Natural Foods Merchandiser
food trends natural foods merchandiser

5 food trends on the rise

New special diets, sustainability awareness and emerging nutrition research are shaping consumer behavior, product innovation and sales opportunities.

What do ramen, pho, turmeric and mug cake have in common? They’re all ranked as top “risers” in Google’s 2016 Food Trends report, an analysis of the terms Americans typed into their search bars between January 2014 and February 2016. Leafing through the report reveals important insights into which foods and drinks are piquing consumers’ interest—as well as which ones are not. For instance, searches for jackfruit, cauliflower rice and Funfetti increased; searches for agave nectar, Dutch baby pancakes and those beautiful, Instagram-perfect rainbow bagels decreased.

But what foods and beverages folks are Googling right now is just one part of the trendspotting equation. Sure, people are interested in turmeric this year, but will they still be in 2017? In 2018? Or will red-hot turmeric go the way of kale, that healthy but now uninspiring crucifer?

At New Hope Network, we aren’t just interested in the foods and drinks currently garnering attention. We’re also jazzed about examining various market and cultural forces in order to forecast which products will gain popularity in the future. We’re driven to prophesize not only what people will consume, but also why they’ll consume it, which enables us to identify prime opportunities for players in the rapidly growing $131.2 billion natural products industry.

Without question, the market for healthier foods and beverages has never been stronger. However, according to Natural Foods Merchandiser’s 2016 Market Overview Survey, competition in the natural retail landscape is fierce. Conventional stores have widened their natural offerings to appeal to wellness-minded consumers—and now they capture 42 percent of all natural products sales. Meanwhile, online retailers like Thrive Market promise access to special-diet products at reduced prices. And the newest threat, the growing number of meal-kit delivery companies, negates the need to go to the grocery store at all.

To help brick-and-mortar retailers survive—and thrive—in this cutthroat environment, New Hope’s pro team of editors, trendspotters and NEXT consulting group (which synthesizes natural market intelligence gleaned from proprietary research) identified five major trends shaping consumer behavior, product innovation and sales opportunities. The group noted a variety of factors propelling these trends, including new special diets, sustainability awareness, emerging nutrition research and even evolving societal norms.

For instance, one notable shifting societal norm shaping what and how consumers eat is the fact that more Americans are staying single longer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Current Population Survey, 27 percent of the population lived alone in 2013—up from 5 percent in the 1920s. Solo living especially changes how consumers do dinner. For many singles today, the last meal of the day might mean microwaving a vegan, gluten-free frozen meal made with organic ingredients. Or perhaps it involves assembling a prepackaged meal kit that was delivered fresh to the doorstep.

There’s a name for this trend of cooking fast and delicious meals: speed scratch. According to Adam Zbar, CEO of organic meal-kit company Sun Basket, speed scratch is on the rise mainly because consumers are superbusy. Sun Basket’s most loyal customers are overworked young couples, empty nesters seeking low-key date nights, new brides, recently divorced males—essentially anyone who’s challenged by time and culinary know-how.

“The No. 1 thing that unifies our customers is they want dinner to be easier,” Zbar says. “The second thing they request is health. People struggle to eat healthy and be healthy. Sun Basket shows that healthy and delicious do not need to compromise.” Zbar adds that the company is on track to grow revenues by an incredible 10 times this year while also maintaining strong margins.

So, given speed scratch’s growing popularity, brick-and-mortar stores should consider tapping into this trend. Some retailers are accessing these same stressed-out consumers by pre-bagging produce and other products that combine into perfectly curated, tested meals. This allows shoppers to grab everything they need in one swipe versus having to hunt down basil in one aisle and spaghetti in another.

One innovative specialty grocery store took this idea to a whole other level. Pantry, which opened in Brookline, Massachusetts, in June 2015, sells some local gourmet products. But its main shtick is providing pre-portioned ingredients complete with detailed, chef-designed instructions. Shoppers can easily snag these kits right before dinner. This format is similar to pricey make-a-meal subscription services like Blue Apron, but it allows Pantry to function as a hybrid of a restaurant and a traditional retail store.

NEXT predicts the natural products industry will reach $236 billion by 2018. In addition to fostering community and educating consumers, independent retailers can really get ahead by stocking products that strike the strongest, most popular food and beverage trends in the bull’s-eye. That is why as you scroll below, you’ll also learn about products that funnel into these trends. Can you say opportunity?

The wholegrarian way

Consumers are looking back to look forward—in foods and beverages, that is. Now understanding that heavy processing often dings nutrition, more shoppers are seeking out whole-food snacks and minimally processed, cold-pressed and raw products made with pronounceable ingredients.

Brami Snacking Lupini Beans Sea Salt
Just like how you’d eat edamame, squeeze these lupini beans from their shells for a fun, fiber-rich pop. Pickled with sea salt, organic distilled white vinegar, lemon juice and spices, these hefty white beans satisfy consumer zeal for nutritious whole-food snacks. We love Brami’s tangy, salty, lip-smacking flavor—as well as the 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. SRP: $4.69

Pic’s Peanut Butter Crunchy
Even natural nut butters sometimes include cane sugar, palm oil and other additives to alter flavor and texture. Not Pic’s Peanut Butter Crunchy. This New Zealand–based brand, just launched in the U.S., sticks to roasted Australian hi-oleic peanuts (meaning they’re extra rich in monounsaturated fats) and a little salt to deliver a delicious, robust spread. SRP: $8

Manitoba Harvest Toppers Onion, Garlic & Rosemary
Classic Italian flavors (onion, garlic, rosemary, sea salt) make omega-3-rich shelled hemp seeds even tastier. Manitoba Harvest’s new Toppers are nutrient-dense blends of the brand’s signature Hemp Hearts, along with organic Hemp Pro Fiber, a raw cold-milled organic hemp powder. Sprinkle over soups, salads, eggs and stir-fries for a bonus 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and 10 grams of omega-3s and -6s. Also available in spicy and sweet blends perfect for desserts. SRP: $5.99

Muir Energy Cashew Lemon Maté Caffeinated Energy Gel
Slimy, saccharine energy goo no more! Squeeze this creamy concoction of raw organic cashew butter, coconut palm nectar, blackstrap molasses, yerba maté, lemon essential oil and pink Himalayan salt directly into your mouth during a run, ride or hike. At 140 calories, 8 grams of sugar, 260 milligrams of potassium and 90 milligrams of caffeine, this gel supplies more workout fuel than most outdoor-specific products on the market. SRP: $30, 12-pack

Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour
Primal eaters will embrace this new clean-ingredient, grain-free flour made with almond flour, arrowroot starch, organic coconut flour and tapioca flour—that’s it! It’s designed to be an all-purpose baking flour for flatbreads, pizza crusts and muffins, but our testers loved it most in paleo pancakes. Just add eggs, baking soda, water and coconut oil to create fluffy flapjacks fit for our 10,000-year-old brethren. SRP: $13.99

Speed scratch

Consumers are busier than ever, which makes getting dinner on the table tough. That’s why products and services that prioritize convenient meals are growing in popularity. These include meal-prep products (much like better-for-you versions of Hamburger Helper) and cook-at-home meal kits from Blue Apron, Purple Carrot and other delivery services.

Birch Benders Micro-Pancakery Pancake & Waffle Mix Six Grain
Pancakes are good. Quick-prep pancakes are better. Quick-prep pancakes that provide six whole grains and flaxseeds are best. The ingredients in this hearty buttermilk pancake mix, now available in a 24-ounce bag, are straightforward: whole-wheat flours, brown rice flour, whole-oat flour, flaxseeds and spices. Just add water to nail perfect pancakes every time. SRP: $3.79 to $3.99

The Zen of Slow Cooking Indian Dal
The slow cooker is a magical device. Just throw in a few ingredients, turn the dial and let it alchemize into supper. But can slow-cooker prep be even more streamlined? The Zen of Slow Cooking thinks so, thanks to these perfectly blended spice packets. We love Indian Dal, made with premium, nonirradiated spices including Madras curry powder, ginger and turmeric. Bonus: This Illinois-based brand is dedicated to employing adults with disabilities. SRP: $7

Boulder Canyon Riced Cauliflower
One of the hottest trends of late is replacing pasta, rice and other traditionally carbohydrate-heavy foods with nutrient-dense vegetables. Boulder Canyon hops on the low-carb bandwagon with its line of frozen, steam-in-the-bag “riced” veggies such as cauliflower. This product reduces dinner prep time but also closely resembles conventional rice. Just 25 calories per serving. SRP: $2.99 to $3.49

Chef Soraya Eat a Bowl Chana Masala Chickpeas & Rice
Scrounging up a meal can be challenging, but Chef Soraya saves the day (or at least dinner). This par-cooked, take-along bowl of rice and beans is suavely spiced with cumin seed, cayenne pepper, coriander seed, crushed red chili pepper and organic tomato flakes. Just peel back the lid, add 1 cup of boiling water, stir and let stand for 9 to 12 minutes. Dinner (or lunch) is served! SRP: $3.99

Love The Wild Red Trout with Salsa Verde
With updated packaging and a new brand name, Love The Wild is stepping up its game and continuing to make it easier for consumers to buy, prepare and enjoy sustainably raised fish. To cook the frozen fish, just steam it in parchment paper, a French technique called en papillote. Each box also includes frozen sauce cubes for flavoring the fish, plus detailed info about where and by whom the fish was caught or raised. SRP: $6.99 to $10.99

The plant revolution

Plant-based, a trend that spans foods, beverages and supplements, is hot. Even meat-eating shoppers are now cutting back on animal products. As a result, dairy milk replacements derived from almonds, cashews, pecans, coconut and macadamia nuts are booming, while plant-based meat alternatives have become more sophisticated (and better tasting) than ever.

Go Veggie Grated Parmesan Style Topping
Crafting a totally vegan Parmesan alternative is tough work. The product must be salty, tangy, filled with umami-like pungency—and easy to sprinkle over foods that taste better with cheese (so, basically everything). Go Veggie’s Grated Parmesan Style Topping doesn’t disappoint. Made with soy protein concentrate, rice flour, coconut oil, rice maltodextrin and natural vegan flavors, each 2-teaspoon serving sets you back just 20 calories. We also love this brand’s improved packaging. SRP: $4.49

Vega Clean Energy + Electrolytes Berry Infusion Flavor
Calling all vegan and vegetarian athletes! Just one scoop of this clean blend saturates active bodies with enough electrolytes, sugar and carbs to prevent bonking on long bike rides and runs. Made with organic coconut palm nectar, sprouted whole-grain brown rice syrup and black tea extract, this stuff also packs in 80 milligrams of caffeine per 100-calorie scoop—insta-energy for 6 a.m. burpees. SRP: $19.99

Hilary’s Spicy Island Dressing & Dip
Salads and vegetables will never be ho-hum, not with Hilary’s vegan, gluten-free,
oil-free, paleo-friendly, certified-organic dressings on the scene. Coconut milk replaces dairy or mayonnaise in this classic condiment, and tart-sweet-sour ingredients like apple cider vinegar, carrot tapioca syrup, green chile, tomato, mustard, onion and parsley add pizzazz. SRP: $3.99

Hippeas Vegan White Cheddar
Back away from the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The first ingredient in these crunchy, salty puffed snacks is organic chickpea flour, which supplies a nutty flavor, 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. “Cheesy” organic seasonings such as onion and garlic make a convincing and craveable coating. Hippeas also has a lofty social mission, donating a portion of sales from each bag to Farm Africa, a nonprofit that helps sub-Saharan farmers become more climate-smart and productive to “grow their own way out of poverty.” SRP: $1.65

Malk Pure Cashew Milk
One sip of this clean, fresh cashew milk and a shopper might never buy carrageenan- and gum-containing nut milks again. Just three high-quality ingredients—filtered water, organic cashews and Himalayan salt—make up this beautiful, cold-pressed, vegan alternative. Shake it up well and pour over cereal, granola or oatmeal, or drink it directly from a glass for 8 grams of good fats, 3 grams of protein and zero cholesterol. SRP: $6.49 to $6.99

Food as medicine

It can be tricky to figure out what to eat in order to maximize nutrition and minimize risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. But by belonging to a food tribe such as paleo, vegan or gluten free, consumers reinforce certain nutrition philosophies, learn about new products and recipes, and turn to food rather than supplements to stave off disease.

Primal Kitchen California Extra Virgin Avocado Oil
This clean, paleo-minded brand recently launched this buttery, verdant extra-virgin oil made with California-grown avocados. It’s ideal for medium-to-high-heat cooking. We love that Primal Kitchen takes an artisanal approach to processing, thereby preserving flavor and aroma in this relatively new-to-market product. SRP: $12.99

Verday Chlorophyll Water Cucumber
This crisp, refreshing bright-green “water” is tinted with 100 mg of alfalfa-derived chlorophyll, equivalent of two shots of wheatgrass or 12 cups of arugula. This zero-calorie beverage also contains filtered water, organic lemon juice and natural flavors, creating a cooling, lip-smacking cucumber taste. This functional beverage is like salad in a bottle. SRP: $3.99

Tuvunu Free Greek Mountain Tea with Lemon
Mountain tea is a Greek beverage made by steeping ironwort, aka Sideritis, an herb traditionally used to aid digestion or suppress the common cold. New company Tuvunu bottles brewed ironwort with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and vitamin C. It has a strong, pleasant flavor and doesn’t contain any sugar (or calories). SRP: $2.49 to $2.99

Bulletproof Nutrition InstaMix
Followers of the high-fat Bulletproof diet lament that preparing the hallmark coffee-and-butter beverage takes time. Bulletproof Nutrition aims to make mornings easier with this creamer, a unique blend of Brain Octane Oil (caprylic acid triglycerides), grass-fed butter, highly branched cyclic dextrin, oleic fatty acid, sorbitol and vitamin E, for full-fat nutrition and energy. SRP: $29.95; Booth 835

Sleep and stress balance

Aiming to achieve greater vitality, consumers are smitten with supplements and functional foods and beverages that simmer stress (largely through adaptogenic botanicals) and promote better sleep. These products provide a natural alternative to prescription drugs.

Bioterra Herbs Gahh Stress
Don’t be fooled by the funky, funny packaging: This stress-less supplement targets everyday anxiety with a masterful blend of herbs. Each vegetarian capsule delivers bupleurum root, dong quai root, Chinese peony root, gardenia, peppermint, ginger, licorice and other herbs. SRP: $19.99

Choice Organic Body Stress Relief
This legacy tea company partnered with the expert herbalists at Bastyr University, the largest accredited natural health university in the U.S., to craft this caffeine-free herbal tea. Designed to lower stress, each bag contains adaptogenic ashwagandha, turmeric, soothing licorice root, dandelion leaf and meadowsweet leaf. It’s also USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Gluten-Free. SRP: $5.39

Rainbow Light Mental Calm
This uniquely designed supplement from Rainbow Light assuages anxiety and stress while simultaneously improving focus, making it an ideal supplement for busy workdays. Each vegetarian mini-tablet delivers 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin B1, riboflavin and vitamin B3, as well as over 800 percent of vitamin B12 requirements. Skullcap, lavender, L-theanine and GABA promote calm without drowsiness. SRP: $14.99

Eat Dream Be Tart Cherry Lemon Balm Dream Bar
Liven up your nutrition bar aisle with these attractively packaged “dream bars.” Enjoying a bar one hour before bedtime may improve sleep and possibly even dream recall. Packed with ingredients that may stoke neurotransmitters connected to sleep, this bar contains tart cherries, gluten-free rolled oats, walnuts, poppy seeds, honey, tart cherry concentrate, lemon balm, coconut oil and flax. SRP: $2.99

Healthy Skoop Sleep Protein
A sleep-specific protein powder? Heck yes! Designed to be consumed 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, each 90-calorie serving contains organic pea protein isolate, organic brown rice protein concentrate, inulin, organic coconut sugar, natural flavors, organic cocoa, gum arabic, xanthan gum, guar gum, cinnamon and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast common in wine making. But the coolest part of this product is its nutrients: 250 micrograms of vitamin B12, 250 milligrams of calcium and 63 percent of the Daily Value of magnesium, a mineral that relaxes muscles. SRP: $3.99

 

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