Driven by the forces of technology, science, lifestyle, behaviour, necessity, and economics, the evolution of new foods, food fads and dietary trends will never end. Many of us have sampled, savoured or snubbed a diverse medley of trends, ranging from cutting-edge science with the likes of molecular gastronomy and nootropics to eating wholefoods and raw. We have seen chefs become household names and the unusual become normal.
Based on the possibility of improved wellness, claims that certain foods will increase longevity, reduce inflammation, prevent cancer, and keep you beautiful stimulate new food trends, and re-ignite food trends from the past, which lead to new products that infiltrate an already lavish market.
2018 food trends predicted to hit our shelves and stomachs include vegan everything, plant-based protein, hyper-local, Hawaiian, West African and South American cuisine, tahini, convenience beverages packed with superfood blends, date syrup, medicinal mushrooms (uh-huh!), all things gut-friendly, smart fridges and the ‘fourth meal’.
David Alexander, general manager of Chantal Organics, believes we are fortunate to live in an era and a global region where every nutritional need can be satisfied. David remarks, “We all have unique internal ecosystems and each one of us will react differently to certain foods and dietary regimes. We can individually select a diet that suits us and take huge steps towards improving our own health.”
Selling organic food products wholesale across New Zealand, David observes first-hand what health conscious New Zealanders are buying. He continues, “Despite food fads and trends, most people want normal stuff! They want to stock the pantry with good quality products that are naturally nutritious with superior flavour.
Our top food sellers tick the vegan, gluten-free, unprocessed and wholefood boxes without even trying! By sales, our most popular items are chopped tomatoes, baked beans, chickpeas and tahini.”
Looking forward, David would like to see the word ‘organic’ disappear. He adds, “Ten years ago organic was considered fringe, even a bit weirdo. Through the development of healthy eating trends, organic has become completely normalised. It’s how our grandparents were growing food in their back gardens! I would like to see all standard produce grown organically as a matter of course, so everybody has access to good quality food that is affordable.”
Hawke’s Bay is fortunate to have ‘health food’ retail outlets in most of our towns and cities. These outlets provide a source for valuable health information as well as a venue for buying the latest ‘buzz’ foods, time-honoured favourites, and fresh local produce. Hastings-based owner of Cornucopia Organics, Kaye Keats has been in the health industry for 34 years and has seen food trends go full circle.
Kaye remarks, “Sourdough bread is a great example of a food trend that was very popular 25 to 30 years ago, it was a real ‘hippie’ food! Its popularity dropped off for some time, but with growing awareness around gut health and fermented foods, sourdough has fast become a staple food for many. Another example is spirulina. Again, this was hugely popular in the 70s, saw a decline in the 80s and 90s, but resurfaced as a superfood in the last five years or so, and is now very much considered mainstream.
“Apple cider vinegar is a product we sell lots of, this is a real full circle classic! Gaining popularity in the 1950s after author D.C. Jarvis wrote about it in his guide to good health, it diminished for a while and now it’s back in full swing, and I expect it’s here to stay!”
Kaye is cautious around the explosion of superfood powders.
“There is a powder form of almost everything! They all have valid health benefits, but I really feel we need to become realistic about superfoods. We can grow superfoods in our backyards! To incorporate sustainability, less packaging, and decreasing food miles we need to look at locally grown superfoods such as kale, broccoli and beetroot. I think there is a fine line between supporting the countries that produce many of the superfoods and exploitation. I would like to see us pull back on what we have from the other side of the world and support local.”
Kaye observes that superfood powders and blends are often the added extra for many people and only a certain demographic can afford them. She comments, “Most of our customers come in for gluten-free breads, fresh organic produce and fermented foods. We do sell a lot of turmeric both in its root and powder form, and avocados remain very popular. However, one of our principle sellers is the banana. We are a banana crazy nation! We consume more bananas per capita then almost any other country!”
As hands-on retailers, Tess Alexander-Ward and co-owner Tim Stevens at The Chantal Shop can closely observe the ‘bell curve’ of a new food fad. Tim remarks, “We can stock things before they become popular, but we generally wait until the consumer demands it. And even then, our suppliers have to get it first. A classic example is crickets, both in their whole and powder form. The product has real potential as an alternative protein source, but the demand for it is not there. I don’t think our customers are quite ready for it!”
Tess says, “People need their basics, our die-hard products that never go out of style include nuts (particularly almonds), dates, local fresh produce, gluten-free breads, and potted plants. Consumers will add trendy extras such as collagen powder, and niche products for personal dietary needs, but our core sellers are things that have been around forever.”
Hawke’s Bay foodies who frequent our local health food outlets are clearly not fooled by hyped-up trendy food fashions. They show a preference for the uncomplicated, the nourishing and the trustworthy. But maybe, every now and then, they could be convinced to step out of their comfort zones and spoil themselves with a crunchy cricket or two.