Published on: January 3, 2018by Kate McMahon
When I wrote my first MNB New Year Food Trends column in 2011, Pizza Hut was the nation’s largest consumer of kale (for use as a salad bar garnish only – not to eat), Amazon was dipping a toe into the grocery delivery market, sriracha was a novelty condiment and mobile phones were meant for talking.
Kale has since commandeered salad plates across the country, Amazon forked over $13.7 billion to add Whole Foods to its eco-system, sriracha is a standard sauce at Subway and mobile commerce continues to grow at extraordinary rates.
In the ensuing years, we have also seen gluten-free products, Greek yogurt, meal kits, non-dairy “milk” and the locavore movement go mainstream, while every contender to be the next cupcake has long been forgotten.
And so, I tread lightly into the realm of food and retail trends for 2018, culled from culinary experts, industry groups, marketing mavens, mainstream and social media, and user-generated food forums such as Pinterest and Instagram. Here goes:
• Where’s the Beef (literally) With investors including Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Gates, people are talking about new vegetarian burgers that taste like the real thing. The plant-based Impossible Burger (which promises to “bleed” like an all-beef patty) is served by gourmet chefs and the Umami Burger chain. The burger from Beyond Meat contains beet-juice extract for color and is now available in more than 5.000 retailers.
• Would you like (air) fries with that? The air fryer has replaced the Instant Pot as the must-have appliance for healthier cooking. The fryer utilizes hot air combined with just of a teaspoon of oil to create crispy fries, chicken tenders and more. Pinterest reports that searches for “air fryer” recipes are up by almost 2,000 percent.
• Ghee whiz Ghee, or clarified butter, has long been used in Indian cooking and is now gaining favor everywhere. Ghee boasts a rich, nutty flavor, and is lactose-free, which makes it easier to digest.
• A New Year, A New Superfood Move the matcha to make room for morninga, a potent nutrient powder which is made from the leaves of the moringa tree, which grows in India, Asia and parts of Africa. Most likely to be used in smoothies, bowls, protein bars, hummus and guacamole.
• A New Attitude Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru and friend of MNB, led his 2018 Top 10 Trends list with the term “mindfulness.” He described mindfulness as “a new consumer attitude, mostly led by millennials, to truly understand everything possible about a particular food or beverage and then support the company, whether it be a brand or a retailer, by aligning with its values and supporting it with purchases.”
Also noteworthy: Look for sophisticated mocktails, unique cuts of beef such as the Vegas Strip Steak, North African spices, Korean condiments, vegan desserts, stuffed donuts, Thai rolled ice cream, hybrid fruit-vegetables and savory desserts and jams to trend upward in 2018.
And finally, an observation: On a more macro, out-of-the-shopping-cart level, experts predict that today’s discriminating consumers will not only expect but demand seamless omni-channel shopping. In fact, one of the things we hear more and more is that “omni-channel” has become an outmoded term.
In addition to control and convenience, shoppers are looking for a differentiated experience and connection with a brand. The retailers that can evolve to meet those needs, meld physical and digital commerce and deliver will succeed.
I think the transformation of Restoration Hardware into RH is an excellent example of such an evolution. RH launched a membership model giving customers special benefits and services for a $100 annual fee. Today 95% of core business is generated from its 350,000 active members, and revenues and profits are up. (This sounds remarkably like Amazon prime, doesn’t it?)
Equally important, RH CEO Gary Friedman said it has sought to make shopping an experience in its large “galleries” featuring wine bars, cafes, art and design to “activate all the senses” and create a customer experience that cannot be replicated online.
That appears to be succeeding in its 3 Arts Café in the RH Chicago flagship store. The ultra-chic setting and is said to be the seventh most-Instagrammed café in the U.S., and the site of 32 marriage proposals (duly posted on social media, I’m sure).
You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that if you put a ring on it at RH, it will play a prominent role in your wedding registry, living room and linen closet.
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