More lists of food trends to ignore in 2012

12/16/2011 09:22:00 AM
Tom Karst

Now is the time of the year for foodies and food writers to put their own stamp on what is a well-practiced look-ahead often titled “top food trends of 2012.” 
I find these lists somewhat annoying, for many of them talk about food in a way that is completely foreign to my vanilla-plain Midwest sensibilities. 
For example, the food blog from the James Beard Foundation extols a list of 2012 trends that includes bloody food (blood pancakes, blood cups, sauces thickened with blood), “locavorism” (a trend combining foragers and historians, if you please) and the “new Nordic pantry” (can you dig sea buckthorn, wood sorrel and bark flour?).
The Food Channel offers black market foods (scarcity as a marketing come-on), while Foodbev.com suggests “foraging for truffles, mushrooms and wild berries.”
But wait, there’s more. 
The Epicurious website offers “front burner” and “back burner” judgements on food trends, with the heat on “fin to tail eating,” “homemade dairy” and “fennel pollen” but the flame dwindling for edible dirt and pig roasts. 
The United Kingdom’s Leatherhead Food and Drink Trends exclaims that a big food trend would be the burgeoning “free from” movement. The site explains:
“The crux of this market lies within the seemingly growing number of consumers who do not have a diagnosed food allergy but do believe their general health improves with the omission of certain foodstuffs from their diet — for example, avoiding wheat/gluten to combat bloating. 
“Therein lies an opportunity for both mainstream manufacturers to highlight additional product benefits as well as allowing the traditional ‘free from’ brands to break the niche mold within which they’ve traditionally operated.”
Gee, instead of replaying the tired song of what nutrition benefits fresh produce offers, perhaps marketers need to toot the “free from” horn a little!  
Fat free, gluten free ... guilt free. 
Perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me on the subject of food trends, however. 
I would be hard-pressed to put a top 10 list of food trends together. I’m not saying the only food trend I can comment on is creamy versus crunchy peanut butter, or red delicious versus gala apples. 
I’m not saying that, but it wouldn’t be too far from the truth. 
For the rest of you upmarket foodies, I will continue to smile and nod and start work on my 2013 list. 
The way I figure it, crunchy and red delicious figure to make big comebacks in about a year.
———
“You know you are in the fresh produce industry if....”
The phrase may keep some quiet at the risk of incriminating themselves, but 24 members of the 2,800-strong Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group have had fun with finishing the thought.  
Here are some nuggets from the group.
u “When you are in another store doing comp shops and you start straightening out the produce — ugh!”
u “You take a jacket on a Central Valley tour even though it’s 100 degrees outside, because you know there is a cooler in your future.”
u “When you are standing in line at the checkout and as the clerk struggles to look up PLUs, you provide them to her.”
u “When you’re being driven back from a farm visit in Mexico and you’re on the Internet checking a produce discussion forum.”
While I’m not much for food trends, I do think that social media is a big trending reality in 2012. 
These days, you know you are in the produce industry if you are plugged in and online. 
tkarst@thepacker.com
What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.


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John Pandol    
Delano,CA  |  December, 19, 2011 at 10:51 AM

The best take I've heard was the journalist panel at the Grape and Tree Fruit League convention in MArch. A writer from the LA Times said there are 2 food writers there. She, who writes on agriculture and the supermarket trade as part of the business section and the group of food editors who are in another building and I would argue on another planet. That you reject their 'micro niche as mega trend" has nothing to do with your Midwesterness and everything to do with you being in the biz. These lifestyle food editors have as much to say about what goes into your grocery cart as Fashion Week in PAris has to do with the women in your life wear. Having said that, I did buy blood sausage this weekend.....at the same grafitti covered Argentine butcher shop I've been going to for 20 years.

Karen    
Los Alamitos, CA  |  December, 28, 2011 at 04:32 PM

Tom, I've always loved your sense of humor. Thanks for bashing all those food trends predictors.....

Paul M Hart    
Northampton, UK  |  December, 29, 2011 at 05:32 PM

'Free-from' in Western Europe is the designation given to packaged foods which are free-from the expected allergen which would otherwise be a major nutritional component of such a staple foodstuff: i.e. gluten-free or dairy-free. They're not products which simply avoid minor unexpected allergens like nuts etc.. The top 5 UK grocery retailers all have a separate ‘free from’ section – though some manufacturers products continue main stream. Products would not be designated 'free from' fat [it's not an allergen] - they're perhaps termed 'light' if low fat; or zero% fat... ‘Free from’ is thus a sub-set of the increasing consumer trend for 'clean labels' products - i.e. without E-number ingredients. Leatherhead is making a different point regarding the market potential that as more 'free-from' foods come onto the market - the 'worried well' - typically middle classes concerned with food values and issues – represent a core market beyond diagnosed allergy sufferers: note, coeliacs [gluten allergic] are diagnosed at a much lower rate [1 in 8] than the typical population incidence of coeliac disease / gluten allergy – then beyond allergy, many more consumers find benefit, in avoiding baked products because of digestive issues with either gluten or wheat... This later group is termed intolerant [rather than allergic]. Then there are those who purchase such products as family carers while not suffering allergy or intolerance themselves. For more NPD support sign up to the Gluten Free Innovation Network on LinkedIN http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Gluten-Free-Innovation-Network-3927275?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

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