Top Trends in Food & drink

1. Time starved

Slow food might be flavour of the month for the fortunate few, but for the rest of us it’s business as usual - only faster. Think of micro-waves mums, hectic households, fast casual, portability and drive-by dining (eg McDonald’s ‘McGriddle’ sandwiches). Indeed, if they can’t eat it fast, consumers won’t swallow it.

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2. Healthy

In the US two-thirds of adults are overweight which is driving everything from health club membership (up 8.5% between 2002 and 2003) to growth in kids ‘plus-sized’ clothing. Over in Europe a recent survey said that nearly 75% of Europeans are more concerned about their health than 12 months ago - which is not surprising when you consider the fact that women’s alcohol consumption has jumped by almost a third between 1998 and 2003 in the UK. McDonald’s are getting into the act selling salads and high fibre snacks whilst beans, grains and white tea sales are booming. Future winners will include products that successfully merge the health trend with other trends like portability e.g. healthy food on the go (it’s called fruit!).

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3. Regional & seasonal

For some people organic just isn’t good enough. Food has to be locally grown and sold too. In the UK, the so-called ‘food miles’ debate has become a political hot potato (in Islington at least). So expect more micro-breweries and even micro-cheeseries. The perfect example of this trend is a restaurant in the Netherlands that has its own vegetable garden right next to the restaurant so you can see your next meal growing while you eat.

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4. Nostalgic nosh

As life speeds up and becomes more complicated (and in some cases more dangerous) people of a certain age are yearning for the simplicity, warmth and certainty of bygone eras. Hence the growth in comfort food eating and retro recipes. A good example is the food hall in Marks & Spencer (UK) where you can re-live the nineteen seventies with dishes like prawn cocktail, mousaka, chicken Kiev and Black Forest Gateau. Over in the US meat loaf sales are booming and Black Jack gum has been re-introduced.

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5. Super premium

In the UK consumer expenditure on premium foods is predicted to increase by 27% between 2003 and 2008 (datamonitor). A good example is the gourmet chocolate trend, but you can find premium expressions of even the most mundane everyday food items.

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6. Fear of food

The idea that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ seems to have gone out of the window recently. These days it appears that everything can kill you and probably will. Fear is strongest in European countries that have experienced food scares like BSE, but it’s strong in countries like Japan too, where you can now scan the barcode of fish in supermarkets to check who caught it, when and how. Add to this the explosion in food allergies and food fads like low-carb, low GI and low salt and you can start to see why food fanaticism will be a feature of the future.

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7. Asian assimilation

Are noodles the new pasta? We don’t know, but food from Japan, India, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China seems to be on everyone’s lips. Why are these cuisines so hot? A number of reasons; most people are bored eating the same type of food everyday and want a change. Equally, these foods are healthy and quick to prepare and have a rather exotic flavour. This in turn is driving interest in hotter spices and exotic ingredients like chilli, ginger, coriander and coconut milk.

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8. Permissible indulgence

Fed up with work/your boyfriend (lack of)/children/email/ life/the universe? Then get your revenge in early by eating something ‘naughty but nice’. You could save up your angel points by eating salad all week and then polishing off an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, or you could combine good and bad in a single meal (Jeykl and Hyde eating). Better still have lots of small bites so it doesn’t feel so naughty. Best of all treat yourself to some healthy indulgence (fabulously expensive mini-treats like Nudie fruit smoothies or Innocent drinks).

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9. Scientific solutions

Britain is the largest consumer of so-called ‘functional foods’ in Europe (GBP £110 per person each year on average). Also known as ‘nutraceuticals’ or ‘phood’ — a combination of good old-fashioned food with a pinch of the very latest pharmaceutical know-how and technology. Current examples include breakfast cereal that reduces heart attacks and bread that fights depression. Future examples will include chocolate that fights cancer and possibly even Coca-Cola that reduces Alzheimer’s disease.

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10. Dieting is the new eating

Dr Atkins is now dead and so, increasingly, is his low carb idea. In the US one of the very latest trends is starvation (seriously). That’s right, you pay $1,000 to go and live in the desert for a couple of days and eat NOTHING. But don’t worry there will be another health fad along in a minute.

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