I had the opportunity to attend FNCE this year – this is the biggest food and nutrition conference in the U.S. with hundreds of vendors, expert speakers and of course, dietitians from all over the country and abroad. One of the fun items to observe when you’re there is what food and industry trends are being showcased. These give you an idea of what to expect on store shelves and what recommendations healthcare experts will be giving in the coming year. Here are the top food and nutrition trends I saw at this year’s conference:
Top 5 Food Trends
1. Higher quality gluten free foods – while there’s no evidence it’s beneficial to cut gluten if you don’t have celiac disease (1), I think it’s fun to try products made from different kinds of flour and carbohydrate sources , rather than just wheat. However, it used to drive me crazy that a lot of these were just made from potato flour or white rice flour, which is pretty similar to white flour nutritionally. That is no longer the case. Everything from cauliflower pizza to ancient grain crackers were showcased at the conference, and they were tasty, too!
2. Low sugar treats abound – whether these items were naturally low sugar or had a little stevia or sugar alcohol or some such other substitute, low sugar items were everywhere.
3. Higher quality plant-based options – Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger have set the bar higher, particularly when it comes to meaty flavor for plant-based meat substitutes. Other companies are following suit.
4. Whole foods based nutrition support and supplements – this may be more interesting to those of us in the industry, but if you’re ever hospitalized, you may need either a nutritional supplement (think Ensure) or a tube feeding. These are notoriously full of additives and preservatives and usually a ton of sugar. New options are emerging that are more whole-foods based.
5. Bubbly water is the new soda – Bubbly water is everywhere, and as low sugar options take off, seltzer and other soda alternatives are getting a higher proportion of the market share. This means lots of unique and tasty flavors are hitting the market.
Top 5 Research & Industry Trends
1. More reasons to prioritize self-care and sleep – sleep helps us feel better, eat better and think better. There was an emphasis on this and other self-care techniques that haven’t received a lot of priority in our society or our healthcare system before.
2. Nutrigenomics is exploding – What is that, you say? It’s the study of the interactions between our genetics and how we process nutrients in food. This will eventually allow for individualized nutrition plans, based on your own genetics.
3. Fertility – not just a female issue – The community is awakening to the fact that fertility is a nutrition-related issue and not only that, it’s also related to what men eat and their lifestyles. Sperm are affected by these factors, and dietitians are taking notice.
4. Modernizing views of body image, health at every size and eating disorder treatment – The industry is starting to get with the times and eschew diet culture, while embracing people of all sizes. While we still have a long way to go, I saw that there was an emphasis on related topics throughout the conference.
5. Innovative approaches to treating an aging population – Baby boomers are reaching an age where we are needing to consider how to help them thrive! This topic is on the minds of dietitians, and we’re realizing that it’s never to late to encourage activity and a healthy lifestyle.
I’ll be exploring some of these topics in more depth, but watch out for these trends on grocery store shelves and in your local clinic in the coming year!