Part 1: 2012 Food and Beverage Trends

The fashion industry isn’t the only one that sees trends. As we near the end of 2011, JWT has announced food and beverage trends to keep an eye (and taste bud) out for in 2012. Check back tomorrow for even more New Year food trends.

Food as the New Eco-Issue The environmental impact of our food choices will become a more prominent concern as stakeholders—brands, governments and activist organizations—drive awareness around the issue and rethink what food is sold and how it’s made. As more regions battle with food shortages and/or spiking costs, smarter practices around food will join the stable of green “best practices.”

Inhaling From a Harvard professor of biomedical engineering comes inhalable caffeine and chocolate—his company, Breathable Foods, is rolling out AeroShot Pure Energy, an inhaler containing a hit of caffeine mixed with B vitamins; Le Whif provides a chocolate experience sans calories. The company is working on more products that provide flavorful or nutritional benefits without calories or the need for pills.

Antique Eats The heritage trend is making its way to food, with chefs digging up recipes and adding ingredients from yesteryear. The hot restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London serves bygone British dishes. Some of this is for the more adventurous (e.g., Grant Achatz’s duck with blood sauce in Chicago), but in the U.K., at least, everyday consumers are preparing meats that hearken back to older eras, like pheasant, venison and wood pigeon.

Healthy Vending Machines Machines that sell snacks like carrots and apples, hummus, meal-replacement bars and yogurt are popping up in response to consumer interest in nutritious eating, combined with legislation aimed at limiting junk food in schools. As these policies become more widespread, expect more such vending machines—and a black market of sorts for sugary, fatty, salty fare.

Heirloom Everything “Artisanal” has become the overused term du jour in food; “heirloom” will follow. While it’s been around for a while, starting with tomatoes and beef, lately everything from corn to beans has been getting an “heirloom” designation, generally meaning an older variety that’s genetically distinct from commercial products. (“Heirloom” is mostly used for crops, “heritage” for livestock.) The term is becoming shorthand for quality and natural (and higher prices). Can it be long before we see heirloom potato chips?

Artery-Cleaning Foods The next hot functional foods may be those that claim to clean out arteries, or more technically, reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol. Stratum Nutrition is marketing a powdered fiber product to food and beverage brands that it claims can promote healthy arteries.

Pluerry This hybrid fruit, a combination of a plum and cherry, was developed for plum lovers who don’t like juice dribbling down their chin. Breeders have perfected the combination after years of experimentation, and it could be in supermarkets soon.

100 Montaditos Cervecería 100 Montaditos, dubbed “a Spanish Starbucks for sandwiches” by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, is now targeting international customers with its cheap menu and environment that encourages lingering with friends. Its numerous “montaditos”—a tapas staple that here takes the form of mini-sandwiches—are just €1 in Spain, while beer is €2. The 10-year-old chain ventured outside Spain in 2010, opened in Miami, Mexico and Colombia in 2011, and plans more American and European outlets for 2012. Watch for others to jump on the montaditos bandwagon.

Curbing Food Waste As the environmental impact of our food choices becomes a bigger concern, watch for more awareness around waste, with brands working to educate consumers and to reduce their own waste. In the U.K., packaging will no longer feature a “sell by” date, an attempt to reduce the £12 billion worth of food thrown out annually, while in India the government is trying to rein in traditional lavish weddings in a bid to stave off food scarcity. Unilever’s Food Solutions unit recently launched United Against Waste, a campaign to drive waste reduction in the food-service industry.

Fat Taxes The fat tax is the new sin tax: In a bid to put the brakes on obesity, governments will try to push consumers away from unhealthy foods with cost disincentives. In 2011, Hungary introduced an added tax for foods with high fat, salt and sugar content, along with a higher tariff on soda (and alcohol), while Denmark added a tax for high-saturated-fat foods. Similar legislation has been proposed in Australia and Britain. Look for more national and local governments to follow.

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