The NLS Food Evolution Summit was held in San Diego last month. At the event, produce professionals discussed the up and coming food trends that the industry can expect in the next year. Nannette Richardson of Bonduelle Fresh Americas was one of the speakers at the event and shared her thoughts on food trends for 2019.
She noted that this past year has seen an increase in the demand for transparency when it comes to source of food and labeling. "2018 has been an interesting year," Richardson began. "We’ve seen trends from animal-based proteins to gut-friendly food, including the desire for clean label and transparency. We’re also seeing robust flavors from the Middle East and North Africa. More importantly, consumers’ demand for produce in the freshest way possible has been a distinguishing factor and trend for us this year."
Richardson added that consumers are also turning their attention to the packaging itself, with a greater expectation for sustainable packaging. "We’ll also start to see consumers waste less food and become more interested in sustainable packaging," she said.
Exotic foods set to 'ignite'
Along with cleaner and more "pure" foods, consumers are stretching out and sampling some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables that are available. As the global economy increasingly makes unfamiliar foods more accessible, the trend is for a greater variety of fruits and vegetables in stores and in meal kits. In line with the cleaner food trend, consumers are also looking for the health benefits that some exotic produce can bring.
"We believe the next 12-24 months will bring in some of the industry’s most rare vegetable ingredients, in addition to plant-based proteins and superfoods," Richardson predicted. "Some of the fresh produce items that are set to ignite are uncommon veggies we don’t find in our everyday grocery store. Specifically, delicacies like heirloom varieties, unique herbs, micro greens, and edible flowers that will begin to find its way to the center plate."
Retailers are responding and are willing to stock more of these items to cater for this demand. As Richardson shared, "Retailers are beginning to carry more international flavors and items that can easily be paired with or served as a meal—such as the Ready Pac Foods Sweet & Spicy Korean Salad Kit. This zesty, fresh salad kit served with a side of grilled short ribs or shrimp on top makes a great, easy meal."
Meal kits becoming mainstream
While consumers appear to be keen to eat healthier, more nutritious meals with exotic ingredients, they are also short on time. There are many more options now for people that are busy and have less time to cook. In fact, expect to see even more ready-to-eat style meal kits in stores over the next few years as companies capitalize on this market.
"Consumers are looking for faster ways to get a delicious “home cooked meal,” whether it is on-the-go or on the table," Richardson said. "In fact, meal prep time has declined to 30 minutes over the last two decades, where consumers are increasingly cooking at home. So items that are pre-prepped and finished at home or pre-planned are going to continue gaining popularity. Particularly in today’s world, time-starved consumers need savory meal solutions that are quick and easy to prepare and personalize."
She also observed that many meal-kit producers are working alongside retailers to partner up and offer more meal kits in stores. After all, they both have the same goal - keeping customers happy and making sure they return. "We are seeing meal kit companies partner with brick and mortars more. This kind of partnership helps both serve consumers in a more convenient way," Richardson concluded. "Consumers are looking for balanced healthy eating and that includes more fresh, clean, wholesome options and less processed foods overall."