Here are the rest of the food trends from the April issue of Food Technology magazine.
#5 Wanting More information
Consumers are now more concerned about food safety. So they want more information about the use of hormones and antibiotics in animal products, and they want to know whether a food is genetically modified (though it's still unclear how that impacts health), whether the food is pesticide free, whether the food is irradiated, what kinds of preservatives are used, whether there are dyes in the food, the origin of the food, and the list goes on. Ingredients, amount of trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, calories per serving are important considerations. Consumers say the treatment of animals factors into their purchasing decision when it comes to meats, fowl and fish, and understanding nutrition facts influences their selections.
My comment: It is important to know as much as you can about the foods you eat. Front-of-package labeling is the latest change to enter the food industry, but it is far from perfect. Restaurants have also been identified as having imprecise nutrition information posted, so do your due diligence and demand vetted information when you can.
#6 Ethnic flair
One new trend that experts are seeing is kids eating more sushi, a food mostly associated with grown up tastes. Americans are also embracing ethnic foods by integrating flavors and ingredients from countries like Mexico, India, Thailand into traditional American dishes, or re-configuring an American dish into a more ethnic version. Cubano sandwiches or tortas may begin to replace Panini sandwiches. Ingredients like yuza, queso fresco, aioli, chimichurri and Thai chilis are becoming more common in restaurant fare.
My comment: Robust herbs and seasonings from countries around the world can help to provide new flavors without adding a lot of calories. Fusion dishes can be a wonderful way to add new flavors and textures to food, while preserving its nutrient density and controlling calories.
#7 Local is really important
Local farms, restaurant gardens, community and rooftop gardens - consumers want foods grown or produced close to home and they are becoming more interested and appreciative of local agriculture. Breads, meats, cheese and produce are being assessed by the discerning consumer in a variety of ways. This consumer attitude is also invading the fish industry, according to Ms.Sloan, who suggests that fish like barramundi, branzino, arctic char, bluefish and redfish are becoming more popular.
My comment – The average apple or pear that comes from “far away” can take as much as a week to ten days to arrive at your local supermarket, and it may then go into refrigerated storage for days, before finally ending up in your shopping cart. Local can mean fresher, and certainly supporting local gardens and farms is a win win for both small business owners and consumers. It is a good thing to know more about where your food comes from and how it is being grown before it hits your dinner table. Just remember that frozen foods are often "flash frozen" and therefore captured at peak ripeness.
#8 Small snacks on the go
Savory and sweet mini foods have seen an upsurge, and people seem to really want non-perishable snacks for on-the-go eating. Restaurants are also adding more appetizers and finger foods, with diners sometimes ordering a few in lieu of a full dinner. Dip and condiment sales in supermarkets and restaurants are up as well. That’s why tapas bars have seen a surge in popularity.
My comment: Snacking is actually a healthy habit, as long as you do it mindfully and with the knowledge that whether you eat full meals, or snacks and mini-meals, you need to avoid exceeding a certain number of calories daily. A snack should contain some healthy protein to keep you satiated.
Consumers seem to be seeking vitamins, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein in the foods, snacks and beverages they are purchasing. Vitamin A, D, C and E, are of notable interest, and people seem to be especially focused on building muscle mass, hence the interest in a food's protein content.
My comment: I still think the best way to get these vitamins and nutrients is directly from the foods that naturally contain them. Once you fortify a food or take a supplement, the nature of how your body absorbs and uses the nutrients can be different than digesting foods that naturally contain the nutrient. Fish still beats fish oil supplements, and citrus still beats popping a vitamin C tablet, in my opinion. A lot of people will choose foods that may not be especially healthy, as soon as they see a label that advertises fortification.
#10 The buck stops with mom
Moms are usually the shoppers in the family. They are seeking certain information on the labels of the foods they buy, and terms like organic and GMO affect their purchasing decisions. Price point does too, and with more nutrition information and transparency, moms are weighing that information before making selections and spending money. Mom’s are also the driving force behind healthier kids’ food away from home as well as kid-size meals in restaurants.
My comment: Moms should be pushing the food and restaurant industry to care more about manufacturing policies, ingredients and other food decisions that impact the health of the family. Advocacy groups like CSPI are also forcing companies to pay attention and apply better practices and more transparency, when it comes to food manufacturing and labeling. Restaurants need to try to reduce the use of sodium and unhealthy fats in their cooking process as well.
Published On: April 23, 2013