When it comes to upcoming food trends we may not have soothsayers looking into crystal balls – but we do have the global buyers and experts from Whole Foods, and they seem to be super savvy. For 2018 they predicted advanced plant-based foods – Beyond Burger and other products proved them right. For 2017 it was wellness tonics and coconut everything, check and check. For 2016: Wine in cans and fermented foods ... maybe we need to ask them about lottery numbers?
According to the company, their seasoned trend-spotters thoughtfully compile the reports "based on more than 100 years of combined experience in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and participating in food and wellness industry exhibitions worldwide." Given that Whole Foods is in the, you know, food business, it makes sense that they'd have a crackerjack team sniffing out the trends for the upcoming year. Here is what they predict for 2019 – let's see how well they do.
1. Pacific Rim flavors
One might think we're running out of novel global flavors, but fear not: 2019 will be the year of the Pacific Rim. Think Asia, Oceania and the western coasts of North and South America – not exactly local to us in North America, I realize. I've already seen jackfruit as a meat alternative all over the place, and the keto darling, monkfruit, has been replacing sugar for the carb-conscious for a while. But Whole Foods (WF) says to watch out for things like guava, dragon fruit, passionfruit, longganisa (a Filipino pork sausage), dried shrimp, cuttlefish and shrimp paste, among other flavor inspirations.
2. Shelf-stable probiotics
The fermented food craze has been fueled much in part by their being rich in probiotics. Now, says WF, we can expect even more innovative probiotics in food, and in more novel iterations. "New strains of probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 and Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 are making more shelf-stable applications possible. Wellness-focused brands are making it easier to get more probiotics in your day by adding functional probiotic ingredients to your pantry staples through products like granola, oatmeal, nut butters, soups and nutrition bars."
3. Trendy fats
Oh how times have changed. Once the bad boys of the food world, fats are now the darlings thanks much in part to keto, paleo, grain-free and paleo-vegan diets. "Along with these phat fats, higher protein and lower-carb combos will continue to trend across simple and easy snacking categories," they predict. Look for keto-friendly nutrition bars made with MCT (Medium chain triglyceride) oil powder, coconut butter–filled chocolates, “fat bomb” snacks and a new wave of ready-to-consume vegan coffee drinks inspired by butter coffees. And ghee will be bigger than ever.
4. Next level hemp
Hemp hearts, seeds and oils have been around for a while, but with the explosion of the cannabis industry, new interest has many brands looking to explore the field. WF writes, "While CBD oil is still technically taboo (prohibited in food, body care and dietary supplements under federal law), retailers, culinary experts and consumers can’t miss the cannabis craze when visiting food industry trade shows, food innovators conferences or even local farmers markets."
5. Non-meat meaty snacks
As more and more people are transitioning to plant-based eating, we are really seeing plant-based fake meats reach new heights. "Bloody" veggie burger, anyone? Now the trend is expected to invade the meat snacks segment as well. "Mushrooms like king trumpet will play a key role here, flexing their flavor and texture powers in tasty jerky, 'pork' rinds and 'bacon' snacks." Expect a number of other inventions as well.
6. Eco-conscious packaging
This can't come a minute too soon: A number of brands switching their packaging in response to the environment. Among other initiatives, there should be more compostable packaging and less plastic. "Expect to see an emphasis on reusing, with more produce departments going “BYOVB” (bring your own vegetable bag) and traditionally single-use packages going multi-use, like multi-use (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. Some movements start as trends, then become necessities. This is one of them." Yes, yes, and yes.
7. Innovative frozen desserts
The ice cream market is going loco! And in the best way: Think frozen treats that include avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water. Prepare for ice creams with ribbons of savory cheese and globally-inspired desserts like Taiwanese snow ice and Mexican nieves de garrafa, not to mention "stretchy, chewy, Turkish ice creams that get their unique texture from mastic and other unique sources." Bring it on.
8. More delicacies from the ocean
Sea vegetables have gone from near obscurity to seaweed snacks in all the kids' lunch boxes – now expect even more influences from the watery abyss. "Sea greens are showing up in dishes like seaweed butter and kelp noodles while consumers are exploring new depths of ocean flavors with superfood properties like unique varietals of algae and kelp. Puffed snacks made from water lily seeds, plant-based tuna alternatives with algae ingredients, crispy snackable salmon skins with omega-3s and kelp jerkies are just a few testing the waters." Ahoy!
9. Snacking grows up
It appears we are entering a new era of snacking: "Snacking across the board will take a turn toward the fancy, and snacks, as they start to usurp the usual three-meals-a-day routine, are anything but ordinary." Hey, I love snacking, I consider myself an expert, but this one worries me a bit because of snippets such as: "one-ounce portions of Cypress Grove cheeses," "portable snack packages," and "new packaged snacks" ... the last thing we need to be promoting is small servings of food in individually wrapped packages. Buy in bulk and make your own to-go snacks in reusable containers – and then snack to your heart's content.
10. Brands that empower
As more people want to vote and/or influence with their wallets, consumer purchasing power continues to inspire decisions in the food, beverage and body care industries. In 2019, WF predicts that companies that focus on environmental stewardship, animal welfare, and social issues will be more popular than ever. Right on! It's interesting, now that Whole Foods is owned by Amazon it's easy to kind of forget the market's original vibe and ethos, that of an ethically-minded vegetarian natural foods store. So for me, at least, it was heartening to read this prediction for the future, one that sounds like a memory from Whole Foods' past: "Contributing toward social movements via purchasing goods and services with missions you believe in can make for big changes that extend far beyond the world of retail." Now that's a trend we can get behind.Read more about the predictions at the Whole Foods newsroom.