Produce Trends 2019: What Foods are Consumers Shopping for?

A look at trending foods, diets and ingredients. Predicting 2019 consumer demand so you can get ahead of the curve and sell what your customers want.

Over the last few years, people have changed the way they look at food. Food has taken on a more important role than ever before. Trends in health consciousness and diversification have pushed food providers, restaurants, and shops to provide healthier and wide-ranging options for customers. Here are a few trends that will shape food businesses in 2019.

Healthy Alternatives

With scientific advancements and a better understanding of nutrient composition in food many consumers are shifting into healthier lifestyles. According to WholeFoods, interest in probiotics and probiotic-based products increased over the past year or so and Wholefoods expects probiotics to be a fan favorite in 2019. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that provide health benefits and maintain a healthy gut. “Gut health” is an interest and a trend in itself. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like kimchi and granola, oatmeal, nut-butters, soups and many more.

Providing these probiotic-rich foods, or marketing and advertising products you already stock can tap into and cash in on this rising trend. We have also prepared a detailed guide about “How following neighborhood demographics (and trends) can bring in cash for your grocery store.”

Plant-Based

2018 was a big year for plant-based foods and 2019 is expected to be just as big with Uber predicting plant-based foods will be a top trend based off their latest annual report . Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian spoke to U.S. News about the alternatives in cooking with plant-based ingredients and foods. The world of plant-based foods includes an incredible amount of diet options, from plant-based baking ingredients like nut butter to alternative oils, which fit within the increasingly popular flexitarian diet.

The flexitarian diet has been around for the past decade but, it has become more popular lately. A flexitarian diet consists of a vegetarian base but allows for the occasional steak or burger. The trend is driving demand for new alternatives in the plant-based diet, especially for new dieters. The development of imitation meat products, such as the “beyond burger” and “Beyond Meat” range reflects this consumer demand and growth of the plant-based produce industry.

Fats

Believe it or not, fats can be good. Like the flexitarian diet, keto and paleo diets have become more popular in the past year with CNN reporting that a Google Trends chart shows that searches for “keto” have dwarfed searches for “Whole30” and “intermittent fasting”. While fat used to be branded as a public enemy, which led to the proliferation of “fat-free” products, the focus has shifted to sugar as a danger to health and diet.

With the “wellness industry” marketing push and campaigns around diet combinations like vegan-paleo, in combination with lifestyle trends like luxury fitness classes, these diets have garnered a lot of attention. Fats have become a staple for cooking the past years with healthy like fats like coconut butter, vegan chocolates, and popcorn made with grass-fed ghee. The fats trend is set to keep increasing into 2019 with many of your daily foods converting into healthy fats, proteins, and carbs. According to Harvard Health, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats can have huge benefits like reducing harmful LDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also reported to prevent and treat heart disease.

Pet Food

When it comes to health, we want the best for both ourselves and our family members—including our pets. Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to saving and improving the quality of life for pets, said that they feel that pets eating more healthy options much like their owners will be a huge trend in 2019.  

“The macro trend of health and wellness and the increasing number of millennial pet parents are changing the way we care for our pets, and it’s an exciting time,” Aimee Gillbreath, Executive Director of the foundation, said. Brands like Nulo’s pet food is one of many brands that create healthy and tasty food for dogs.

If you’re a food store owner, following the trend is vital to your future success. As trends come in and out of the market (some are passing fads, some become permanent consumer fixtures), these changes could affect inventory, the demand for your products and sales.

If your natural food store isn’t already selling healthy pet food, you may want to consider adding products to your inventory.

American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducted a Natural Pet Owners survey, in 2017, and found that about 68 percent of Americans own a pet and, on average, dog owners annually spend $307 on dog food and treats and $291 on cats food and treats.

Food on the go

As technology advances, simple tasks like grocery shopping can be done with a click of a button. Amazon/Wholefoods is testing an option where customers can shop online and then pick up their groceries from a locker in the store. TDn2k released a study back in November 2018 that found sales have been decreasing for the restaurant industry for the past three years. Independent grocers and restaurants have been incorporating read-to-go food options for customers, according to the study, which may have contributed to this decline in restaurant sales. You can consider this option when planning read-to-go or pre-prepared produce options for your customers.  

Food that can be quickly picked up or delivered has become a huge trend and the demand is so big that investment bank UBS claims that by 2030 the food industry delivery sales will have a 20 percent increase. With busy work schedules, many people have turned to order their groceries or food through online marketplace platforms like Mercato.

For merchants who sign up for Mercato’s service, they are able to offer their customers (and prospective new customers) the ability to order online. Mercato handles set-up, orders, fulfillment, delivery and customer service. Merchants include independent grocers, specialty food stores, local butchers, cheese craftsman, artisanal food purveyors and more.

Mercato’s service meets consumer trends and interests and allows merchants to compete with major grocery and big-box corporations like Kroger, Walmart and Jet.

Packaging

Packaging was a hot topic in 2018, with some stores removing plastic bags altogether or charging customers for them. This has been a topic of much interest in the UK and Europe, but demand for less plastic and more environmentally friendly packaging is starting to impact chains and stores in the US as well.

“More shoppers today want packaging that works harder for their health and the health of the environment,” DeWitt Clark, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at North American Packaging for Evergreen Packaging wrote. Evergreen Packaging’s White Paper also made the following points about the importance and challenges involved in developing more plastic-free packaging options:

  • Challenge in protecting the freshness and nutrients of produce without using plastic.
  • Challenges in finding environmentally conscious packaging that won’t alter the taste of the food.
  • Customer interest in labels of where food/ ingredients are originating – Consumers have been demanding that packages explain where the ingredients are coming from or where the food was produced.
  • Responsibility for packaging: 68% of grocery shoppers have expressed their concern for packaging to be reusable and/or recyclable.

Why is this important?

Staying up-to-date with changes in market trends, behaviors, tastes and preferences can help businesses cater to what consumers are looking for, and therefore increase sales and revenue. For consumers, new diets and advancements in packaging and technology could mean a healthier lifestyle. The stores that will best be able to provide what consumers are looking for (for example the convenience of online shopping) will be the winners in their market.

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