Boomers and Millennials drive the trends, and high tech seriously moves into the food industry. Here are some food trends for 2015 and beyond.
For several months, food analysts, and restaurant and grocery store owners have been looking at eating patterns and demographics of food consumption. They see what US eaters have been doing, and they make plans to give them what they want in the future. Here are a few items that interested me.
Food needs to be healthy
Healthy food is at the top of the list, no matter what it is or who’s eating it. Local food is still big news, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. Restaurants are continuing to add local produce, meat, fish and dairy to their menus to satisfy their customers. Farmers markets are still on the upswing.
‘Local’ means fresh and usually organic or at least sustainably grown. Those are healthy choices. Food starts losing nutrients as soon as it is harvested, so the sooner you can consume it off the farm, the better it is for you. It also lasts longer in storage, too, which means less food waste.
Healthy also means smaller portions. Baby boomers are aging, and they eat small meals or snacks throughout the day. I remember my mother in her 80s ordering from the kids’ menu when we went out. Even that was too much food for her, and restaurants and supermarkets are catching on.
Boomers are a large part of the market share, so it’s wise to cater to them. Grocery stores are now carrying small servings of healthy snack foods. Restaurant menus have small servings, appetizer size, that can be a meal for an elder or that many people can share.
The millennial generation
At the other end of the spectrum from Boomers are the Millennials, tech savvy young adults born about 1980-2000. This group is another major driving force behind all consumer trends. They, too, like small meals that they can customize. The idea of ‘sharing plates’, many small appetizer size meals, is popular with them. With so many specialized diets today, this seems like a great idea to make sure everyone can be served anywhere.
Like I said, Millennials are tech savvy. Electronic gadgets are second nature to them, and that information is influencing food industry purchasing and workflow decisions.
Technology will be more cost effective than hiring workers if minimum wages have to be raised. I am all for raising the minimum wage, but I am not for jobs being cut and replaced with tech. With a pay hike, food will be pre-ordered and paid for online or through an app, with the tip rolled into the price.
Google glass worn by a server can find you in a crowded room via face recognition. Wouldn’t a 20-something want to work where they can wear Google glass? I’d think so.
But it’s all about the bottom line. If tech can save money over wages and the ensuing taxes, and if it can speed up the work flow and turn tables faster due to little wait time, isn’t that what a restaurant owner is going to opt for? So look for tech to creep into your dinner out. This will probably go well beyond 2015, too.
New menu items of the (near?) future
As for trendy foods for 2015, look for fermented and smoked items, along with hot and spicy pepper dishes. Asian foods and flavors will be in the forefront, colorful fruits and vegetables will be a visually pleasing experience, and local grains, perhaps with a grain mill in-store, will be offered.
Insects are working their way into our menus, too, since they are abundant and high in protein. As the world population increases, we may have to look to low-impact critters for protein.
Sugar is being replaced by savory and bitter tastes, such as vegetable yogurts. Speaking of bitter, beer will be made with herbs and spices instead of hops to reduce the bitterness. The organic alcoholic beverage industry is about to explode, too, mostly with wine, but also hard liquor, hard cider, and beer.
A real dining experience?
To me, dining out is about being around people – your fellow diners, the hostess, the server, the cooks, the bus people, and so on. Making a meal so high tech removes that crucial element. It’s too robotic for such a personal happening. But I’m a Boomer, not that tech savvy, and happy to find small meals and organic beer. Let’s see how the year pans out.