Consumers will seek more from their food in 2015, whether stronger flavors, alternative sweeteners, or snacks made with everything from plant-based meat to even marijuana.
That is according to predictions from the editors of Specialty Food News, the daily newsletter from the Specialty Food Association.
The $88.3 billion specialty food industry is driven by innovation and small-batch production. Six out of 10 U.S. consumers purchase specialty food, and those numbers are expected to rise in 2015, according to Association research.
"Food producers are tapping into the growing sophistication and buying power of today's consumers," says Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food News. "They are catering to new demands for better ingredients, sustainable packaging, and more convenient ways to shop and eat."
- Fresh Food Delivery Arrives: Grocery delivery tests will give way to far improved services.
- Embracing Alternative Proteins: Cricket flour, and meat and cheese made from plants, will gain more fans.
- Snack Bar Stampede: Bolder flavors and ingredients mean a whole new image—and opportunity —for snack bars.
- Asian Food Roots: American consumers reach beyond Chinese, Japanese, and Thai to discover new regional foods, from Vietnamese to upscale ramen.
- Tea's Time: Tea is getting the high-end treatment from ingredient upgrades to elegant cafe experiences.
- Sweetener High: More shoppers are swapping added sugars for alternative natural sweeteners, from stevia to re-imaginings of honey and maple syrup.
- Packaging Revolution: Transparent labeling is a boon for business and sustainable packaging gives producers another badge of pride.
- Culinary Cannabis: Marijuana is the latest herb to grace baked goods and candies for that extra punch.
- Generation Z Raises its Voice: Its elders (born in 1995) have reached the age of influence, and their purchasing power will only grow from here.
- Super Bowls: Superfood mania, on-the-go convenience, and healthful fast-casual dining make bowls the go-to vessel.
- Other Trends to Watch: Small-batch, local yogurt; the next superfood contenders: kaniwa, baobab, soursop; the next kale: seaweed, cauliflower.