- Whole Foods has released its predictions of the top food trends for 2018. According to the natural grocer, gaining momentum in the coming year will be: 1) floral flavors, 2) super powders, 3) functional mushrooms, 4) Middle Eastern food, 5) increased transparency, 6) high-tech plant-based products, 7) puffed and popped snacks, 8) modern twists on tacos, 9) no-waste cooking and 10) bubbly beverages.
- The retailer compiles the list annually based on input from its team of seasoned global buyers along with industry experts.
- With more than 470 stores, Whole Foods’ trend-spotters work across a variety of functions and departments, including cheese, grocery, meat and seafood, prepared foods, product and personal care.
The search is always on for the next big food trend, be it a flavor, texture or ingredient that’s sure to win over consumer taste buds. Each year, Whole Foods releases its much-anticipated list of up-and-coming food trends, which is usually rife with exotic, interesting and unique twists based on consumer eating and buying trends. This year’s predictions don’t disappoint.
The forecast calls for some existing trends to evolve beyond what’s currently on the market. For example, in what Whole Foods calls “transparency 2.0,” the retailer challenges food companies to provide increased transparency on product labels. Consumers want more than just ingredient lists, GMO status and nutritional statistics these days. Increasingly, they want to understand the product’s back story, such as its source-to-store path and the manufacturer’s sustainability stance, including if products are Fair Trade certified and responsibly produced.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s SmartLabel Initiative is perhaps the best-known example of this type of disclosure strategy. Since the program launched almost two years ago, 37 companies, 433 brands and 14,670 products have adopted the technology to give consumers a more complete look at what’s inside items found on grocery store shelves.
Plant-based foods have taken off in a big way as food companies explore using everything from soy and nuts to exotic fruits and vegetables as ingredient alternatives. Now, Whole Foods predicts companies will increasingly apply science and technology to “advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins,” taking the budding industry to the next level. Examples include Beyond Meat’s “bleeding” vegan burgers, pea-based milk and cauliflower-based pizza crusts.
Niche suppliers are typically seen as the ones that grow these trends, but large-scale food and beverage makers are dabbling in some of these opportunities, too. Unilever’s new Lipton Wellness Tea line features a “Stress Less” variety infused with the floral flavor lavender, an ingredient long associated with relaxation. Kellogg recently announced the acquisition of RXBAR clean-label protein bars made with powdered egg-white protein.
General Mills recently invested $3 million in Purely Elizabeth, which uses functional mushroom powder to enhance its wellness bars with benefits like increased energy, vitality and immunity. Fast-growing organic chickpea puffs brand Hippeas checks two boxes on the up-and-coming trends list: puffed and popped snacks with a Middle East (chickpea) twist. And don’t forget Polar Beverages’ launch of its sparkling seltzer’s mythical mystery flavors, including fan favorite “Unicorn Kisses.”
While some of Whole Foods’ trends may push the envelope a bit too far for some in the industry, the retailer and its trend-spotters do have a knack for picking winners. Among last year’s predictions that hit it big: coconut everything, creative condiments, rethinking pasta and mindful meal prep. It also predicted the meal kits upswing.