Turmeric and Paprika

Ten Top Food and Nutrition Trends of 2016

Not a day too soon, 2016 is fading into history. So the time has come to look back at the food and nutrition trends that captured our attention and some of our money. Here’s our view of ten that rose to the top. Do you have other ideas? Leave a reply below or a tweet or a Facebook comment. The more, the merrier.

1. War on Sugar. U.S. consumption of the sweet stuff is down from its peak in 1999 to levels not seen since the 1980s. No matter. The sugar-is-poison bandwagon is still rolling. Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages passed in six more cities this year. Maybe soda will be taxed into oblivion and obesity will start dropping. Or maybe not.

2. Butter. Consumers have gotten the message that butter is back. Journalists and people with popular nutrition books are selling that idea hard. They’re talking right past nutrition researchers who recommend favoring unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil. So compound butters are all the rage.

3. Clean Labels. No added sugar. Gluten-free. No GMOs. No artificial anything. Big food gets it. The “clean eating” trend means consumer want clean foods with clean labels. Everything old is new again. Consumer activists demanded passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. That’s the law that gave us the FDA. Are we there yet?

4. Natural and Healthy. Speaking of FDA, the agency moved this year to bring clarity to these two important, but terribly murky food claims. They’re still working on it. Good luck with that.

5. Whole Fruit. Fear of added sugar and the quest for clean labels means whole fruits are looking like pretty attractive ingredients for healthy-ish packaged food products. Pepsi is working on it. J&J Snack foods has a Whole Fruit brand that’s doing pretty well. But this trend is mostly unfolding in food R&D labs.

6. Home Meal Kits. Remember cake mixes? Home meal kits are going all the way to put a whole meal in a convenient box and still let you have the joy of cooking. Pioneer Blue Apron is headed toward an IPO offering.

7. Plant Protein. Meat production is killing the planet. People want their protein. So even meat producers like Tyson Foods are investing in plant protein. It lines up nicely with consumer fascination with vegetarian and vegan food options.

8. Mindful Eating. Mindfulness has been trendy for some time now. Sorting hype from help has been a challenge until lately, when data from a randomized, controlled study demonstrated that mindfulness can help people achieve and maintain a healthier weight.

9. Turmeric. A little bit of anti-inflammatory mystique and a lot of good recipes have made turmeric into one of the hottest commodities in the spice cabinet.

10. Global Flavors. Even though Americans just elected a president promising a big wall at the border, we seem to have a growing appetite for global flavors. Asian twists on comfort food, dukkah, Filipino cuisine, miso, and fermented foods are just a few examples global flavors finding favor this year.

​Click here for more perspective from Judie Bizzozero of Natural Products Insider.

Turmeric and Paprika, photograph © Ze’ev Barkan / flickr

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December 14, 2016