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Culinary Trend Mapping Report

It’s time to redefine healthful foods, starting with the positive-sounding word “healthful,” says The New Healthful: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, a recent report released by Packaged Facts, a publisher of market research in the food, beverage, consumer packaged-goods and demographic sectors.

“This notion of promoting good health also focuses on the presence of beneficial nutrients and the use of inherently nutritious foods, instead of just the absence of certain ingredients that may negatively affect health when over-consumed,” begins the report’s abstract. “The New Healthful is also about the growth of new distribution outlets, new places where healthful foods can be found. As these increase, the existence of healthful food and beverage options alongside more indulgent ones will become an everyday occurrence.”

The report, published September 28, 2012, spotlights foods that surpass the traditional meaning of the word “healthful”; in particular,

  • foods made with purer, wholesome raw ingredients as well as those sourced from plants;
  • foods that are “lighter” on the earth and created with sustainability in mind; and
  • foods that are found in natural-food and vegetarian restaurants.

So what emerging trends can we expect to see in restaurants and food products in the coming months?

Extraordinary tap water. Out with fizzy, calorie-laden soft drinks and added sweeteners, and in with craft beverages, new flavors and customized, personalized, healthful beverages. “Superior tap water” will lead the way, says the report.

Heirloom whole-grain bread with powerful nutritional punch. Thanks to artisanal bakers who have led the way for the past 15 years or so, Americans finally know how real European-style crusty breads look, taste, crunch and chew. A new whole-grain bread focus could very well be the next influential wave, says the report. “A growing number of independent bakers are interested in promoting locally sourced, heirloom grains and creating recipes to showcase these grains’ distinctive flavors and textures, all while providing the highly prized health benefits of whole grains.”

Beans and greens for breakfast. Do you eat vegetables and beans at breakfast? You may soon. The authors report a “new, keen interest in breakfasts enriched with vegetables and legumes on morning menus from vegetarian and health-focused restaurants, as well as in recipes and photos from bloggers and Pinterest users.” This could launch a new food category—the breakfast salad. Other potential ingredients include roasted vegetables, with beans and quinoa adding protein.

Healthful vending. When was the last time you got a meal or a snack from a vending machine? It’s probably been awhile. Vending companies and those producing the foods that go into the machines are rethinking their contents—and with no lack of outlets, these businessses will have widespread access to customers ready to change from candy and chips to more natural, healthy snacks. The report specificially mentions oatmeal kits, grab-and-go tuna, fresh-cut fruit and vegetables with dips, and organic bowl salads as “just the beginning of what could be a significant new market for development.”

Vegan on the menu. A convergence of factors has opened the door wider to plant-based eating. To name a few: the new emphasis on vegetables, fruits and grains in USDA’s MyPlate, which changes the distribution of daily food intake; research showing that plant-based eating can significantly improve a number of health markers; aging Boomers’ concerns about diabetes, weight gain, heart disease and cholesterol; heightened awareness about the cruel living conditions of the animals we consume; rising prices of animal proteins in a prolonged recession; and concerns about sustainability. “As new vegans join the longer-term faithful, the demand for more vegan choices on menus gets louder. And not just in specialty cafés with a focus on healthful fare, but in mainstream chains across America,” says the report.

Chef-inspired healthful fare for kids. Chefs are a powerful force in food and palate education, especially for children, who are at the epicenter of the obesity epidemic. Many chefs are committed to teaching kids that culinary-inspired meals can both taste great and be healthy.

Veggie burgers comeback. Burgers are an American staple, but they can be a pretty unhealthy one. Plant-based ingredients are bound to give burgers a healthy, flavorful overhaul that can still provide the guilty pleasure at a lower cost in calories and health.

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