Greg Johnson, Editor MONTEREY, Calif. — If you can Google a trend, you’ve missed the trend.
The Produce Marketing Association brought in trends forecaster Suzy Badaracco July 21 at its annual Foodservice Conference and Expo, and the Google gem is just one of the ones with which she dazzled the audience.
Trends forecasting, she explained, is about the birth and death of trends, not just about compiling statistics related to trends. Heck, anyone can do that.
Badaracco specializes in food trends, since she’s a chef and registered dietitian.
Some trend forecasts produce companies should find useful:
- Seasonal overtaking local.
These can be related, of course. Half the country produces fruits and vegetables seasonally before the ground freezes.
But she said consumers are getting away from wanting the same produce year round and are wanting really good fruits and vegetables whenever they’re the best.
This is a good trend for produce companies who concentrate on flavor and ripeness rather than shelf life.
- Exotic overtaking comfort food.
Badaracco said this is a sign the economy is growing again.
She said during the recession, comfort food made gains, and anything risky started going away. She said commodities such as potatoes and onions gained ground in trend circles, but now it’s the more exotic flavors, such as citrus and peppers, that are being highlighted again.
What if I’m a potato company, you ask? Do I get left out of this trend?
No way. I know the U.S. Potato Board has for several years pushed the marketing message that more potato varieties lead to more sales. If all you do is russets, maybe this trend does leave you behind.
- Kids menus becoming downsized adult menus.
This trend could be very good for fresh produce. Kids menus had been a wasteland of fried food and occasional canned fruit. But adults don’t eat this way, and kids learn their dining habits from their parents.
Badaracco said smart restaurants are taking their top-selling menu items and making their portions smaller for kids. I can see salads, green vegetables and fresh fruit coming out well if this trend continues.
- “Anything that can kill you is cool.”
She said trends that start in the travel and wine industries often end up in restaurants. In travel, the more exotic, the more cool, right now. Places like the North Pole, South Pole, Peru, southeast Asia and central Africa are trending up.
Understandably, the produce industry gets nervous when death gets involved. In fact, it should gladly trade trendy for safety in this instance.
- Specialize the foreign.
Badaracco said if your restaurant serves Mexican food, that’s not good enough right now to be trendy. It needs to specialize on a Mexican region, like the Yucatan, for instance.
The more a produce company knows about its product and its products’ origins, it could take advantage of this trend.
There were more. Two recent trends are made up words: Bleasure and glamping.
These are mixing business trips with vacations and camping with modern amenities, respectively.
Truly, some of this trend forecasting was over my head, but I guess that just shows me how cool it was and how cool I’m not, which reminds me of the famous Groucho Marx quote, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
To me, the most important message was that all of Badaracco’s trend forecasting showed the economy improving, or, at least, consumers acting like it is.
Increasing purchases of breakfast at restaurants, desserts, meat, brands instead of private label, convenience items, etc., point to a strengthening economy.
And one of my favorite items that she said was that it’s a myth that trends start on the East or West Coast and move to the interior. Trends can start anywhere, Badaracco said.
That makes me happy as a Midwesterner, but it’s good news to all produce companies. At least it takes away a geographic excuse for not being trendy enough.
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