Whole Foods Market has predicted next year's top food trends for the fourth consecutive year, with such items as Pacific Rim flavors, faux meat snacks and new varieties of hemp-infused products expected to be hot.
Based on more than 100 years of combined experience in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and participating in food and wellness industry exhibitions globally, Whole Foods has determined next year's hot spots in food to be:
- Flavors from the Pacific Rim: Ingredients found in dishes hailing from such regions as Asia, Oceania and the western coasts of North and South America are finding their way into grocery stores and restaurants. Here, products include longganisa – a Filipino pork sausage – dried shrimp, cuttlefish, shrimp paste and tropical fruits such as guava, passionfruit and dragon fruit, the last of which are making their way into smoothie bowls and cocktails. Moreover, jackfruit has become a popular meat alternative, while monk fruit extract is being embraced as an alternative to sugar.
- Shelf-stable probiotics: While probiotics have blown up in the refrigerated section, new strains of such probiotics as Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 and Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 are showing up in pantry staples like granola, oatmeal, nut butters, soups and nutrition bars. Even nonfoods are embracing shelf-stable probiotics, which are finding their way into topical body care products and even cleaning supplies.
- Fats: With such on-trend diets as keto, Paleo, grain-free and even "pegan" (Paleo and vegan), along with a general shifting consumer mindset, fats are major ingredients in creative, convenient foods. New integrations of fat sources include products such as keto-friendly nutrition bars crafted with MCT oil powder, coconut butter–filled chocolates and a new wave of ready-to-drink vegan coffee beverages inspired by butter coffees.
- "Next level" hemp: While hemp isn't anything new to the market, the cannabis "craze" is – and hard to miss at industry events. CBD oil might still be technically taboo, but there's more to the trend than that: Andalou Naturals, for instance, has introduced hemp plant-stem cells in its CannaCell body care collection, and non-cannabis-derived sources from the endocannabinoid system – such as phytocannabinoids that exist in nature – are also becoming more visible and prevalent due to the growing trend.
- Faux meat snacks: Plant-based foods have been a growing trend for some time, but more people are exploring plant-based snacking as they seek an alternative to meat snacks. Mushrooms such as king trumpet offer flavor and texture potential in jerky, "pork" rinds and "bacon" snacks to provide a satisfying crunch.
- Eco-conscious packaging: Dozens of like-minded brands in the OSC2 Compostable Packaging Collaborative have pooled their efforts to make important advances in flexible product pouches. Some companies are making commitments to ban straws, while brands like Whole Foods are setting up regional pilots to test recyclable strawless sipper lids made from PET, without increasing the plastic content of a lid/straw combination. Expect to see an emphasis on reuse, with more produce departments going “BYOVB” (bring your own vegetable bag) and traditionally single-use packages going multiuse, like multiuse (and compostable!) food wraps made from beeswax, as well as waxed canvas or silicone alternatives to the usual plastic storage bags that can be used for sandwiches and snacks.
- Trailblazing frozen treats: Pints of ice cream these days are using innovative bases such as avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water. Also big are plant-based frozen desserts such as CocoWhip Soft Serve, ice creams with savory swirls of artisanal cheese, and alcohol-infused gelatos and popsicles. Even globally inspired frozen desserts are gaining steam, including Taiwanese snow ice and Mexican nieves de garrafa.
- Snacking as its own occasion: As snacks usurp the usual three-meals-a-day routine, snacks are becoming fancier and less ordinary. Examples include charcuterie or cheese boards for one, and more mini meals – products inspired by school lunchboxes, but made with better ingredients.
- Empowering purchases: Similar to last year's Transparency 2.0 trend, purchasing power is motivating changes in the food, beverage and personal care industries, as shoppers are expecting more from the brands and businesses they support. Next year, thoughtful consideration behind purchases will move beyond – but not exclude – environmental stewardship and animal welfare, and become more people-focused. For instance, Greyston Bakery practices "radical inclusion," an open hiring model that includes anyone who has faced barriers to employment. And Kuli Kuli produces a moringa powder that's often grown and processed by women, and, as a result, has provided more than $1.5 million in income to women-led farming cooperatives, nonprofits and family farmers around the world through their organic moringa supply chain.
All of these predictions were curated from Whole Foods' culinary experts and industry leaders, responsible for sourcing items and leading trend-spotting initiatives across the chain. These specialists combine their expertise from all departments, including cheese, specialty, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and body care.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods operates more than 470 stores throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Under the name of its parent company, Amazon, the Austin, Texas-based grocer is No. 8 on Progressive Grocer's 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the U.S.