Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reasons Behind The Top Food Trends of 2011

Pies: the next big thing, sweet OR savory
I like to keep up on retail trends, being that I work in fashion, and this week I was catching up on my Retail Wire newsletters piling up in my inbox. There was a discussion article from January 10th called "What's the Next Cupcake?" that caught my eye. The food world is becoming more like fashion every day, and similiarly follows a trend cycle of it's own - so I was naturally attracted to this information.

In the article, Tom Ryan outlines the rise of the cupcake from Sex & the City's Magnolia Bakery visits to Crumbs Bake Shop going public this year - "The Year of the Cupcake". He went on to list the next up-and-coming food trends: Pies, Hot Dogs, Meatballs, Korean street food and fast-food salads. So far, readers have voted pie and Korean street food as the most-likely contenders for the top food trend of 2011.

My husband and I hate cake - so we cut pie at our wedding instead
Funny enough, the same morning I read this, there was a spot on PIX 11 news about new food trends with Everyday Rachel Ray Magazine's lifestyle editor Sonal Dutt. She exposed that the cupcake craze is over... not going away, just being "thrown off the pedestal"... and that it would be replaced by PIE. If you know me at all, you would know I HATE CAKE, so this is very exciting news. I had apple pie and mango ice cream at my wedding - and no cake. We cut and fed each other pie, and it was lovely.

In this news spot, Sonal was referring to artisan pies such as the apple-cheddar pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn and small pies from Hill Country Chicken - a small next-door brother to Hill Country's buy-it-by-the-pound BBQ on West 26th street. There must be some reason they've singled out fried chicken, but maybe they missed the memo that FRIED FOOD IS BAD FOR YOU! However, they may be on to something with the small pies. Discussion participants on RetailWire highlighted the fact that many of the hot food trends are something that can be quite luxurious OR quite simple and made at home, as well as portable. Small pies seem to have that potential.

Things with real benefits should not be replaced, like Zico. (photo via Zico)
Ms. Dutt also touched upon other food trends, like airport food options (um, duh, Wolfgang's has been hangin' out there quite some time), artisinal hot dogs (um, gross!), and cherry juice as the replacement for coconut water as the health beverage of choice. I've never gotten into the superfruit juice craze, and other sources (i.e. Eating Well) will claim it's actually down-trending. However, I am a willful addict to coconut water. So I checked out the new cherry juice Cheribundi site, and as I suspected it has almost as many calories and sugar as soda. I don't know how she can claim that this will replace my beloved Zico, since the pure coconut water has twice the potassium, and half the calories and sugar of the cherry juice. Oh, unless you look at "Skinny CherryTM"- but it's got alternative sweetener and 35% water - WTF? If you have to add sweetener to a fruit juice, and water to make it "skinny" - what's the point? I can water down my own juice, and pay 35% less. I still choose coconut water after yoga, for a hangover, or when recovering from the stomach flu - and would recommend any diabetic do the same.

There is now a wealth of information out there on food trends, almost as much as fashion. Much the same, there are many different interpretations and forecasts. If you want an idea what will stick in either category, you have to look beyond the lists and think about WHY.

Most of what we wear and eat is subconsciously controlled by the cycle of what's happening in society. We are subject to a very natural human tendency to follow the pack and respond to emotional stimuli. And to come back to the underlying theme of this blog - it's all about finding balance within and without.

Applesauce is so simple and easy to make from scratch, why would you buy it?
Take for example the return to simple living that is evolving.  By simple living I mean farming, moving out of cities to the suburbs, cooking from scratch, and crafting at home. This is happening for two reasons. The emotional reason is that we are so overwhelmed and underimpressed by what the masses and "experts" are telling us to do, that we've turned inward. Fashion has become a sea of personality-less sameness, with a lack of utility and purpose. Food has become aisles and aisles of pre-packaged and frozen nonsense. Both of the above are also priced beyond our current means, not worthy of our hard-earned dollars. Which brings me to the second reason for seeking simplicity: the suffering economy. Without jobs and money, we move from expensive cities, learn to can and preserve the produce we grew from inexpensive seeds, drive cars with better mpg (or bike), sew our own drapes, and gather at home with friends for entertainment. Remind you a little too much of our parent's need to tinfoil the leftovers and play bridge with the neighbors? It's all part of the cycle, and we just have to go with it.

In food, there may be many trends, but the ones that stick should all have the common themes of SIMPLE and HEALTHY.
And to break it down further, here's why:
1. The cycle of processed prepared foods has maxed out. We are now educated consumers and want to know what's in our food. A short ingredient list or endorsed benefits are key.

2. Focus on health care: expensive drugs we can't afford and that do not work have made us realize that health care is all about taking our money - and there are alternatives. Namely diet and exercise, which put us in control. Educated consumers will demand more healthful products.

3. Product overload. Give someone too many choices and they will walk away empty handed. Give us one or two really great options, a simple choice.

4. Unemployment is high. We may not have money, but we have time. Time to learn how to do things ourselves to make and save money. Simple things that cost little or can be made at home will appeal.

5. Lack of money. You can grow your own, make your own, and the experience of excelling at such is rewarding on a deeper level.

6. We are sad when times are bad. We've hit bottom - abstaining from buying anything unneeded. We are on the way back up - economy might be improving, the outlook may be getting more rosy. Anything that makes us happy has added value. This can be done by appealing to our emotions and reminding us of better days - much like grandma's baking style (or Julia Child's for that fact).

Now, I'm sorry if you've read this whole spewing of ideas and feel a victim of information overload. If you're anything like me, you've skimmed through, looked at some pictures, read the numbered list, and probably get the point. All you need to remember is simple, healthy and enjoy - because even if you don't know it yet, that's what you will want.

P.S. Black is the new Black. No, really. It is. How simple is that? I feel patronized.

Some articles for further exploration:

Top Ten Food Trends for 2011 By Pork news source
  
Food Trends: Canning, men cooking, local By UPI.com


Food Fads: What's In and What's Out in 2011 By Eating Well on Huffington Post

Top Ten Food Trends for 2011 By The Food Channel
   

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