Our Board Scientists Talk about 2015 Food Trends

Smoky flavor sandwichesIn January, articles about food trends are--well--trendy.  We're hearing about continuing trends from 2014, variations of past trends, and totally new trends.  What we'll be eating in restaurants and at home will adopt some interesting new twists.  There's so much to say about this topic that Shelf Life Advice will do 2 articles on the subject.  This first one contains prognostications from 3 of our Advisory Board scientists.  The second article (scheduled to be on our home page in a few weeks) has info gleaned from the news media. Most of their predictions originate with celebrity chefs, food manufacturers, and processors.


Food process engineer Dr. Timothy Bowser discusses new ways to cook foods, rising prices of beef, grocery store innovations, and more:


Non-thermal food processing methods--such as high pressure, ultrasound, UV light, and irradiation--will continue to gain in popularity and use. Less heat and more non-thermal methods mean that foods will taste better and have improved nutritional benefits for consumers.


Unfortunately, beef prices will continue to rise this year. Herd recovery (from the drought) is still the main factor.  Lower fuel and feed prices are helping consumers who choose beef.


Phil Lempert is famous for his annual food and shopping predictions (http://www.conagrafoods.com/investor-relations/news-Supermarket-Guru%C2%AE-Predicts-Top-Food-Trends-for-2015-1985442).  Dr. Bowser thinks he is spot on with his number 2 prediction, “Grocery Shopping Goes 24/7." Significant changes for grocery shoppers in rural America won’t happen this year, Bowser says, but urban and suburban changes are happening. Rapid delivery of groceries, meal kits, and food items with a shelf life of hours is possible.


Dr. Bowser also predicts that the “local” food trend will strengthen and improve in 2015. This will be aided by the 24/7 shopping trend.


Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter discusses alcoholic beverages, rabbits, and game animals in general:


  • ŸAlcoholic beverages:  In general, consumers continue to be attracted to products that come from local sources and those that minimize the impact on the environment (are sustainable).  From her Pennsylvania perspective, Dr. Cutter sees the influence of these attitudes on locally processed beer and hard cider, as well as hard liquor. Smaller micro-breweries that locally source their ingredients are growing in popularity. One local establishment brews beer and serves up "fresh American bistro cuisine" with a map to show local spots where many of their ingredients come from.
    • This local movement is also affecting the distillation of rum, vodka, gin, and the processing of hard cider.  Many local distilleries and cider processors have taken a tip from wineries and offer taste and purchase events. Those in the business of creating alcoholic beverages no longer feel that they must expand to sell to the world; local customers are enough to make a successful business.  Some breweries and distilleries serve local customers in two ways: selling their alcoholic beverages in house or for take-out, as well as serving meals in their restaurants. Additionally, some restaurants now offer beer/wine/cider pairings with their meals for even more upscale dining opportunities.
  • Animal protein from more varied sources: Are you ready for rabbit?  Well, maybe not to cook it at home.  (We may be too brain-washed by the anthropomorphism of Peter Rabbit and want him to get safely back to his mommy.)  But rabbits are now being raised for meat production. Large breeds--such as giant Flemish rabbits--are being raised for the dinner table.  Shelf Life Advice asked Cutter about the taste of rabbit meat; she described it as similar to chicken but less bland and sometimes gamey.  Despite that, she declared it "good." 
    • Mainstream restaurants will begin to serve other game animals as well.  Don't be surprised to see more venison entrées on the menus of upscale eateries, says Dr. Cutter, who teaches a course entitled "Venison 101." Pheasants and other game birds, which are raised locally in Pennsylvania, may also become a more familiar fine dining option in other areas.
  • More variety of flavors: This trend will manifest itself in many ways:  more international flavors, for example, African spices; smoky flavors; and fermented foods (for example, salamis and more charcuterie).
  • A new kind of foie gras: After all those protests about force-feeding ducks or geese to fatten up their livers, ingenious chefs has figured out that they can make a similar product with--believe it or not--mushrooms.   


Food scientist Dr. Clair Hicks summarizes many continuing trends:

  • In grocery stores, space devoted to fresh foods continues to grow. Consumers want year- round selection of berries and vegetables that used to be more seasonal.
  • Demand for both organic and novel foods is also growing and getting more store space.
  • The amount of floor space being devoted to specialty items has also grown. This category includes imported cheeses, manufactured foods, and some quality fruits and vegetables. 
  • There is still a movement towards spicier foods. 
  • Desire for local foods continues to grow, but, Dr. Hicks predicts that it will probably fade as consumers realize that "local" is not defined and much of what is termed local is not. 
  • Americans will continue to experience a shift away from corn sweeteners and toward more than one non-nutritive sweetener in low-calorie products.





Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science


Clair L. Hicks, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Dept. of Animal and Food Sciences



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