(Aliso Viejo CA) – January 3rd, 2017. For the fifth consecutive year, award-winning entrepreneur, natural products industry veteran and chef, Mareya Ibrahim, aka The Fit Foodie, has released her hottest healthy food and beverage food trends for 2017, sure to influence new product innovation and consumer buying decisions. Whether it’s using renewable ingredients, growing efficiency or preventing food waste, the underlying theme for my 8 hottest healthy trends of 2017 is sustainability.
There’s never been a more innovative and exciting time for the world of clean food and a healthy environment. These trends will shape the food and beverage industry, so innovators, food service executives and trendsetters, grab your fork and beer mug and belly-up to this bar.
1) SPEED-SCRATCH COOKING
Pinterest has taken food voyeurism to another level, but the reality for busy families in the kitchen is not so pinteresting. Who’s got time for long kitchen session perfection? Speed scratch cooking, the art of taking semi-prepared, healthy ingredients or products and creating a meal from them to save time, will reign king in 2017 as people continue to crave homemade but easier. Not so much Betty Crocker, but more Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free all-purpose baking mix, then adding almond milk, fresh blueberries and flax meal to create pancakes, for example. Or purchasing a salad kit, with the veggies, toppings and dressings all ready to go – just add your protein and maybe cooked quinoa and voila, dinner is served. The idea is to get a home-prepared meal on the table in 20 minutes or less.
Meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh, Plated and Blue Apron – the last of which sends about 8 million meals to homes every month according to their website - isn’t going to lose steam anytime soon, as people are in hot pursuit of nutritious, balanced dishes that take the guesswork out of preparation and utilize farm-fresh ingredients.
Meal preparation planning sites like Plan to Eat, Emeals and The Eat Cleaner Meal Prep Club which provide you recipes, a shopping list, pretty meal pictures and a healthful, balanced approach to meal planning will also take a prominent role in helping families become more time and cost efficient in 2017. After all, grilled chicken, brown rice and broccoli is fun for a while but after meal 22, one might just desire a little variety.
2) ZERO WASTE
A U.N. study found that about 1/3 of food worldwide (about 40% in the U.S.) finds its way into a landfill. Not only is it a waste of money and natural resources, rotting food is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. When vast food supplies fill landfills while populations go hungry, it’s time for innovative solutions that solve both the food waste and food injustice problems. The goal = zero waste.
By identifying dead zones in the supply chain that prevent almost-expired-but-totally-fine-to-eat-food from getting to people who need it, apps such as 412 Food Rescue work with teams of volunteers to redistribute food to community kitchens. A new company called Apeel, which uses landfill-bound organic vegetable waste to create an edible film that coats fresh produce may be able to extend the life of food better than current methods such as waxes or ripening gases.
Other natural products such as eatCleaner® are formulated not only to remove pesticide residue, wax and soil that can carry bacteria, it is also lab proven and patented to extend shelf life up to 200% longer. In 2016, the company also released a new product, eatFresh-FC™, in pre-portioned pouches - a blend of fruit acids and antioxidants that prevent browning on cut produce for up to 7 days. By adding water and mixing the powder into solution, consumers can expect apples, pears, avocado and other produce items to stay fresh and delicious.
Beyond shelf life extension, retailers are getting on the bandwagon to offer ‘ugly’ fruit and veggies – produce with imperfections but still preserving taste - at a better price. Whole Foods is working with Imperfect Produce to test sales in a sample of stores, while the east coast retailer, Giant Eagle, is offer blemished bags of edibles under the ‘Produce with Personality’ label with banner signage donning the description: “Some may say it looks weird. We think it looks – and tastes – perfect!”
According to Thrive Algae Oil, they have the lowest impact on land use compared to other cooking oils. At their facility in Brazil, the leftover algae is used as an energy source once it is removed from the oil. The facility also uses a low amount of water thanks to rain-fed sugarcane fields. As consumers are incentivized to save money, so will efforts to mitigate food waste expand - especially as climate change continues to threaten our crop yields. Perhaps EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said it best in 2015: "Let’s feed people, not landfills."
3) DRINKABLE SOUP
Just think Juicing 2.0. While the fresh, raw juice trend will continue to satiate consumer’s need for pure nutrition, drinkable soup will see a rise in popularity as people are looking for portable, nutrient-dense options. This relatively new category takes the spoon (and bowl and napkin) out of enjoying fresh soup and turns it into a smooth, on-the-go meal that can be enjoyed chilled or hot. Often made with organic ingredients—fresh produce shines here with great variety that suits every dietary need. Soups can be tomato, broth, cream or non-dairy milk based and can evolve through the seasons, packed with antioxidants and globally-inspired seasonings - like butternut squash, carrot and apple puree with thyme for fall, Thai pumpkin coconut soup with lemongrass for winter, creamy asparagus soup with chives for spring and roasted tomato and red pepper with basil for summer.
Brands like Project Juice Chef-Crafted Soups, Fawen Drinkable Soup and Tio Gazpacho Chilled Vegetable Soup are jumping on the bandwagon at grocery stores with aseptic ‘heat and eat’ packaging. Expect to see your local juice bars and cafes to follow suit as they look for ways to expand their offerings and grow the frequency occasion of their guests.
For the home chef’s convenience, many high-powered blenders such as Vitamix can create a hot soup by letting it run for a few minutes, so no stovetop needed.
Just push the ‘soup’s on’ button and lunch is served.
4) GRASS-FED DAIRY
Grass-fed beef made a big splash with its promise to help consumers pick a more sustainable, cleaner source – along with a safer product according to a 2015 study conducted by Consumer Reports. It also found that consumers are willing to pay substantially more for grass-fed, too. Now, the trend has been passed onto its dairy by-products. Expect to see the ‘Grass-fed’ moniker emblazoned across everything dairy-derived, from butter and ghee, to yogurt, cheese and milk to protein powder and even dietary supplements like Vital Proteins Grass Fed Collagen. Kerrygold, 4th & Heart, OMGhee, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms and Maple Hill Creamery have already jumped on the profitable bandwagon. Kura Nutrition, behind a successful line of grass-fed boosted protein powders from New Zealand, is now making their way into the US.
So what does it really mean? Earlier in 2016, the USDA withdrew its Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard, so there is no certification program under them for the time being. The American Grassfed Association has put into play a certification process that requires processors and purveyors of grass-fed products to adhere to standards that require the animal to be fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest, to be raised on pasture without confinement, to be free of antibiotics or growth hormones and to be raised only on American family farms.
While the regulation of the claim is a bit loosey-goosey and void of any standards on a national level, more and more consumers are concerned about their food choices according and how the animal is treated. Expect to see more unity in the certification program and a standardized seal to help ensure standards across the board.
The Grass-fed crazy may just pull you off the fence and away from being a dairy-downer.
We’ve gotten used to snacking on seaweed, taking blue green algae supplements and cooking with sea salt. Yet, the bounty of the sea is so vast, it’s hard for the average person to wrap their head around the deep blue. Good thing there are marine life wranglers pulling up a whole new crop based on the gifts of the ocean.
For its sustainability, nutrient density, umami flavor profile and versatility, the tidal wave of sea plant popularity has directed the growth in new categories. Research from Mintel shows that seaweed- flavored product launches, featuring kombu, nori and wakame, have seen triple digit increases over the past few years in Europe.
From pantry staples to your beer mug, expect to sea more variety in 2017.
Kelp noodles, with their glassy, crunch consistency, are fun to eat, fat-free, gluten-free and very low in carbohydrates and calories. Toss them into salads and soups for a boost of trace minerals. Vital Proteins offers a ‘Wild-Caught Marine Collagen anti-aging supplement to help consumers looking for an alternative to land animal collagen get their fix and get that mermaid glow. Craft brewers are diving deep to bee to a new level, so don’t be surprised if your bartender offers you a Selkie (not to be confused with a selfie), brewed with sugar kelp.
Next up on the sea-voyage – dried seaweed seasonings, kombu tea and dulse ice cream.
6) THE NEXT “IT” VEGGIE: MICROGREENS
While microgreens used to have the association of being featured as a garnish at Michelin star restaurants, this little package packs a powerful punch that will launch it onto the main stage in 2017. Not to mention, they’re super sustainable and grow in a fraction of the time of their larger-scale cousins.
Urban Produce, based in Irvine, California, uses hydroponic technology and stacks their produce in their patented High-Density Growing System where they can pack 16 acres of plants in an acre space, controlling the light, air and resources needed with significant yields.
There are no pests, so there are no pesticides used. They’re also using 80% less fertilizer and 90% less water than conventional agriculture, which in our neck of the California woods, is a BFD. And it’s just good ‘ole fresh produce, so the certified organic term is a valid description of clean, real, nutritious food.
With varieties like Wasabi-Bok Choy, Kale-ifornia, a superfood blend of organic kale and amaranth, and Hot Mama, a spicy blend of white, pink, purple and red radish, there is no shortage of flavor and culinary exploration that can go into salads, wraps, onto entrées, soups and sandwiches. Expect to see these babies pop up in your favorite restaurants, on your grocer’s shelves and in GIY (grow it yourself) kits for your windowsill. And expect to harvest those in just about 3 weeks.
The moral of this story is, size matters and the smaller package wins.
7) THE NEXT “IT” SUPERFOOD: MATCHA
It’s not new, but Matcha is ready for it’s debut. Shade-grown and harvested primarily in Japan, this powerhouse of a superfood will rock your world when you discover all of its benefits, and all the ways you can enjoy it. It’s 10 times more powerful than green tea. Plus, you’re ingesting the whole leaf, which is ground into a fine powder, so you’re getting more of the benefits. It’ll give you an energy burst without the buzz of coffee because it’s rich in the amino acid, L-theanine. It's also known to help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
Jade Monk, a line of ready-to-drink matcha teas combines coconut water and mint and honey into their varieties to balance out the ‘earthiness’ of matcha’s grassy notes. Matcha Love Organic Stone Ground Green Tea Powder makes it easy to brew it into an iced latte or blend the powder into your smoothie bowl and combines well with fruit or milks. You can also add matcha to boost the nutritional value of desserts, like chia seed puddings or your favorite baked goods. Maru cha cha offers a delicate, savory cookie crisp colored and flavored with the grassy matcha.
Since it helps boost your metabolism, it’s matcha pancakes, matcha brownies and matcha macaroons for everyone!
8) DRINK YOUR VINEGAR
Kombucha, that SCOBY-full drink that might just give you a buzz, has seen an enormous rise in popularity despite it’s ‘acquired taste’ flavor. So if we’ve already primed the tastebuds of America to dig sour and bitter drinks, you bet your ‘bucha that beverages made with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) are next to explode.
The benefits of ACV abound, including increased carbohydrate metabolism, the prevention of insulin spiking and encouraging weight loss. Now, a new crop of ACV ready-to-drink products are boosting the health benefits and coupling them with fresh new flavors in flat and sparkling varieties.
The popularity of Kevita probiotic tonics put them on the map and just this year, earned them a couple hundred million-acquisition price tag from Pepsi. Newcomer Mr. Blackwell’s Botonics offers a sparkling organic ACV drink in a can flavored with botanicals and fruit, like Strawberry Rose, Passion Fruit Mango, and Lemon Honey Ginger. Make your own tonic at home by adding a tablespoon of organic unfiltered ACV to 12 oz of sparkling water and add a squeeze of lime and a few drops of organic stevia.
Drinking vinegar may be a bit of an acquired taste but before you know it, you’ll be sipping on your salad dressings, too.