Kathryn Rem: Environmental awareness among '08 food trends
Every time there’s a big, bad, scary food recall, it pushes our eating habits a little closer to home.
That’s why we’ll do more food buying this year from farmers markets, roadside stands, natural food stores, organic farms and specialty growers. Not only do we want to do what we can to make sure our food is safe, there’s a growing concern about how we treat the earth. Small growers tend to be better caretakers and close-to-home means less transport.
Americans’ concern about the environment is why toting around a plastic bottle of water now seems so 20th century. Deep in our hearts, we know that keeping plastic out of landfills is the right thing to do. It’s also a lot cheaper to put tap water in a refillable bottle.
For many reasons — ethical, healthful and financial — more people are eating vegetarian, at least some of the time. As baby boomers age and their doctors advise ditching the double cheeseburgers, this trend will continue. Vegetarian cookbooks are some of the best-sellers in the cookbook market, and innovators like Birds Eye Steamfresh frozen vegetables, conveniently microwaved in the package without adding water, have spawned imitators.
Food trends tend to begin in restaurants and migrate to the home. Expect to see products in stores that make it easy for consumers to make their own specialty coffee drinks at home (such as the flavored creamers from Coffee-mate that change with the seasons). Continuing on the beverage front, there will be more organic wines, specialty beers and flavored waters.
Pomegranates, blueberries, acai and other “superfruits” have antioxidants, health benefits and a growing market. Probiotics — potentially beneficial bacteria — helped Dannon sell more than $150 million of Activia yogurt in its first year. Look for probiotics in cheese (such as Kraft LiveActive) and chocolate (from Barry Callebaut).
Bold flavors continue to be popular, whether it’s the spice in salsa and chili or the pungency in cheese and candy. Look for more gelato, frozen yogurt, smoked flavors, cupcakes, braised dishes, cheeses, bacon, fancy greens and anything that makes home cooking more convenient.
Snack foods in 100-calorie packs have grown into a $200 million-a-year business. It started with crackers and cookies, then drew in cupcakes, chips and granola bars. This year, there will be more candy. Controlled portions of Twizzlers licorice, Hershey’s chocolate bars, Brach’s chocolate stars and York peppermint patties are in or on their way to stores. The latest entrees in the 100-calorie family are packs of Oreo and Chips Ahoy! candy bites.
If you’re planning a vacation, culinary tourism — when travelers make food a deciding factor in their destination choices — is on the rise. So are cooking classes on cruises and land tours.
It may take too long, but eventually the trends that start on the right and left coasts make their way to the heart of the country. Some of them might even show up this year.
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or email@example.com.