mid-morning (MSI, 2010).
Seeking True Transparency:
With all of today’s food hot topics, most adults have given some thought to food safety in the past year, while up to 17 percent have stopped buying a certain food or brand due to certain safety concerns (IFIC, 2012). Many shoppers (27 percent) think that antibiotics/hormones in meat are a “serious health hazard,” (FMI, 2011); and nearly three-quarters of consumers say humane treatment of animals is important when shopping for foods (MSI, 2011). Consumers were also glad to see posted calorie count information at restaurants, and 22 percent of consumers surveyed (Technomic, 2012) said that those numbers had an impact on their order decision.
In the past consumers were more interested in trying ethnic flavors in general, but recently it’s been about how ethnic cuisine’s specific food items, flavors and ingredients can be integrated into American foods and forms. For example, Mexican griddle sandwiches or tortas along with pressed Cubano sandwiches may soon upstage paninis. Sriracha, chimichurri, aioli, yuzu, queso fresco, Thai chili and more are among the fastest-growing ethnic flavors on non-ethnic menus (Datasesential, 2013). Four in 10 ACF chefs cite children’s sushi as a hot trend for 2013 (NRA, 2012).
Hyper-local sourcing, like restaurant gardens, farm/estate brands, small-producer suppliers, and the mainstreaming of farmers’ markets all attest to consumers’ fascination and appreciation for all things agricultural related. Consumers have become interested in the cut and breed of meat they are buying (Technomic, 2011). Fish like arctic char, branzino, barramundi, mackerel, bluefish, and redfish are also becoming more popular (NRA, 2012).
Craveable Finger Foods:
Last year one in five best-selling new foods were either bite-sized or handheld; 45 percent of consumers want snacks that can be eaten on the go (IRI 2012; Wyatt, 2013). It’s noted that the mini-foods introduced were not only sweet, but also savory. Even restaurants have added bite-sized food to their menus and 67 percent of consumers find it “extremely appealing” to get their flavor through dips/condiments, up 8 percent vs. 2009 (Technomic, 2011).
In 2012, 78 percent of consumers made a strong effort to get more vitamins and 57 percent tried to consume more products with specialty nutritional ingredients. Among the top vitamins were vitamin D, vitamin C, B vitamins and omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin A, along with more protein (MSI, 2011). Muscle strength is also now among the top 10 health concerns in the US and Canada and quickly becoming a profitable food market (Packaged Facts, 2013).
Moms are more likely than shoppers overall to buy nutritionally enhanced food/drinks and to actively seek out nutritional information. Words like “organic,” and “GMOs” affect buying experiences (Packaged Facts, 2013). Moms also want healthier kids’ food away from home, and children’s portions of adult menu items.
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CHICAGO—The April 2013 issue of Food Technology magazine features Contributing Editor, A. Elizabeth Sloan’s take on the top 10 food trends for 2013. Sloan gathers data from a multitude of industry resources to come up with the following trends.