The US and the New Age of Food

US Consumers are paying more and more attention to what they eat, and the need for transparency and commitment has never beenso strong

Almost 79% of US consumers express the desire for more transparency about food products. This transparency mainly relates to the composition of products and the list of ingredients (for 50% of the persons polled) but also to food safety (43%). That said, US consumers pay considerably less attention than elsewhere to the origin of the products that they buy or to the presence or absence of quality labels.

However, 51% of them prefer to consume 100%-natural products with no artificial colours and no preservatives, to better appreciate the taste: a trend up 9 points compared to 2016. The naturalness of products seems to be an ever more important issue. With regard to organic, consumer interest seems to be plateauing since, in 2018, 35% of consumers say they eat organic whenever possible, compared to 36% in 2016.


The specialty food industry is growing rapidly, and much of this can be attributed to innovations happening in areas like sustainability, the plant-based movement, and desire for deeper regional flavors,” said Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “The Trendspotters are seeing major shifts in how consumers are eating. Old favorites like ice-cream are being reinvented, while at the same time, we’re seeing foods and flavors from around the world increasingly adapted into our everyday meals.”


The Trendspotter Panel, comprised of professionals from diverse segments of the culinary world, have identified the following trends for 2019:

Plant-based blossoms into a movement. The plant-based groundswell has firmly established itself in consumer eating habits. Stretching beyond vegans and vegetarians, plant-based foods now hold broad appeal to consumers who are intrigued by health benefits and have concerns about how their food is sourced. The movement will become situated in the larger context of sustainability: intertwined with upcycled products, as more companies turn to root-to-stem ingredients to combat food waste; snacks made from rescued bananas, or flours made with spent grains or pulp.

Cannabis across multiple categories. 2018 saw the emerging edibles segment gain a foothold in snacks and treats, as more states legalize sales of hemp-derived CBD products. Though the segment has its challenges as cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, consumer curiosity has been piqued. A new generation is growing up in US states where cannabis is legal, and signs point to future growth of the edibles market. Look for more infused cooking oils, coffees, teas, chocolates, baked goods, snacks, and even beer and pasta to hit the market in the coming year. Foodservice will continue to adopt cannabis cuisine menus and cocktails. 

Packaging takes center stage. In the environment, and in consumer communication. Soliciting consumer trust through values conveyed on product packaging and, in some cases, the material of which it’s made, will be more visible in the coming year.  As consumers increasingly place a premium on company values, producers are making their certifications and accreditations, such as B Corp, women-certified, and animal welfare, more prominent on packaging. Sustainable packaging will grow, especially plant-based varieties.

Cassava. A specific star of the plant-based phenomenon is cassava, also known as yuca, a starchy tuberous root native to South America. Grain- and gluten-free, the cassava root is high in carbohydrates, but its leaves are a reported good source of protein and rich in lysine. Cassava leaves have been especially evident in packaged snacks from cassava leaf chips to popped cassava and even a cassava leaf jerky. 

Fermented functional beverages. Refrigerated ready to drink (RTD) functional beverages have grown 20 percent in retail sales, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha has led the charge, and more fermented functional beverages touting health, tradition, and flavor are on the horizon. Drinking vinegars, which are high in probiotics, amino acids, and antioxidants, will also continue to emerge. 

Edible beauty. Noted as emerging by last year’s Trendspotter panel, collagen is a full-fledged trend in 2019, and part of a bigger move to develop products that promote skin health and appearance. Traditionally used topically, argan and almond oils are coming to market. Both oils are high in omega fatty acids and vitamin E which can help hydrate skin, restore elasticity, and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. While marketed broadly, many of these products are targeted at the aging, and often overlooked, Gen Xers.

Ice-cream renaissance. We all scream for ice cream, and now this traditional favorite is being rethought in function and flavor. Its reinvention started with dairy-free varieties made with coconut, almond, or soy milks. Now makers are blurring the lines between treat and healthy snack even further with some blending vegetables like cauliflower and carrots by into ice creams. On the flavor front, global and floral notes like black sesame and jasmine are adding new touches to the market. 

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