Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Food Trends 2011

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The National Restaurant Association has published some pretty interesting surveys on the latest food trends for the coming year.

First of all, 1500 professional chefs were surveyed to complete the associations’ annual “What’s Hot” list. The top 10 were:

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Locally grown produce
  • Sustainability as a culinary theme
  • Nutritious kids’ dishes
  • Hyper-local items
  • Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Gluten-free/food allergy conscious items
  • Back-to-basics cuisine
  • Farm branded ingredients

Diners are becoming more interested in where their food comes from and how its production affects the environment (sustainability).  More and more states are enacting laws that deal with cruel animal practices like veal crates and other cruel practices.  What Is on the plate is becoming newsworthy as reflected by the recent Taco Bell beef controversy.

Locally produced foods seem to be at the top of the list.  More supermarkets are setting aside a locally-produced area in their produce departments.  Farmers markets and organic labels are becoming more mainstream.

Hyper-local items means that more restaurants may have their own gardens and chefs that raise and butcher their own meat. How much fresher could it get?

Child nutrition is mentioned two times in the list most likely fueled by the recent trends in childhood obesity and the rising epidemic of type 2 diabetes showing up in younger and younger people.

It was recently reported that gluten insensitivity (celiac disease) was more common in the population than once thought.  It is now estimated to occur in 1 in 100 people.  Many people are giving up gluten on their own without a substantiated diagnosis.  With a documented rise in food allergies in recent years, there’s been an outpouring of support for children with food allergies, with schools instituting peanut-free zones at lunch and promoting greater awareness of the condition. Nearly 4% of U.S. children and teenagers under age 18 have food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the area of food delivery, 30% of the chefs said that mobile food trucks and pop-up restaurants will  be the hottest trends in 2011. Recently, the Food Network featured a competition between food trucks on their channel.

American fast food establishments are trending from supersizing to downsizing.  Less chain restaurants are being opened and most of the new facilities are in Europe and China.  KFC was the first fast-food chain to enter China in 1987 and is now opening KFC’s at a rate of one per day.

Health appears to be making a comeback as well as quality in food.  Look at the recent Wal-Mart and First Lady Michelle Obama’s announcement to take the salt and sugar out of packaged foods.  The recent mandates on calorie and nutrition information on fast-food items are another example.

It remains to be seen how the food industry will respond to these trends.  We shall see.




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