Food trends develop slowly, according to Darren Seifer, the food and beverage industry analyst at the NPD Group, a research firm. Seifer said seismic shifts are not in the offing for next year.
But he and other experts said a few trends probably will accelerate. Some of them boil down to one simple word.
“Just think of the word, ‘No.’ No preservatives, no additives, no growth hormones,” Seifer said.
Seifer said consumers are increasingly focused on clean ingredient labels. They want food in its purest form.
He said consumers will keep that up in the coming year, along with their developing aversion to sugars, whether in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or table sugar. Seifer said added sugars are replacing fats as the demons of the food world.
“About two-thirds of adults are now telling us that they are trying to cut down on or avoid sugars completely in their diets,” he said.
Food industry watchers said they also expect consumers’ quest for “natural” food will increase in the coming year, even if that term is still pretty squishy.
“The challenge is that there are differing views of natural,” said David Garfield of the consulting firm AlixPartners. “Some feel locally sourced is natural. Some feel that not highly processed is natural.”
Despite consumers’ growing preference for what they view as healthier foods, Michael Whiteman of Baum & Whiteman said he expects to see more dishes involving fried chicken in the coming year on restaurant menus.
Whiteman said some restaurants are using fried chicken as a vehicle for hot sauces, in keeping with another big trend: consumers’ love of spice.
“It's a contest to see who can blister your palate more,” he said.