It is that time of year, everyone has their predictions and insights into how food & eating habits will change in the upcoming year. What is new? What will stay the same? Are we talking about long term trends or eating fads? In preparation for our own 2015 Food & Eating Trends list, we studied 18 sources of trend information. Following are the Top 5 Food & Eating Trends that will affect our industry in 2015.
1. “Do-It-Yourself” Health – More consumers are eating healthier, but in different ways. Both menus (for operators) and packaged options (from manufacturers) need to address many different health related ways of thinking, whether it be gluten-free, low sodium, low sugar, no MSG, energy boost, GMO free, PHO free, trans fat free, sugar free, raw, natural, organic, portion control, low calorie, vegetarian, vegan or paleo. Operators and manufacturers can’t address every aspect with every product, but they will try as every consumer wants something different.
2. “Do-It-Yourself” Taste – Along the same lines as #1, I borrowed the “Do-It-Yourself” term. Every year we hear about a new niche flavor, and after scouring 18 sources, there were many different ones. A common theme among sources is Asian flavors, look out for Thai, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and Vietnamese flavors, these are the ones to watch in 2015. With that said, don’t forget about other trending flavors and taste profiles, such as; bitter, as it relates to coffees, chocolates, vegetables and beer; fermented foods; smoky flavors; rice crackers; seaweed chips and savory yogurts. Be prepared to see sweet, sour, savory and spicy combinations that will make you take a second look. Consumers have become more adventurous with their palate, Baum & Whiteman calls it our “restless palate syndrome”, operators and manufacturers have the opportunity to try new flavors and take some chances.
3. Snacking – MASSIVE is the only word I can think of to describe this exploding subset of the food industry. The latest statistics claim that 91% of adults admit to snacking daily. Many are replacing traditional meals, 2 or 3 times per day, with snacks, 5-7 times per day. Couple this with “healthy” and we have a “Healthy Snacking” industry that has taken over the world. Keep and eye out for portion control, healthy, unique flavor combinations and grab-and-go … all demands that will drive snacking into and beyond 2015.
4. Food Everywhere – I shortened the term “Foodservice Everywhere”, because I think it is much bigger that that. Everywhere you go, you can have a meal or grab a snack. Department stores, home improvement stores and furniture stores all have joined the game. Not only is food expanding to new venues, it is expanding within itself. Going to the grocery store not only involves picking up food to cook for the week, it involves getting snacks for “the white basket”, stocking up on pre-made grab-and-go vegetables, sandwiches, pretzels & hummus and cheese & meat snacks for the kids lunches and of course hitting the deli for that already prepared meal for that night. You can walk out of Burlington Coat Factory with a new outfit and a bag of Buffalo Nuts or take the kids to IKEA for dinner. Convenience! We need to save time and we need everything to be convenient. We all have to eat everyday, and everyone is jumping in to the feeding game.
5. Technology – Yes, this could be the most important food & eating trend for the foreseeable future. As consumers want everything now, or … on their schedule, technology will allow a consumer to know everything about the restaurant they are about to go to, or the grocery item they are about to buy. On the flip side, operators will will know their consumers, the “usual”, or their favorites, and service will be quick and painless. Right now, you can order online very quickly and easily, whether it be pizza or gourmet dinners, and have them delivered to your doorstep within the hour. This concept is and will continue to move into the grocery business. Digital menu boards are becoming more widespread. Shelf level QR Codes will be used to communicate nutritional, health benefits, source, and other “need it now” consumer information. Operators will be able to use facial recognition software to identify a regular as they enter the door, send them a message on their smart phone, “Hello Mr Jones, would you like your usual?” and once again through facial recognition, deliver it to Mr Jones in a crowded room. Electronic wallets will allow for that bill to be paid with limited interruption.
Sources of information : Technomics, csnews.com, MNN Bloggers, Baum & Whiteman, Nielsen, fastcasual.com. Forbes