After we lunched last week with Sterling Rice Group, a Boulder, Colo-based “food centric strategy and innovation firm,” Morgan Bast, associate editor of Natural Foods Merchandiser, wrote this summary of their take on “culinary shifts” affecting Americans and the way we eat today. I've included some "what you can do" ideas, and I'd love to hear your thoughts too.
1. Community connected
“As a society, we are so stressed,” Cathryn Olchowy, culinary director and managing director at SRG says. “People are looking for comfort and strength in their communities.” SRG suggests the idea that as we become more engaged globally we become less engaged locally, so people are looking for ways to connect.
Real life examples: Farm dinners and CSAs
What you can do: Look for signs in the store that designate local products, and ask questions about where your food came from.
2. More with less
Wanting to cut waste and maximize the quality of goods on a budget are values that are “here to stay.” With budget cutting being done on a national level, consumers are stretching their dollars without sacrificing quality.
Real life examples: Peasant foods, Craigslist, “Cowpooling,” head-to-tail dinners
3. Dr. Me
“Consumers' expectations of what they are wanting to eat are going to change in the next ten years,” Olchowy says. Consumers are taking their health into their own hands, and they know more about supplements, nutrition and conditions than ever before.
Real life example: Return of the company doctor, restaurants working with doctors
4. Always on
We live in a plugged-in world. Seoul, South Korea is now a completely wired city, there are televisions everywhere, and shoppers are using their mobile phones to do everything.
Real life example: uWink – a Los Angeles-based restaurant chain where you order via a screen that you then play games on while you wait.
5. Luxury revalued
“We used to live with a lot more glitz and glam,” Kazia Jankowski, senior market analyst for SRG, says. As people cut back, they feel a need to “treat themselves,” according to SRG. Little luxuries like upscale food (on the cheap) or gourmet flavors are tempting Americans right now.
Real life example: The Dessert Truck in New York City, beer becoming the next wine
6. Cultural curiosity
“We are a generation that is more traveled than any generation before us,” Jankowski says. “There are more multicultural people in positions of power and more access to different culture.” It’s no secret that food companies are jumping on the multicultural train. And more specific regions are popping up and piquing our palate, including Spain, Korea, and El Salvador. The more customers travel, the more they know the difference between real and fake ethnic flavors. “As we experience more authentic foods, we demand more authentic experiences,” Jankowsky says.
Real life example: Pupusas (El Salvador street faire), growing ethnic produce, Kim chi
7. Simple refuge
In a way, this shift is a response to “Always on,” in that we want to get away from it all and “find comfort in the familiar,” Jankowski says.
Real life example: Mac and cheese-only restaurants, nap rooms, TV-less hotels, Slow Food movement
8. Break free
“People are really taking very public, very extreme ways of defining themselves,” Jankowski says. Chefs are thinking out of the box and combing flavor profiles never heard of before and looking to really define themselves by the unusual.
Real life example: spicy cocktails, savory deserts (like the bacon cupcake), edible cocktails, ice cream for dinner courses
What you can do: Try a new ingredient or recipe tonight!