In 2013, foodies experienced the cronut, the ramen burge and an explosive plant-based protein market. As the year winds down, it's time to predict what 2014's food and nutrition scene will entail. And it looks like food shopping will move from chore to explore.
Here's what some top experts predict:
Socially responsible companies take the lead. According to a survey by ConAgra Foods, 62 percent of consumers "appreciate, and want to support, companies that donate to important social causes." Brands have become more transparent, and with that comes adhering to a certain amount of social responsibility. Consumers will be drawn to those brands that deliver a consumer-friendly product, while also supporting initiatives that align with their particular beliefs and views.
[Read: Top 5 Foods to Fight Inflammation.]
Responsible/edible food packaging. Consumers are becoming more educated about what's lining the shelves at their supermarkets, including an increased awareness of not only what's in the product, but also what it's packaged in. In fact, some companies have taken this a step further through the use of new technologies to create edible wrappers. According to JWT, a global marketing and advertising agency that compiles a trend report every year, Bob's -- a burger chain in Brazil -- now serves its burgers in packaging you can eat, while Los Angeles-based ice cream truck brand Coolhaus wraps ice cream sandwiches in edible material. Could these new wrappers become a low-calorie, high-fiber side dish to packaged meals?
Tech-savvy shoppers. Grocers recognize that online food shopping and technology-involved shopping is the future. Look out for more online ordering from your local stores and even a drive-through window for easy pick up. Additionally, apps on your phone will allow consumers to "learn more about an ingredient or health claim [on a food package] by simply focusing the mobile device on the product's label." Fast food may become even faster through the use of an E-ZPass.
Jet-setting around the world ... at home. International flavors are going to make appearances in our own kitchens. Seasonings and spices not only jazz up a dish, but they also offer an array of health benefits.
[Read: Spice Up Your Life, Using Your Plate.]
Snack happy. Several consumer reports this past year highlighted Americans' 24/7 snacking habits, and supermarkets will make it a point to showcase healthier options loaded with health benefits. "Look for supermarkets to capitalize on the healthier snacking trend in 2014 by replacing traditional higher-sugar, higher-fat snacks at the checkout with better-for-you on-the-go offerings," says "Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert. This goal will also jive with the FDA's new trans-fat ban.
Waste not, want not. Good Housekeeping magazine reports that nearly 40 percent of the food in this country goes uneaten. GH highlights the importance of trying to make the most of leftovers and not over-buying. Make a shopping list and check it twice so you don't bring home items already in your pantry.
Tea time. We may not be located in England, but the tea craze is for real here in the United States, too. In fact, tea is the most global-friendly beverage. Consider that Starbucks paired with Teavana to open its first Tea Bar – I attended the grand opening in New York a few months ago, and from the looks of it, I'd say tea sets are gong to be a hot item this holiday season.
New superfoods. Every year, claims emerge labeling different foods as "super." While some deserve the title, others fall short. We've seen the kale trend and quinoa craze, and cheers for chia. This year, get ready for new super grains like freekah and teff to take center stage. And prepare to shine a light on the year's hot veggie: cauliflower. You'll see colorful cauliflowers and find them in places you wouldn't think of looking, like mashed potatoes.
"Free-from" foods. Look out for increased competition among allergy-friendly foods. As allergies are on the rise, more companies are producing products that are free from gluten, soy, nuts, dairy and so on. Experts predict we're about to see more products made from coconut and, yes, even more gluten-free flours. But don't be fooled by the word "free," because it could actually be costly -- a gluten-free donut is still a donut with just as much fat, sugar and calories as it's regular counterpart.
The new culinary school. Experts predict that supermarkets will become the new culinary mecca. Many stores already offer cooking demos or "community cooking centers" that allow shoppers to come together and learn from one another. The supermarket is a classroom for adults, and I implore you to bring along the kiddies to teach them how to find foods that will help them grow and flourish.
According to Lempert, 2014's food trends will follow customers' ever-evolving "relationships with merchants, brands and food." Let's raise a glass and ring in a new year of healthy relationships!
What trends do you think will emerge in 2014? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website isBetterThanDieting.com.