Whole Foods Market Misses The Biggest Grocery Trend With Their 2019 Forecast

November 15, 2018

Whole Foods Market Misses The Biggest Grocery Trend With Their 2019 Forecast

Whole Foods 2019 Food Forecast Predicts: Pacific Rim Flavors, Probiotics, Phat Fats, Hemp and 5 other trends that might make what you eat next year very different.

Originally publshied on Forbes.com.

Twenty-six subject experts from Whole Foods have been convening for four years to predict what’s coming next to their own shelves and to the food world as a whole. These experts range with titles from a master sommelier and global beverage buyer to a senior R&D culinologist to the president of the Whole Kids Foundation to a produce field inspector to a board-certified, Internal Medicine physician to a global meat buyer; some of the experts actually started out working at store level.

Before I share their predictions with you, what is unsaid is that the chain, now owned by Amazon, has produced the biggest trend in grocery in decades: they have awaken a previously staid industry and revitalized it as chains both large and small are changing the way they look at grocery. Amazon/Whole Foods has also attracted new talent, some from Ivy League schools, who might never have thought about a career in grocery and led other grocers on the same path. For me one of the biggest trends for 2019 will be to watch where Amazon/Whole Foods leads us next.

On to Whole Foods Top 10 Food Trends.

Pacific Rim Flavors is their lead trend as they announce that Whole Foods Market and 365 Everyday Value brands will launch a new line of products inspired Pacific Rim fruits like guava tropical vinaigrette, pineapple passionfruit sparkling mineral water, mango pudding mix and passionfruit coconut frozen fruit bars. They also expect to see ingredients like longganisa (a Filipino pork sausage), dried shrimp, cuttlefish and shrimp paste to appear on restaurant and home menus in dishes from breakfast to dinner.

Probiotics have been a trend for a few years now, but Whole Foods predicts they will expand beyond the refrigerated section as new strains of probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 and Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 are making more shelf-stable applications possible and are starting to appear in pantry staples including granola, oatmeal, nut butters, soups and nutrition bars.

Trend number three tries to be a bit cute as they call it Phat Fats and point to the popularity of keto, paleo, grain-free and even “pegan” (paleo + vegan) diets. Pointing to a change in the consumers’ mindsets about fat they predict that higher protein and lower carb diets will continue and even expand to new categories in the store including nutrition bars, snacks of all kinds, ready to drink vegan coffee drinks, coconut-butter filled chocolates and even new flavors of ghee that range from sweet to savory. According to these experts, fat will be back in a big way. Another of their trend call-outs are new ice creams and frozen desserts that have savory swirls of artisanal cheeses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just the other day says that legalizing hemp to be grown here in the US will be a part of the new farm bill allowing hemp researchers to apply for grants and make hemp farmers eligible for crop insurance. (Full disclosure: I sit on the annual Hemp History Week committee and endorse their efforts to legalize the crop). Whole Foods predicts that the current offerings (hemp is grown in Canada and is allowed to be sold on store shelves here as hemp oils, seeds and as ingredients in other foods and beverages) will become much broader as researchers find more benefits from other parts of the plant as consumer interest in cannabis continues to accelerate.

Plant based foods are on the rise for the past couple of years but their experts predict that more people are exploring plant-based snacking as their palates crave adventure, want a break from meat or seek more ways to add savory umami flavors into snacks and meals. They expect the meat-based snacking world of jerkies, bacons and pork rinds to be the next big trend in plant-based foods. Another of their trends highlight the frozen food section where new pints on the block are adding a fresh take on a timeless treat with innovative bases like avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water building on the plant-based trend. Sea greens are also one of their trends for 2019 as they see seaweed butters, kelp noodles, puffed snacks made from water lily seeds, plant based tuna alternatives made from algae, crispy salmon skins and kelp jerkies.

Packaging continues to be one of sustainability efforts biggest issues – but Whole Foods sees brands making the switch to more compostable packaging, the continued rollout by cities and states for the elimination of plastic straws. Curiously they also see an emphasis on reuse of packaging as produce departments take on “BYOVB” (bring your own vegetable bag) and seeing traditionally single-use packages going to multi-use (and compostable!) food wraps made from beeswax, as well as waxed canvas or silicone alternatives to the usual plastic storage bags that can be used for sandwiches and snacks.

Innova Market Insights, a company that continuously analysis global developments in food and beverage launch activity and consumer research to highlight the trends most likely to impact the industry over the coming year and beyond, names snacking as “the definitive occasion” as people redefine what a snack is. Innova shows a 10 percent annual growth of global food and beverage launches with a snacking claim over the past 5 years. Whole Foods’ experts seems to agree as they see snacks getting an upgrade, they point to charcuterie or cheese boards as examples and see the trend gravitating towards higher quality snacks that take us back to our childhoods; including artisanal versions of classic snacks like cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches.

Whole foods last trend is focused on the consumer who is aligning with brands that have similar values and support those brands with their shopping dollars. They expect to see more shopper support for brands committed to environmental stewardship, animal welfare, women-owned businesses and farms and support programs to relieve poverty throughout the world.

What’s on your 2019 food trend radar? Love to see what is in your crystal ball, just send me an email at phil@supermarketguru.com with your name and company affiliation and I’ll scour the ideas for the best ones - and do a follow up column crediting you for your forecast.