Food Trends Forecast – Hit or Miss? How our annual trend forecast fared in 2018

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January 10, 2019

Food Trends Forecast – Hit or Miss? How our annual trend forecast fared in 2018

Each year for the past twenty or so years, I write predictions for the year ahead in the food world. For the first time, I decided that this year I would “grade” myself on how accurate (or not) my look into the crystal ball actually was. It’s a way of reflecting for us all on just how much change occurred that we might have already forgotten; and what we need to do for the coming year.

Each year for the past twenty or so years, I write predictions for the year ahead in the food world. For the first time, I decided that this year I would “grade” myself on how accurate (or not) my look into the crystal ball actually was. It’s a way of reflecting for us all on just how much change occurred that we might have already forgotten; and what we need to do for the coming year.  

Let’s get started…

Trend: Mindfulness (got it right)
Mindfulness reflected a new consumer attitude, mostly led by Millennials, to truly understand everything possible about a particular food or beverage and then support the company, whether it be a brand or a retailer, by aligning with its values and supporting it with purchases.

Innova Market Insights reported that seven of 10 U.S. and U.K. consumers want to know and understand an ingredient list. Food and beverage brand introductions that feature ethical claims on their packages have increased seven-fold since 2010, and these human, environmental and animal ethical claims continue to grow in popularity.

The new leaders of food are driven by a new set of corporate values: social conscience, health and wellness, enhanced nutrition and life hacking … and yes, they do want to make money. Big money.

Trend: Tactile (got it right with a twist)
It’s all about being involved. Feeling and hearing the connection is more important in food than ever. We have witnessed a more intellectual connection to our foods, and now it gets physical. There has been food information “overload,” and now we need grounding. There is probably no profession more tactile than being a chef, which was one of the reasons for the initial boon in the meal-kit business (which quickly faded as customers also reacted to touching all that over packaging).  

While it’s still around, I thought Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, would have a bigger food impact and go more mainstream (I could argue that the latest Capital One TV “Library” spot where Jennifer Garner whispers has taken ASMR mainstream, but its not mainstream food). YouTube stars like ASMRDarling are still out there getting millions of views but have shifted to topics like sleeping better and beauty. 

I predicted that Poke bowl restaurants offering a variety of colors and textures would pop up everywhere, and they have, but predict that in 2019 we will see many closures as the restaurants just haven’t offered enough diversity. On the other hand, supermarkets like Gelson’s have installed service Poke Bars where you can make your own combinations and should continue to do well.

3D printing, I said, would create more tactile food experiences and become a more efficient and less wasteful food production method especially in supermarket bakeries where customers could order cakes with exact ingredients and designs that fit their lifestyles. Unfortunately I haven’t seen a lot of commercialization of this technology at retail – but still stick by this prediction for 2019.

Trend: Farming (got it right)
There is a new breed of younger farmers entering the fields; the USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture reports that the number of farmers under 35 is increasing, only the second time that’s happened since 1900. Of these new farmers, 69% have college degrees, far higher than the 40% incidence in the general population. Younger, smarter farmers are bringing us into a new era of agriculture and technology both on current and future farms.

Vertical indoor farming is one of the fastest growing parts of agriculture and is bringing more farms closer to where people live, growing crops faster, reducing expenses, having less environmental impact and perhaps most importantly assuring better controls to avoid food safety issues and contamination.

Trend: BioHacking (almost got it right)
BioHacking breaks all the rules to create a science for more individualized nutrition and products based on our individual DNA; and while companies like 23&Me, Habit, Fitnessgenes, WellnessFX, Cyrex Labs, EverylyWell and Geno Palate are selling nutrition guidance reports, I have seen little growth in these or other companies using this data to customize foods. Perhaps a little early or off the mark as it is too limited of an audience or too reminiscent of both the drink mix and movie of the same name: Soylent Green.

Trend: Technofoodology (got it right)
In 2019 estimates are that there will be 90 million smart devices in our homes, making those the biggest supermarket chain on the planet. The relationship between “the internet of things” and food is here.  

Technofoodology and Artificial Intelligence can be best things to ever happen to a grocery store. Alexa, Google Home, Sonos and other home-based assistants are ushering in a new way to buy our foods. We can easily replenish our foods by asking Alexa to reorder from Amazon and other retailers like Sheetz, one of the nation’s leading c-stores, that now offers “made to order foods” from all 564 stores on Alexa.

Trend: Politics And Food (no comment)
Yes we finally got a Farm Bill. Yes we finally got hemp approved to be grown in the US. Yes the USDA is one of the most powerful and largest government agencies and has not yet been fully staffed. And yes, we revised school lunch requirements to allow for more sugars, sodium and refined grains.

So how did I do? I’ll give myself a solid “B” – what grade would you give me?