Mid-Year Review: Ten Food Industry Trends Missed by Forecasters for 2014

By Suzy Badaracco, Foodable Industry Expert

When combing through 168 Trends Forecast Top 10 lists for 2014 offered up by trends forecasters, several gaps appeared. Was 2014 just so predictable that everyone had the same opinion or were we just so glad that 2013 was over and happy to look forward?

To understand why food and flavor trends are born, or why they step into the spotlight for any given year, one must also understand their surrounding Couriers and influencers. A Courier acts to shuttle a trend in from a neighboring focus, while an influencer can be seen as an ally to a trend. Consumer, Health, and Technology trends impact and shift trends that are expressed in the food industry. They move as a dance — when one arena experiences a shift, the other areas will shift in tandem. Without understanding what is influencing a food, flavor, or beverage trend, you have little hope of predicting where it will go next. And that is the difference between tracking trends and forecasting them. With that said, overlooking key trends is akin to having a puzzle with missing pieces, which means the picture remains incomplete and can be misunderstood. Here are a few of the overlooked patterns to round things out a bit to help complete this year’s puzzle.

The Unmentioned Top 10 Trends Affecting the Food Industry:

Trend No. 8: Invasivors shine.

Trend No. 8: Invasivors shine.

  1. Consumer: Fearlessness continues to gain ground with its birth originating in the travel and wine arenas. Adventure in food and flavor pushes forward. Think of foods that are regionally/culturally authentic or have ties to a time in history. Knowing a food’s origins is key to consumers.
  2. Consumer: Deal Chic and the thrill of pursuit have replaced budget fears. The budget-conscious consumer now demands luxury, and “value” will be defined at the best quality for the money. 
  3. Health: Elimination diets are the enemy — any diet that villainizes a single food or food group(s) attracts more immediate attention from medical and dietetic professionals to correct false or misleading health information.
  4. Technology: Vending couldn’t be hotter right now. Whether the machine is talking to you, offering suggestions on your next beverage purchase, making you a pizza in real time, or sending out Wi-Fi signals, it has no equal.
  5. Beverage: Scandinavian & honey beers joins sour, craft, flavored and low alcohol beers in our refrigerators and at happy hours.
  6. Beverage: Drinkable grains have moved laterally with oats, quinoa, teff and their cousins moving out of cereal boxes and side dishes and into beverage.
  7. Beverage: Ice cream has sidled up to the bar and gets cozy with whiskey, wine, and rum. On that note, alcohol now competes with traditional seasonings as it shows up in marinades, desserts, sauces, and as a base for rubs.
  8. Foods & Flavors: Invasivors and killers shine. Think cicadas, puffer fish (fugu), raw baby octopus (sannakji), lion fish, and foraging —  is that really an edible mushroom? These both have ties to fearlessness and global cuisine interests.
  9. Foods & Flavors: Low Country and Appalachian cuisine comes in on coat tails of the Deep South/Soul Food trend, which has been the number one regional USA trend for the last two years. Low Country encompasses South Carolina and the Georgian coast while Appalachia stretches from the southern tip of NY to Northern Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.
  10. Foods & Flavors: Regional pies and Scandinavian pastries outshines cupcakes as consumers continue to seek out regional and historical ties to food. Look for Scandinavian pastries such as Kringles and Shoofly, Shaker Lemon, Key Lime, and Hoosier Sugar Cream pie from the States.