Move over fast food nation, veggies have arrived. From greens for breakfast to veggie patties vying for the title of better burger, healthful selections are expanding beyond the aisles of health food stores in a big way. And take note, vegan is here to stay.
These are the findings reported in “The New Healthful: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” from Packaged Facts and CCD Innovation, which tracks food trends for CPG and food-service clients using its five-stage Trend Mapping technique to track the path trends take to the mainstream.
Stage 1 trends appear in upscale and popular dining establishments and move toward stage 5 where they land on mainstream grocery shelves and quick-service restaurant menus.
Here’s how the researchers see today’s healthful horizon.
Stage 1: Extraordinary tap water and heirloom whole-grain bread
Water gets redefined, according to the report, as soft drink consumption declines and interest in artisan crafted beverages increases. Filtration and flavoring mark the emerging experience.
Heritage grains gain attention for their healthfulness, flavor and texture, but also build on the local food movement as bakers partner with grain producers and local millers.
Stage 2: Beans and greens for breakfast and healthful vending
Veggies, beans, quinoa, even breakfast salads mix up breakfast menus at vegetarian and health-focused restaurants.
And salt- and sugar-packed vending machines get made over with oatmeal kits, grab-and-go tuna and fresh fruits and veggies.
Stage 3: Vegan on the menu
Vegan menu options make their way on to chain restaurant menus to meet the demand of the growing number of vegans and those who occasionally go meatless.
Stage 4: Chef-inspired healthful kid fare
To fight childhood obesity, chefs are changing kids meals from drab afterthoughts to culinary delights to inspire young taste buds.
Stage 5: Veggie Burger Renaissance
Continuing on vegan growth, veggie patties are joining the nation’s search for a better burger as they pop up on the menu alongside the all-beef choices.
What these trends mean for your business
CCD Innovation’s trendologist Kara Nielsen admits these trends may not surprise those in the natural foods space because she focuses on giving the wider world a peek at what’s happening.
Reviewing the trends, though, can present opportunity for natural foods retailers. For instance, she points to prepared foods and suggests natural foods stores could find ways to offer that breakfast salad or find ways to sell heritage grains and locally produced whole-grain breads. And while veggie burgers may seem passé, retailers could review their selections to better serve a new and growing customer base.
Mainstream customers are coming into the natural foods world, Nielsen said, seeking mainstream flavors, tastes and experiences.
“The demand on the natural foods world to make everything better tasting as well as nutritious—and with a clean label—is a big charge,” she said. But it’s all part of wider trends in which “everything is being gourmetified and premiumized.”
What's next for natural?
What could be next for natural foods stores, before gaining mainstream attention? Neilsen is watching drinking vinegars, sea vegetables and continued innovation in non-dairy style products.
And, of course, she will continue to watch the vegan movement and its flexitarian and vegetarian siblings. There are 10 really good reasons to give up meat, she said, which translates to attracting 10 different types of consumers.
"That’s the sign of a long-term trend... it strikes a chord with people and connects with their deep values."