Diet & Nutrition Trends for 2015
Tell me if you’ve heard these buzzwords and/or catchphrases: Paleo. Gluten sensitivity. Vitamix. Farm to table. What about kale, chia seeds, quinoa—really, quinoa? How can this become the next big thing when most of us can’t even pronounce it?
A food explosion of epic proportions can happen in an instant. You are now supposed to want a food you never even knew existed. Before you can say “hold the gluten,” every health article you read and every health nut you know is posting recipes for delicious “green” smoothies—extra chia seeds, please!—and buckwheat pancakes.
Now, don’t get me wrong; you don’t want to be unhealthy. No one is suggesting that you run out and consume fast food three times a day. However, before you buy into the hype, do your research and take a closer look at what’s best for you.
Food trends come and go, but truly healthy living never goes out of style. Perhaps this is as much a hope as a trend, but unfortunately healthy living remains a counterculture today. The public is growing more concerned with nutrition and exercise, yet two-thirds of Americans are still overweight or obese. This is partly because being healthy is hard, and often inconvenient and expensive.
In this issue’s cover story, we talk food trends for 2015, the latest in fitness frenzy and why stress controls your diet as much as anything else.
SPOTTING THE TREND
Despite the simple thought process you may think goes into forecasting the year ahead, figuring out where food is trending is actually quite a science: a mix of consumer data, demographic patterns and other factors as well, according to Kara Nielsen, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group.
“We took into consideration the consumer landscape, the food landscape, the market and channels for specific foods, and understanding where growth is going to come from,” Nielsen told CBS News.
Many trend forecasters are in agreement on several accounts: aging baby boomers are increasingly focused on their health; farmto-table is alive and well and there is continued growth of Asian and Latino communities with their own strong culinary traditions
While Americans for some time were bent on “zero-calorie” sweeteners and “low-cal” foods, these days, they’re looking for anything and everything that can be grown. They want foods that are more “au natural.” Take a peek here:
A new kind of sugar — “Sugar is evil right now. People in America are suffering from diabetes and other chronic health problems,” Nielsen told CBS News. “Consequently, there are groups of consumers looking for more natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index.”
To that end, people have started gravitating toward coconut sugar, and the trend has been catching on with those who favor the Paleo diet. But beware: even though it’s natural, be careful—it may be lower on the glycemic index, but it still spikes blood sugar and should be used sparingly.
Packs a punch — Created in Japan, Matcha is an all-natural powerhouse beverage that meets popular demands for energy, vitality and nutrition. It’s made from crushed green tea leaves, Matcha is packed with antioxidants, L-theanine, and beta carotenes. With less caffeine than green tea, Matcha provides a calmer, more even energy boost.
Grains, grains, grains — Popular with farm-to-table proponents, products made from freshly milled, locally grown grains offer a wide variety of options and can also tap into America’s growing gluten-free obsession.
According to Nielsen, Community Grains, a California-based company at the forefront of this trend, works with mid-size, local farmers who promise full transparency in their growing and production methods. As this trend picks up steam, Nielsen believes people will turn to their beloved Vitamix, which offers adry grains container, to begin milling their own grain at home.
Grazing in your golden years — Some baby boomers are going rogue when it comes to their snacking habits, according to food trends expert Phil Lempert, aka “the supermarket guru.”
Although raised on three meals a day, this generation is becoming more comfortable with snacking and will continue to shift to more grazing during the day rather than traditional meals. However, they’re smart about their choices, opting for snacks that offer some nutritional value, such as high-protein sunflower seeds or whole-grain popcorn.
Cannabis cuisine? — According the the Sterling-Rice Group, edible marijuana food products will be hot in the upcoming year in states in which it’s legal. The ingredient will show up in the classic cannabis-infused brownie, but will also make appearances in more unique food products, like bottled cold-brewed coffee drinks.
Ugly veggies need love too — Reducing food waste is becoming a social issue that many have embraced, and consumers will be more willing to use the misshapen and ugly-looking fruits and vegetables they would typically bypass, according to the Sterling-Rice Group. Ugly root vegetables, such as kohlrabi and parsnips, will be replacing potatoes in many dishes as people yearn for different flavors, according to restaurant consultants Baum & Whiteman.
Asia ascendant — In the past, when American customers think about “Asian food,” it has been primarily Japanese sushi or Americanized Chinese food. In 2015, look for Korean and Vietnamese food and upscale ramen to take over mainstream menus. Yum Brands, parent company of KFC and Taco Bell, already opened Vietnamese sandwich concept Banh Shop in Dallas in 2014.
Bitter is better — In case you haven’t noticed, dark roasts are all the rage. Look for that to continue into 2015. Customers are simply developing a taste for bitter flavors. Maybe it’s due to their fear of sugar (see above). We just don’t know. That means deeper chocolates, hoppier beers and darker coffee.
Local, local, local — The love for local food means rising customer interest in, “everything from house-purified water to regional seafood to locally manufactured products like beers and liquors,” according to food research firm Technomic. That’s bad news for most chain restaurants, who struggle to convince customers that their products are as sustainable and environmentally friendly as independent competitors.
Moving on to the next gen — Companies are endlessly trying to appeal to millennials, jockeying for the attention of the social media savvy generation. Soon, they’ll have a new concern: grabbing the attention of Generation Z. As younger teens are finally beginning to make their own decisions about where they go out to eat, restaurants will have to start trying to appeal to a new kind of customer in 2015.
That means high-tech service, louder music, moving visuals and heightened experiences, says Technomic. In other words, it’ll be enough for Millennials to be yelling at the kids to get off their lawns…and out of their restaurants.
Enough with the water already — It’s not difficult to see where the market is crowded in the wellness space. We may have finally “tapped” the water business. The endless varieties of “waters” now marketed to the healthy consumer is nearing its end (we hope).
Next! — According to Technomic, the traditional fast food and fine dining industries are having a hard time measuring up to newer, alternative forms of foodservice. “Fast casual” is eating fast food’s lunch, with customers preferring to spend their money at slightly higher quality chains like Chipotle, instead of fast-food classics like McDonald’s. Then, there are fresh concepts like healthy vending, delivery services and innovative pop-ups that all cut into the traditional restaurant market. The truly interesting thing about these “fast casual” establishments is that none of them make a big deal about the health benefits of their menus. Their success comes from the quality of the food alone.
Bottom line: We’re going to continue to see more hot restaurants serving up healthy fare without marketing themselves as “healthy.” It’s the new name of the game. Get ready to see more organic, farm-to-table ingredients, grass-fed meats, gluten-free options, and even green juice cocktails popping up on menus.
The trends that began in 2014 will only continue to grow stronger in the year ahead.