We visited this year's Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo and brought back our observations on the ways food trends are leaning for 2019. Be sure to save your spot for a free, 30-minute webinar on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 12:00 PM ET with our colleagues, dietitians Garrick Brown and Anne L'Heureux.
Move over coconut, almond, and pea protein...sunflower is making its mark on shelves throughout the supermarket. According to industry reports, global sunflower production in 2018-19 could increase to a record 49.8 million metric tons (MMT) from 47.2 MMT in 2017-18 as demand for sunflower meal and oil increases. Look for protein powders, ice cream, dairy alternatives, and more to be made from this powerful, versatile and allergy-friendly seed.
It was predicted that the FODMAP Diet would make its mark in 2018, and that prediction is proving accurate, as an increasing number of foods are featuring the FODMAP Friendly logo. These products appeal to customers seeking foods to help manage irritable bowel symptoms including bloating and discomfort. While the FODMAP diet is not new, the food industry clearly believes that the 30 million or so Americans who suffer from IBS are more interested in the diet than ever, and will propel this way of eating into the mainstream in 2019.
Cleaner than Ever
“Clean eating” is a trend that continues, despite its vague definition. Food companies that presented their products last October at the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference (FNCE) consistently highlighted the importance of providing consumers with clean labels featuring short ingredient lists and familiar ingredients. In 2019, look for food companies to take this further by offering more information on the sources of their ingredients and applying the concept of “clean” to everything they can— including packaging.
So Long, Coconut
Maybe it’s the conflicting health messages that have surrounded coconut over the past few months, or possibly the increased use of sunflower and other options, but it seems that coconut’s time in the spotlight may be coming to an end. This isn’t to say that it won’t still be available at your local market in various forms (and some people following certain diets still clamor for coconut products). Indeed, coconut milk did see a sales increase in 2018. However, watch for shifts in in the popularity of coconut oil in 2019.
Protein is still a prime-time player, and now plant-based alternatives are leading the way. With a presence across categories, including desserts, soups, entrees, bars, and beverages (protein drinks, smoothies and more), plant-based food sales grew 20% in 2018, topping $3.3 billion in sales. 2019 will see growing popularity, increased opportunities for plant based foods, and the likely spread of the “Certified Plant Based” logo from the Plant Based Foods Association (intended only for those foods that aim to replace animal-based foods). Also look for versatile meat-alternate, Jackfruit, to be more accessible in its raw form, as well as make its way into more packaged foods.
A Focus on Fiber
The fiber content of foods was front and center at the FNCE exhibition. Where manufacturers used to tout fiber content in cereal and bread categories, now fiber is featured on product labels and marketing materials for everything from snacks to supplements, pastas to protein bars, and beverages to brownies. Happily, many brands are boosting fiber in their products using ingredients like beans, lentils, and whole grains. Could it be that the time is right for consumers to recognize and embrace fiber for all of its good qualities (such as promoting digestive health, enhancing satiation, lowering cholesterol and helping keep blood sugar in check)? We hope so, especially since most Americans come up significantly short in the fiber department.
Consumers are still seeking alternatives to sugar and the food industry continues to respond—sugar is the #1 ingredient food companies are removing from their products. Stevia, including de-bittered stevia, is enjoying the spotlight right now, but other sweeteners such as erythritol and monkfruit sweetener are getting the nod from both consumers and the food industry as well. If you’re among those who aim to stay away from added sugar, check out the recent Guiding Stars blog post on Surprising Sources of Added Sugar for some quick tips and ideas.
Processed Snack Attack
These days, a snack can no longer just be a tasty “filler” food, it must also serve a few nutritional functions (protein, fiber, a serving of veggies, etc.) aside from contributing kcals. According to a survey conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 86% of respondents reported seeking to replace less-healthy foods and beverages with more nutrient-dense options; 87% were trying to get the correct amount of protein from a variety of sources; and 87% said they were trying to consume the recommended amounts and variety of vegetables. To meet these goals, consumers are seeking high quality snacks that provide a nourishing bridge between meals. Of course, “real” food can still be smart snack choices—highly-processed snack bars, crackers, and beverages aren’t required.
Probiotics Hit Prime Time
Probiotics—those “good bugs” in our bodies that are increasingly linked to health-promoting effects such as digestive health, weight control, heart disease risk, and immunity—are being added to more and more foods every day, as evidenced by the large number of probiotic-enhanced products hitting the market. Probiotics used to be associated mostly with the dairy category and fermented foods, but now consumers can expect to see probiotics pop up in a variety of food categories such as juices, protein drinks, snack bars, cereals, and margarine spreads.