Food Trends for Market Profit
Every year, research on what is hot in food is compiled by the restaurant association and industry analysts. This information has been adapted for farmers, direct marketers and purchasers of food, and value added producers who sell in local and regional markets and want to keep their marketing and product lines fresh.
Over the last two decades, purchasing from farms and farm-related businesses has grown dramatically.
Quite simply, there are a lot of hungry customers.
In this video we will show you the developing trends for the 2015 season.
One of the most important trends this year is food safety.
Consumers are interested in traceability and how things are produced.
There are ongoing concerns with the national and international food supply chains.
For example, there was recently an outbreak of Listeria that was linked to cantaloupes.
For producers, food safety has to be balanced with costs and obligatory regulations.
Consumers don't really consider these types of producer restraints and costs.
For consumers, it's all about transparency and origin.
They want to know about the sources of their meats and produce.
Consumers also want to access this information through one-on-one relationships in a direct-to-consumer environment.
This isn't always possible.
That means, in a small-scale wholesale environment, labels are extremely important.
Labels help to communicate information to the customer when you don't have face-to-face contact.
Consumers are still aware and concerned about GMOs, a buzzword for this year's minimal processing.
This goes along with the clean and whole food diets.
Consumers want to know they are eating real, not unhealthy, processed foods.
Reducing the amount of food waste is a big trend this year.
Consumers are aware of hunger and want to help mitigate that through feeding programs.
Customers are also interested in how waste is handled on the farm, so if you have a composting program, make sure your customers know about it.
There are even consumer apps about leftover food and repurposing.
Housemade continues to be popular with individual consumers, restaurants, and stores.
You are adding value when you can market through farm and estate brands and quality small batch artisan products.
Condiments are popular, especially meats, like charcuterie, and drinks.
Consumers really want to know the origin of the ingredient.
For example, they just don't want to know that you made a pickle, they want to know the provenance of the cucumber.
Fermentation is wildly popular this year, especially lacto-fermented and live products.
Ferments are showing up in all kinds of farm-to-table restaurants and many engaged consumers are making them in their kitchens.
So whether you choose to make and sell the ferments yourself, or you are aware that you have a latent customer base that would be interested in taking your raw farm product and fermenting that at home, you have to check the regulatory information for your area.
Protein and blood products such as blood sausage continue to show up at farm-to-table restaurants.
This concept ties to the reduction of waste.
People are open to eating new cuts of meat and smaller cuts of meat.
It's important to use the whole animal because there isn't enough local supply to meet consumer demand for choice cuts.
This especially happens when you're working with the farm-to-table chefs.
Of course, animal welfare is important to consumers, as evidenced by the Whole Foods Animal Welfare Rating system.
Hyperlocal trends very high.
You may want to consider partnering with a school, institution, or restaurant's onsite garden to co-brand and get your farm name in front of customers.
You could also sell surplus seedlings or advise on beekeeping.
Drinks continue to be very popular.
Products include microdistilled spirits, mixers, and wines.
Shrubs and hard cider are growing in popularity and craft beer entrepreneurs are increasingly searching for local grain.
Consumers and producers are looking for simple syrups that have been made with local fruit and herbs.
Folks are always looking for ways to satisfy that caveman DNA sweet tooth in the healthiest way possible, and this year is no exception.
This year's top sweeteners are coconut sugar and honey.
There's also a demand for more adult flavors of soft serve.
Especially popular are flavors like salted caramel and coffee mocha.
Value-added artisanal sweets like caramels, small batch popsicles with unique flavors derived from locally grown herbs, fruit, and produce sell well at farmers markets and stands.
Life is busy, and that means consumers are looking for products that have a gourmet touch, are ready to go, and contain a healthy component.
This rings true amongst Millennials and Gen Xers.
Baby Boomers want small portions.
Healthy kid meals and snacks are trending very high this year.
Another important factor are portion sizes.
They need to be appropriate.
Households continue to be smaller.
Some families only have two or three people, and that includes children.
If you do have a farmers market, on-farm store, or sell value-added products, you may want to survey your customers to determine what they want in the way of convenience foods.
The gluten free trend has stabilized, so don't expect the double-digit growth we've seen the last five years.
However, the need for local grains does continue to increase, and this goes hand-in-hand with value-added products like pastas, breads, and baked goods that aren't made of wheat.
Once again, popularity in grains continues to grow to meet the needs of the craft beer and distillery world.
There are a number of flavor trends for 2015.
Spicy, as in heat, is on the radar this year.
Ethnic flavors continue to be popular.
Savory flavors like vegetable stocks and purees are popular because this is a way to add flavor without adding animal fat like butter.
Breakfast for dinner is also popular.
An example is high-end chicken and waffles.
Spanish, Caribbean, and Southeast Asian are this year's top flavor picks.
Restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, and farm market customers are looking for fresh products like ginger, lemongrass, cilantro, chilies, onions, garlic, peppers, and citrus.
Value-added products could include stir fry sauces, marinades, dipping, and fish sauces.
Whether you are supplying restaurants and ethnic grocery stores or creating your own value-added products, this is an area where you can keep your product lines fresh, and connect with customers who will pay for artisanal quality.
There are several trends related to farmers markets.
A lot of farms who used to sell there can no longer afford to increase labor, so some farms are opting to sell more to small-scale, wholesale venues.
That means there is more vendor space at farmers markets for gourmet junk food.
Product examples include popsicles made from local fruit and herbs, takeaway sandwiches, dips, and fancy homemade marshmallows.
Night markets and pop up markets are two areas where there's some novelty on the farmers market scene.
These farmers markets are tied to cultural events like concerts, shows, and art exhibits.
This directly correlates with the number of food trucks everywhere.
Vendors have more mobility and are able to set up shop for a few hours and capitalize on hungry crowds.
There's also more cooperative marketing between farmers markets and between vendors at farmers markets.
Another farmers market trend that ties in with the waste reduction is the collaboration with food banks.
For example, in Pittsburgh, there is a program called "Buy a Bag for the Hungry", where shoppers can purchase an additional bag of produce that is given to a local food bank for distribution.
There are several benefits to a program like this.
Farmers and vendors are able to increase sales, and there's a lot of extra fresh, nutritious food entering the rescue and emergency feeding supply chain.
"Double Up Food Bucks" is also a great program that works with foundation and federal dollars.
The Federal Improved Nutrition Initiative grant, known as FINI, allows a SNAP recipient to increase their purchasing power.
If a farmers market has a SNAP/EBT benefit program in place and a SNAP beneficiary swipes their card for, say, a five dollar purchase, that individual will receive an additional one or two dollars in benefits.
Farmers markets are beginning to more widely implement this program because of the benefits for sellers, vendors, and consumers.
Out of this initiative comes contract growing.
Food banks want more fresh produce to enter their inventory, so there are funds available to do contract growing or growing just above cost.
Technology is also helping vendors reach more people.
Consumers are now able to use SNAP benefits, formerly the Food Stamp Program, to purchase fresh vegetables at farmers markets.
Individuals can also use credit cards and ATM cards to make purchases, so they are no longer limited to the cash in their pocket.
In closing, combining annual trends with a solid foundation of quality, local, and family-farmed foods can be a win-win for brand recognition and profitability.