Top Food Trends 2019 | News

From indigenous African foods to fermented beverages to exotic ice creams, here is some of what we’ll see in the coming year.

Health benefits, global tastes, and sustainability will drive more food and beverage trends over the next 12 months, according to predictions by the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter panel. The plant-based wave, upcycled foods, and cannabis-infused products will continue their trajectory, but branch off into new categories and in some cases intertwine in 2019, says the panel, a group of buyers, chefs, culinary education professionals, and industry watchers. 

Take a look at their trends and predictions on the following pages.

The Panel

Polly Adema, PhD, director & associate professor, Food Studies, University of the Pacific San Francisco Campus
Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst, Mintel
Ken Blanchette, QA director fresh departments, Center of Excellence, FreshDirect
Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor, culinary arts and food science, founder and director of The Drexel Food Lab, Drexel University
Kara Nielsen, vice president, Trends & Marketing, CCD Helmsman
Melina Romero, manager, Trend Practice, CCD Helmsman
Stan Sagner, writer and producer
Tu David Phu, chef
Kriti Sehgal, CEO, Pure Fare
Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming, James Beard Foundation

1.Plant-based blossoms into a movement
The plant-based groundswell has cemented itself into the way people eat—stretching beyond vegetarians and broadly appealing to consumers intrigued by its health benefits and concerned about how their food is sourced. Makers are creating new product categories and disrupting old ones with plant-based options. The movement will become situated in the larger context of sustainability, say the Trendspotters. Look for it to become intermingled with upcycled products as more companies turn to root-to-stem ingredients to combat food waste. We’ll see more items like snacks made from rescued bananas or flours made with spent grains or pulp. In addition to continuing product rollouts in snacks, and as dairy- and protein-alternatives, plant-based foods’ rise across the foodservice sector will be significant in 2019, says the panel.

2. Palates shift to regional cuisines of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America
Much has been said about younger generations’ unprecedented exposure to global culture and cuisine from a young age. These consumers are adventurous and seek experience in their travel and in their food, which has led to a shift in interest to the regional fare of less-explored areas. Flavors and indigenous African foods from all over the continent are gaining a following including fonio (West); Nitter kbeh (East); ras el hanout (North); and biltong (South). New regional South Asian cuisines are emerging and Ayurvedic products—primarily whole or minimally processed foods—are on the radar. Savory-sweet bites in the street-snack tradition of these countries will become more popular. Expect to see new menus and packaged foods touting the regional flavors and ingredients of Mexico and Central and South America, from heritage corn tortillas to the advent of mezcal as a spirit and an ingredient.

3. Cannabis across multiple categories 
Last year saw the emerging cannabis segment gain a foothold in snacks and treats, as more states legalized sales of hemp-derived CBD products. Though the segment has its challenges as cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, consumer curiosity has been piqued (see story, p. 84). Factor in that a new generation is growing up in states where cannabis is legal, and signs point to future growth of the edibles segment. New products are rapidly hitting the market, many with high-end beautiful packaging and savvy marketing. Look for more infused cooking oils, coffees, teas, chocolates, baked goods, snacks, and even beer and pasta to hit the market in the coming year as well as more cannabis cuisine menus and cocktails at foodservice.

4. Packaging takes center stage— in the environment and consumer communication 
Packaging that helps inspire trust in the product through the quality and values it conveys will be more visible in the coming year. Consumers are placing a premium on company values, and producers are making more prominent on packaging their certifications/accreditations from B Corp to women-certified to animal welfare to social justice and more. Sustainable packaging will grow, especially plant-based varieties, say the Trendspotters. Expect to see some made of upcycled ingredients or scraps. For example, research is advancing the use of tomato peels, kelp, and mushrooms into sustainable alternative coatings and other packaging materials.

5. Cassava

A specific star of the plant-based phenomenon is cassava, also known as yuca, a starchy tuberous root native to South America. Grain- and gluten-free, the cassava root is high in carbs, but its leaves are a reported good source of protein and rich in lysine. Cassava leaves have been especially evident in packaged snacks from cassava leaf chips to popped cassava to even a cassava leaf jerky. While many products so far are packaged for retail, the Trendspotters predict seeing more cassava on foodservice menus as well in 2019, likely in baked goods or tortillas made with cassava flour.

6. Fermented functional beverages
Refrigerated RTD functional beverages have grown 20 percent in retail sales, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha has led the charge and more fermented functional beverages are coming that tout health, tradition, and flavor. Look for mushroom brews highlighting varieties like chaga, a nutrient-dense mushroom linked with antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering benefits; lion’s mane, reported to have anxiety-reducing and heart health benefits; and cordyceps, which may help with anti-aging as well as diabetes prevention and heart health. Drinking vinegars, which are high in probiotics, amino acids, and antioxidants, will also continue to rollout. And watch for kvas, says the Trendspotter panel. This traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented grain beverage is commonly made from rye bread and flavored with fruits or herbs like mint.

7. Edible beauty
Cited as emerging by last year’s Trendspotter panel, collagen is a full-fledged trend in 2019 and part of a bigger move to develop products that promote skin health and appearance. Collagen is being infused into beverages, snack bars, and even wraps to help replace diminishing levels as consumers age. And now more food products containing argan and almond oils are coming to market. Both oils are high in omega fatty acids and vitamin E which can help hydrate skin, restore elasticity, and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. Traditionally used topically, more cooking oils or products like almond butter made with argan oil are hitting shelves. While marketed broadly, many of these products are targeted at aging, and often overlooked Gen Xers.

8. Ice cream renaissance
We all scream for ice cream and now this traditional favorite has been rethought in function and flavor. Its reinvention started with dairy-free varieties made with coconut, almond, or soy milk. Then Halo Top entered the scene with its high-protein, low-calorie product that others are emulating. Now makers are blurring the lines between treat and healthier snack even further with some blending vegetables like cauliflower and carrots into ice creams. But it’s not all about health—boutique local creameries like Ample Hills and Graeter’s, known for local, hand-crafted, and indulgent ice creams are expanding nationally. And on the flavor front, global and floral notes like black sesame and jasmine are adding an exotic touch. Look for innovations to continue to drive the category, including advances in the non-dairy segments. For example, a dairy-free ice cream made from persimmon pulp is about to launch in New Zealand.

Denise Purcell is editor of Specialty Food Magazine.


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