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Sustainability awareness, climate change’s impact on the food supply chain, and COVID’s continuing influence on cooking habits and functional-food interest are the overarching themes of continuing food and beverage trends at the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food 24/7 digital event, said members of the SFA Trendspotter panel. 

In Trends from Fancy Food 24/7, a session held last week, two representatives from the panel outlined trends they found during the two-week event, which ran from Sept. 27 – Oct. 8. The participating Trendspotters were Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, chef, food writer, and cookbook author, and Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., who teaches food safety regulations at Johns Hopkins University, and is a principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a food science and research firm.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of how they eat, what they eat, where it comes from, and who makes it and how,” said Shelke. “All of this is going to drive change in the industry.” 

Here are some of the trends they discussed:

Values-based shopping. Consumers are supporting environmental and social issues with their food dollars. In addition to an increase in women-, Black-, and LGBTQ-owned brands at Fancy Food 24/7, sustainability and community impact are becoming more important to consumers and investors. But it’s not enough to just say the brand is sustainable. “Companies need to show that they’re giving back to a community not just exploring and extracting and leaving a region devastated,” said Schwartz. 

“It’s about who made it and, if you buy it, who it is you’re going to help,” agreed Shelke. 

Plant-based products. “It’s not new but it’s stronger and stronger and expanding into plant-based chicken and seafood,” said Schwartz, who expects plant-based alternatives to continue to gain favor as climate change impacts the supply chain.  

Functional foods. Trending: growing interest in immune-system health, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories, at least in part driven by the global pandemic, as well as anti-aging foods with functional benefits. “We’re seeing an intersection of food and cosmetics and neutraceuticals,” said Schwartz, who noted products like essential oils to use on the face. Other functional ingredients spotted at the event included turmeric, found in several categories including immunity-supporting energy shots, ginger and turmeric syrups to add to beverages, adaptogens, and antioxidant-rich butterfly pea flower extract.

Spices and seasonings. “The pandemic was a reset button for many as we went from cooking to fatigue with cooking,” said Shelke. She said we’ll be seeing more cooking aids like seasonings and spices and other items that help fight menu boredom and add convenience. The Trendspotters noted products like turmeric saffron salt for paella and Szechuan peppers as examples. Ingredients prevalent in other cultures like turmeric and ginger also tie diversity and heritage into their stories, Shelke noted. 

She added that cooking ingredient categories are fitting food gift options for the upcoming holidays to offer a present beyond a taste experience. “You’ll know when you use it that someone else in another part of the world is saying thanks to you for helping them share what they made. This season it’s not about dazzling, it’s about helping others.”

Go here for recording of the session.

Related: Amazon Adds Sustainable CertificationsPlant-Based Meat, Dairy Drive Category

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