There is a lot more to this fall than just pumpkin spice, according to a food industry expert at US Foods. In fact, the top five food trends this season do not include pumpkin spice at all. In an interview with Food Navigator, Stacy Kinkaid, senior director of product development at US Foods, highlighted authentic global flavors, vibrant colors, a celebration of vegetables, new world butchery and modern fine dining as key food trends to expect this fall.
- Authentic Global Flavors
It’s no surprise that international foods are gaining popularity in a country known for its multicultural citizens. The National Restaurant Association found that more than half of consumers are interested in trying at least one type of global food. In particular, Kinkaid highlighted Mediterranean, Mexican and Japanese cuisine as foods that Americans are interested in.
However, this isn’t the first time that a food industry expert mentioned international cuisine as a key food trend in North America. McCormick and Co. recently released their 2018 Flavor Forecast report which highlighted international flavors such as Mexican, Indian and Filipino cuisine as top food trends among consumers.
In fact, Statista research found that over 230 million American consumers claimed to have used Mexican food or ingredients in 2017. Japanese food such as sushi has also become a consumer favorite over the past few years; between 2012 and 2017, sushi restaurants in the US brought in $3 billion in revenue. The Mediterranean diet is gaining popularity in the food space because of its health benefits and with hundreds of Mediterranean restaurants across the US, it’s clear to see that this is a growing trend.
As North America continues to grow its international population, it is likely that more ethnic flavors will become popular among American consumers.
- Vibrant Colors
The term “eat with your eyes” is not new in the food space and if anything it has become even more relevant among modern consumers. This is because there is a rise in social media activity among millennials who regularly post pictures of their food on their social media accounts. Due to this trend, food companies have been seen investing in colorful packaging and ingredients to make their products pop on both shelves and social media accounts.
In fact, a major trend in the food industry is “unicorn-flavored” foods simply because they look colorful. Surprisingly, “unicorn” does not have a strict type of flavor; unicorn-flavored foods taste like a mixture of birthday cake, cotton candy cherry or strawberry. This really speaks towards the fact that consumers appreciate the unicorn color more than the flavor itself.
- Celebrating Vegetables
Vegetables are no longer an accessory to meaty entrees, they are now taking center stage (or should we say center plate) in popular recipes.
Gerry Ludwig, Corporate Consulting Chef of Gordon Food Service also highlighted vegetables and plant-based meat alternatives as main courses. In fact, he and his culinary R&D team found that fruits and vegetables are becoming the main part of entrees while meat protein is added to boost the flavor of dishes.
In addition, Dataessentials finds that almost 70 percent of consumers want to eat more vegetables and are cutting back on dairy products for health reasons. This trend has dairy and plant-based beverage manufacturers disputing while the FDA and USDA work to define the term “milk” in the food space because many consumers are flocking towards plant-based “milk” products.
Another reason as to why consumers are starting to eat more vegetables is because of animal welfare and sustainability concerns. Since mass farming is associated with producing greenhouse gases, some consumers are switching sides for the sake of the environment. Others are doing so because animal welfare is currently a top concern in the food industry.
- New World Butchery
These animal welfare concerns are shaping how consumers want their meat. In fact, 70 percent of food companies with animal welfare certified products have seen an increase in sales. This is also why there is a growing interest around cell-cultured meat products which even vegan consumers are willing to try.
Those who still consume meat products now have a higher standard for quality. Meat products that contain no antibiotics or GMOs are now in high demand among consumers. Since consumers have been found to pay extra for sustainable and healthy products, food companies should not shy away from investing in making quality meat products.
- Fine Dining
Another trend among consumers is the demand for foods that are commonly reserved for fine-dining establishments but are still affordable. This might sound contradictive but modern consumers want it all: affordability and quality.
Kinland suggests that food companies should merge high-quality ingredients with familiar food formats such as pecans in pumpkin flavored ice cream.
Food companies can take advantage of this trend through packaging as well. Since packaging is the first point of contact between a consumer and a product, food companies are able to give off a premium appeal through quality packaging. The use of high-quality imagery and sensory language on packaging can provide consumers with a premium experience before even trying the product itself.
At the end of the day, these trends reflect the current consumer mindset. Food companies need to consider the lifestyles and values of modern consumers while producing products. A focus on sustainability, waste reduction, animal welfare and aesthetic appeal will likely make a company’s fall line-up stand out to consumers this season.