( Photo by The Packer staff )

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for end-of-the-year predictions about what the new year will bring — especially when it comes to culinary trends or bets on what produce item will become “the next kale.” 

As a produce journalist and an avid home cook these prognostications are interesting to me as potential sources of inspiration for both my work and my hobbies … but also because I’m curious whether any of them will actually pan out and become legitimate trends, or whether they’ll fizzle in favor of some other hitherto-unlooked-for craze.

One trend we heard a lot about in 2018 that made it onto lists for 2019 as well is “food tribes,” or diet-based lifestyles such as paleo, keto, etc. (Apparently the hot new thing is “peganism,” a cross of vegan and paleo diets.) And one national restaurant chain is capitalizing on this trend by offering meals that cater to specific diets.

Recently, fast-casual restaurant Chipotle announced the launch of its “Lifestyle Bowls,” meals designed to fit Whole30, paleo, keto and protein-hearty diets. The salad bowl combinations are available only through online or app-based ordering, but they’re composed of standard options from the company’s menu, so customers could also customize their in-store orders to match the online offerings.

“These first-to-category, diet-driven menu offerings are helping those who have committed to living a healthier lifestyle by making it easy to order delicious bowls that only contain the real ingredients permitted by certain diet regimens,” according to a company statement.

Three of the four meal options are under 600 calories and come with plenty of vegetables (not to mention guacamole), which makes for a healthy step in the right direction regardless of whether you count yourself a member of a particular food tribe or not. Chipotle, which has tried hard to project a good-for-you image with a commitment to “real ingredients,” no GMOs and local sourcing where possible, has also been criticized for serving gut-busting burritos than can exceed 1,200 calories, depending on what you order.

The chain has also been trying to recover its early verve after E. coli and norovirus outbreaks in 2015 (and a subsequent class-action lawsuit) led it to revamp its food safety practices. 

I couldn’t find any mention on Chipotle’s site as to whether the Lifestyle Bowls are a limited-time offer, but it’ll be interesting to see if fast-casual restaurants like Panera Bread or other health-conscious concepts try to up the ante and come out with their own food tribe-friendly menu offerings.

I don’t subscribe to any particular diet myself, but if other potential menu items focus on lower calories and generous servings of vegetables, as Chipotle’s seem to, then I think that’s a win for consumers and the produce industry alike.

Amelia Freidline is The Packer’s designer and copy chief. E-mail her at [email protected].

Submitted by R Henry on Mon, 01/07/2019 - 10:52

Tribalism in food fads is nothing new.

The Organic Movement has ALWAYS been tribal...since nobody as ever been able to prove that food products marketed as "Organic" are any more wholesome, safer, or better tasting than conventional counterparts. That said, buying "Organic" confers bragging rights, the ultimate tribal thrill.