As 2012 comes to a close its time to look ahead and plan for a new year. So with that in mind here is a list of trends to look out for in 2013 courtesy JWTIntelligence.
With food allergies rising worldwide — a 2011 study found that as many as 1 in 12 American children may have a food allergy, twice as high as previous studies found — we’ll see “allergen-free” becoming as ubiquitous as gluten-free. Products will multiply as more brands build facilities dedicated to manufacturing foods free of allergens like dairy, peanuts, egg, soy and shellfish.
Make room for another superfood: Chia seeds, once part of the Aztec and Mayan diets, offer protein, antioxidants and fibre, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. People are adding the whole or ground seeds to foods and beverages, as are brands including Dole — whose new Nutrition Plus line offers whole or milled seeds and Chia & Fruit Clusters — and Nature’s Path, which recently rolled out 11 products, including Coconut Chia Granola.
With forecasts of serious freshwater shortages by 2030, and improved technologies helping to lower production costs, nations are investing in seawater desalination. Investments are set to jump to $17 billion by 2016, up from $8.9 billion in 2012. Currently just 1% of the global population relies on purified seawater, but that will soon expand: 2012 saw construction of some of the world’s biggest desalination plants in Australia, Algeria and Israel, which is aiming to get 75% of its drinking water from desalination in 2013. In the Americas alone, 17 desalination proposals are pending in California and two in Mexico, according to the Pacific Institute.
Meat substitutes are gaining adherents among the masses as more people cut down on meat for budget, health or environmental reasons and as faux meat gets tastier and more convincing. Beyond Meat, whose investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Twitter’s Biz Stone, launched in 2012 with a fake chicken that’s fooled some experts. Two-year-old Dutch restaurant Vegetarian Butcher now markets its lauded faux meat products to outlets across Holland. An imitator, Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher, has opened in Sydney. And Like Meat is a EU research project focused on creating “high-quality meat-like products” that can become “widely accepted meat alternatives.”
One of our 10 Trends for 2013 outlines the rise of peer-to-peer services, from car sharing to accommodation sharing. One of the newer categories is food sharing, which encompasses both meal co-ops—services like Mealku in New York and Super Marmite in Paris that enable sharing of home-cooked dishes—and concepts like Feastly that bring disparate diners together in the homes of amateur chefs. Watch for more such food-focused services that offer the promise of community, authentic experiences and new tastes.
Consumers will become more concerned about the humane treatment of the animals they eat, a trend that’s already under way in Europe. In the U.S., awareness began rising in 2012 as fast food retailers including McDonald’s pledged to push suppliers to phase out gestation stalls for pregnant pigs, California passed a ban on selling or producing foie gras, and meat giant Tyson Foods said it would start auditing suppliers’ farms for animal treatment. Watch for animal advocates to bring new issues to light and mainstream consumers to pay close attention.
As more restaurants try to be all things to all diners in this era of fussy eating —catering to a multitude of dietary restrictions and food allergies—some are going in the other direction, adopting a limited-options approach. The prix-fixe-only or “table d’hôte” menu are catching on outside Europe: The concept has been a hit for restaurants like Torrisi Italian Specialties and Chef’s Table in New York, Next in Chicago and 12 Chairs in Shanghai, which all serve elaborate multicourse meals. Watch also for ultra-minimalist restaurants like mini-chain Burger & Lobster in London, where you can order a burger, lobster or a lobster roll.
The concept isn’t new (and some previous offerings have bombed), but food scientists are doing better at producing tasty products that compromise between all or nothing. With consumers wary of “light” and diet foods but looking for healthier choices, it’s a potentially lucrative niche. Pepsi has launched Next (60 calories and 60% less sugar), and Coke is testing 70-calorie versions of Sprite and Fanta. Hershey’s new Simple Pleasures treat has 30% less fat, while Frito-Lay as added new flavours of its reduced-fat Kettle Cooked chips.
Online grocery shopping is slowly going mainstream as more consumers start purchasing across channels. A 2012 global Nielsen survey found that 26% of respondents planned to buy food and beverage products using a digital device in the next three to six months, up from 18% in 2010. In the U.S., IBISWorld is forecasting an annual growth of 9.5% in the sector.
Consumers can have their cake and eat it too with candy that dials down on the sinful stuff and amps up the beneficial ingredients. The Unreal line—which uses no artificial ingredients and preservatives, corn syrup or hydrogenated oils—came on the U.S. market in 2012 and sells in mainstream outlets like CVS and Target. Supercandy, from a company called Snap Infusion, is marketed as a functional food: Its gummy candies, jellybeans and caramels are enhanced with vitamins and electrolytes and sweetened with evaporated cane juice and tapioca syrup. Meanwhile, Hershey’s new Simple Pleasures chocolates have 30% less fat.
Consumed for thousands of years in Ethiopia, this super grain has been slowly gaining favour outside the Horn of Africa, due in part to its exceptional nutritional quality. Teff is gluten-free, full of essential amino acids, high in protein, calcium and fibre, and low in fat. As consumers embrace ancient grains like quinoa and millet, we’ll see more interest in teff flour and recipes that incorporate the tiny grain.
As veganism gradually gains more interest and adherents, more parents are starting to spread their animal-free eating habits to their offspring. While naysayers argue that the tots don’t get proper nutrition, parents are feeling more confident about raising vegan babies, with at least some experts seeing no problem with the practice.
Watch for this trend, which has long been popular in the U.K., to pop up in more markets and become a new revenue stream for brands and retailers. These boxes, delivered to customers’ homes, are packed with locally grown and mostly organic produce and sometimes meat and dairy products. They appeal to consumers who want to support local producers directly and enjoy the challenge of cooking with unexpected and sometimes unfamiliar ingredients. In the U.K., small suppliers now have a big rival, with Tesco’s new veg-box brand, Soil & Seed.
In a bid to reduce its dependence on imports, Singapore recently opened the first commercial-scale vertical farm. Its 120 aluminium towers, each 30 feet tall, produce more than 1,000 pounds of vegetables a day. Vertical farming is reputed to be more environmentally sound than traditional farming and also enables year-round agricultural production. Watch for this practice to find followers in other dense population centres.
Yogurt has been spiking in popularity, especially in the U.S., as consumers seek healthier snacks and functional foods, and embrace Greek yogurt. Now yogurt is going from the shelf to the streets. Two yogurt brands opened yogurt boutiques in New York in 2012, selling cups of (non-frozen) yogurt with a range of toppings: Greek yogurt maker Chobani and The Dannon Company, under the subsidiary Yogurt Culture Company. Watch for the concept to spread beyond brand-based ventures.