( Photo courtesy Markon Cooperative )

A new year is a time to both look back and forward at what’s ahead. There are lots of publications with food trends and it can be tough sifting through all the ideas.
Some “trends” represent nothing more than the continuation of what we’ve heard in recent years. Yes, plant-based diets are continuing to grow. Meat “alternatives,” including cell-cultured meat, are gaining traction and functional, “clean,” healthy foods are outshining processed staples from brands of yesteryear. World flavors continue to shine, and the lines continue to blur between retail and foodservice.

Other trends that are either just starting to emerge or have not been widely talked about are below. Some are food specific, others relate to the foodservice category, but all are worth watching and represent things I see as being important. 

  • The “trendologists” at San Francisco-based hospitality consultancy af&co say farm-to-table will go one step further in 2019, as chefs work directly with farmers to grow vegetables from seeds that are focused on flavor. Row 7 Seed Co., launched by chef Dan Barber and his partners, provides one example. The company describes itself as a “seed company dedicated to deliciousness” and is the “first seed company built on chef-breeder collaboration.” My take: Chefs appear ready to drive our industry’s discussions around flavor.  
  • Supermarket News reported we may be seeing more “new green” in 2019, following the romaine E. coli scares of 2018. “Top Chef” winner Hosea Rosenberg is calling celtuce — a lettuce cultivar — “the new kale.” New greens may also show up beyond the salad bowl, including as juice ingredients and as a source of hydration in beverages. My take: Romaine and romaine-blend items have been our fastest growing pre-cut items, but we should anticipate consumer wariness and have other ideas.
  • Whole Foods reports eco-conscious packaging will soon have its day in the sun. “Expect to see an emphasis on reusing, with more produce departments going ‘BYOVB’ (bring your own vegetable bag) and traditionally single-use packages going multi-use,” according to Whole Foods. My take: Across the EU, plastics in the produce aisle are expected to be reduced or eliminated. In the U.S., plastic straw bans may be the tipping point, and packaging and plastics are issues we need to address. 
  • The ecosystem around plant-based products is growing, according to Barb Stuckey, chief innovation officer at Mattson, a Silicon Valley food innovation and development firm, who wrote about the trend in Forbes. Two examples are The Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute. My take: If you haven’t tried an Impossible Burger, you’ve not seen the trend’s potential. Animal ag groups have to be taking notice. 
  • A night out for dinner and a movie is now often replaced with ordering in. New packaging is being designed to keep items restaurant-quality (no soggy fries), and delivery is part of most restaurants’ business. My take: Virtual restaurants and food trucks have shown, like retail, traditional brick and mortar has to be rethought.  

So as we dive head first into 2019, these are a few of the trends I’m watching. How about you? Drop me a line at [email protected] with any forward-looking ideas.

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative.