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Retail Foodservice

A Flurry of Food Forecasts Weigh in on Pending Trends

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If holiday music is playing on the radio and the first snowfall starts to hit in colder climates, it must be time for the annual prognostication on what Americans will be eating in 2018 -- at least right after they get past their brief New Year’s resolutions following several weeks of seasonal indulgences.

Over the last few weeks, several organizations have released their predictions on food and drink trends for 2018, which cover foodservice and retail to different extents. Waitrose, a chain of supermarkets in the U.K., rolled out its assessment of soon-to-be trending foods and eating habits, based on yearlong polling of more than 2,000 customers.

The trends noted by Waitrose, which are likely to resonate across the pond in the U.S., include people’s growing interest in Indian street food and indulgent Japanese dishes. Waitrose also points to smaller basket sizes at retail and a move to a fourth meal during the day, generally a larger snack eating on the run or right before or after being on the run.

In addition, Waitrose noted that, driven by interest in “flexitarian” diets, plant-based proteins will continue to become more mainstream.

Indeed, plant-based proteins seem to be a darling of foodies, including others who have cast their thoughts on trends for the coming year. Baum+Whiteman, a New York City-based hospitality firm, calls mainstream consumption of plant-based proteins its 2018 trend of the year, noting that the shift to plant proteins actually took root (no pun intended) in the grocery industry.

“Major dining trends are usually unleashed by restaurants, (such as) falafel, poke, Nashville hot chicken, food halls, or pumpkin-spiced lattes, for example. But one mega-trend finds restaurants way behind the curve: The rapid consumer shift to ‘plant-based’ foods,” the firm’s report states. “To understand this, look to grocery store shelves, because that's where innovation is showing up, largely by cheeky packaged goods startups who've figured out this new consumer psyche.”

Whole Foods – no stranger to plant-based foods in its produce section and prepared foods areas -- also unveiled its experts’ and buyers’ thoughts on 2018 food and drink trends, with similar thoughts on plant proteins. According to Whole Foods, plant-based diets will continue to dominate, and emerging technologies and production techniques will allow for innovations like sushi-grade “not tuna” made from tomatoes, different nut milks and vegan indulgences that mimic dairy favorites, like crème brulee.

According to Whole Foods thought leaders, the next phase of plant proteins may also include more “root-to-stem” cooking, which makes use of the entire vegetable or fruit, including some leaves and stems (think watermelon rinds and broccoli stems.)

Beyond its plant-based predications, Whole Foods suggests there will be more interest in floral flavors such as elderflower, rose and hibiscus, along with “super powders’ like matcha and, ground turmeric powder, next-gen protein powders, functional mushrooms that enhance wellness, authentic Middle Eastern flavors, puffed/popped snacks that capitalize on the clamor for crunch, non-traditional tacos, flavorful sparkling beverages, and, in line with what many in the grocer and food industries have been saying, even more consumer interest in transparency related to the “story” of food products.

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