Two weeks into the New Year and I’m still getting flooded with articles predicting the hot trends in food and grocery. Alas, so many are filled with the obvious. I did enjoy this list, though, from Packaged Facts. It's a nice look at eight emerging culinary trends. Each trend was rated from 1 to 5. In this case, 1 means the trend is brand new while 5 meaning it’s already hit the mainstream. Some of these may disappear before spring, of course, but a few might just stick around long enough to make the leap from chef's table to store shelf.
Douglas Fir and other "wild by nature" Flavours (stage 1): Chefs are finding a new source for ingredients: nature. They’re foraging in forests and on seashores for plants, herbs and flowers.
Cloudberry (stage 1): Nordic cuisine is hot and this berry, grown in alpine and arctic climates, is showing up in jams and alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs, beer ad wine and sparkling drinks. This could be the next elderberry for the beverage world (or perhaps the catchy new name for the next Blackberry smartphone?)
Arepas (stage 1): Arepas is a South American griddled cornmeal patty that’s gaining a following across Latin America and areas in the U.S. with Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants. There’s lots of opportunity to take it mainstream. It’s filling, delicious, vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free. In Latin America, electric arepas makers, similar to waffle iron, are sold to speed up cooking time in the kitchen.
Yuzu and exotic citrus (stage 2): “We have been spotting new foods made with the floral-flavoured Japanese lime at fancy food shows lately and believe this trend is ready to blossom,” is the line from Packaged Facts. The rationale: lime is already a flavour standard, so yuzu and other citrus varieties like sudachi offer consumers an exotic twist for salad dressings, condiments and drinks.
Coconut oil (stage 2): After the flurry of coconut water launches in the last few years we should have seen this coming. Coconut oil is healthy and can be substituteed for butter for dairy-free baking and cooking. “The fact that it makes stir-fried greens taste great seals the deal,” Packaged Facts sums up.
Popovers & gougers (stage 2): The traditional airy popover and cheesy French cream puff are two new ways to freshen up the breadbasket.
Grass-fed dairy (stage 3): “Free of artificial hormones and containing higher levels of healthful fatty acids, products made from grass-fed dairy appeal to both health-focused consumers and those seeking more natural, traditional and authentic foodstuffs,” says Packaged Facts.
Umami (stage 3): You won't find umami growing on trees or in the ground. Umami is the least known of the five flavour types (the others are sweet, sour, bitter and salty). Umami is commonly known as savoriness and some experts doubt the flavour really exists. For non-skeptics, however, umami is a pleasant taste that comes from glutamate and ribonucleotides, which occur naturally in meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. "Expect to see more applications of umami-laden ingredients–soy sauce, fish sauce, dashi, mushroom broths–in 2011," says Packaged Facts. Oh, and to learn more about umami, check out the Umami Information Center website.
IGD seminar in Toronto
In the December/January issue of Canadian Grocer we've got an interview with Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive at IGD. This U.K.-based organization does a great job studying the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries worldwide. You can read the interview here. But if you want more, IGD is holding a free seminar in Toronto Feb. 16 to share how global best practices in retail, supply chain and category management are likely to be put into place in Canada. Stewart Samuel, IGD’s senior business analyst (who’s based at the company’s Canadian office in Vancouver) says the session is useful for both retailers and manufacturers. You can find out more at http://www.igd.com/cpgseminar
What's for dinner? Ask Google
I just learned that Google has launched a food and beverage division. Now Google is one of those companies that you have to be impressed by. It’s less than 15 years old but with sales of more than US$23 billion, it’s bigger than McDonald’s. It’s also relentlessly innovative. It's said that Google employees get to spend one-fifth of their time at work on whatever projects happen to fire their imagination.
But what Google is really good at is organizing all that information littering the Web. So I’m not surprised they’re turning to the food industry. With people spending more time staring at iPhones and iPads, it makes sense that these devices will become the place people turn to make shopping lists, find out about products and get recipes and speak to their grocery store.
And just think about it: if Mom is staring at her iPod at 2 p.m. trying to figure out what to make for dinner, that means food and beverage companies (and supermarkets) will want to be there too, sending her ad message, coupons, etc. That's where you'll see Google start to get involved.
Asda's 10% price guarantee
Last winter U.K. grocery chain Asda came out with a price guarantee. This Walmart subsidiary promised to be chaper than all major competitors on the overall grocery bill. To prove it, shoppers could go to www.mysupermarket.co.uk to compare prices. Now, Asda has come out with a new guarantee. It’s promising to beat competitors by 10% on price.
Not everyone figures Asda can pull it off. But it's an interesting marketing tool aimed at giving a lasting impression in consumers' minds that Asda is cheaper than, say, Tesco. Asda knows that few shoppers will take the time to actually punch in the numbers on the website and do the comparison. We'll keep tabs on this one and let you know if it's working or not.
...Speaking of the U.K.
Belinda Youngs, the former chief marketing officer at Sobeys Inc. has been hired as “own brand director" at Morrison’s, which is another large British grocery chain. Youngs has some experience already in the U.K. food industry having worked at Sainsbury’s.