The food and foodservice industries are like cruise ships; they’re huge, and they turn very slowly. Unlike fashion trends, which change with each season, food trends change slowly over time, with new products gaining a niche market before expanding more broadly.
That being said, this fall’s food trends follow the large-scale shift that we’ve been experiencing for the past few years: a focus on healthier food and a willingness to pay more for it. In fact, the 2015 Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey indicates that 90 percent of 30,000 respondents are willing to pay more for healthier food. Organic food sales have tripled in the past decade and continue to rise, and consumers are looking more closely than ever at their food’s labels to get a clearer sense of what they’re putting into their bodies.
This fall, we’re seeing the healthy food trend continue, with many traditionally unhealthy foods trying to clean up their acts. Competing with candy bars, dark chocolate-covered fruit and nuts are gaining popularity due to the anti-oxidants in dark chocolate and the vitamins and nutrients in fruits and nuts. Gummy fruit candy is now available with 20 grams of whey protein.
Consumers are keeping an eye on what they eat, and they’re more likely than ever to want clear, readable labels. The “clean label” movement focuses on ingredient lists that sound like consumers could find them in their own kitchens. The movement has even spawned its own conference and a growing consulting industry! Businesses are also increasingly “freeing” their foods of ingredients that consumers view as being undesirable; thus, look for more products bearing “gluten-free,” “GMO-free,” “nut-free,” or other “-free” labels.
The market for local food also continues to grow, with more consumers than ever being willing to pay more for locally source food or ingredients. Local sourcing can be a headache for companies, and many are responding with a mix of local and regional ingredients. This increases the freshness of the food, supports the local economy, and reduces the environmental impact of the supply chain: all factors that influence consumer purchasing.