The International Food Information Council Foundation has compiled a list of hot topics for 2017.

WASHINGTON — A coffee craze, a pasta comeback and a continued infatuation with protein are on tap as top US food and nutrition trends in 2017. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation compiled a list of hot topics for the year based on in-house survey research and health professional expertise, plus other data and observations.

Last year, the group predicted the rise of personalized nutrition, fermented foods and ugly produce.

Functional foods

Turmeric, jackfruit and kefir were among top Google searches in the past year, signaling increased interest in foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Nearly half of consumers surveyed by the IFIC Foundation indicated weight loss or weight management is a health benefit they would like to receive from the foods they eat, and a third listed increased energy, cardiovascular health, healthy aging or digestive health.

 Defining healthy


Food labeling has been the subject of discussion and debate in recent years. More recently, the word “healthy” has come under scrutiny. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of redefining what qualifies as “healthy” in the labeling of food products.

More than a third of consumers surveyed said a healthy food is defined in part by what it does not contain, rather than what it does contain.

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Sustainability shines

Of factors driving consumer purchasing decisions, sustainability has gained ground in recent years, with 41 percent of survey participants listing it as a purchase driver compared with 35 percent in 2015. About three-fourths of consumers said it is important that food products are produced in a sustainable way.

However, cost remains an important issue, too; only 38 percent of consumers said they are willing to pay more for sustainably produced food and beverage products.


Protein power


Protein’s popularity shows no signs of slowing. Nearly two-thirds of consumers in 2016 said they strive to consume more protein or as much as possible, according to survey data, up from 54 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2014.

Consumer perception of plant protein has improved; one-fifth of Americans view it as more healthful than they did the year before, compared to 8 percent who see it as less healthful. Meanwhile, 12 percent of consumers perceive animal protein as more healthful than the previous year, while 15 percent see it as less healthful.


The comeback of pasta, whole grains


Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) Americans strive to consume more whole grains, up from 56 percent in 2015 and 53 percent in 2014, IFIC survey data revealed.

Meanwhile, pasta may be mounting a comeback, according to Google search trends. Pasta was one of the top five food trends in 2016, based on individual search terms, with “rigatoni” searches alone rising 26 percent from 2015 to 2016.

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CRISPR gaining momentum 


Shorthand for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” CRISPR is a form of biotechnology that is poised to go mainstream, IFIC said. The technology, which edits an organism’s genes in a targeted way rather than splicing in genes from other organisms, comes without the stigma of other biotechnology applications and may gain consumer acceptance. The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) in 2016 determined it does not need to approve individual applications of CRISPR because transgenics are not involved.

Despite the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms, one third of Americans surveyed said they need more information about biotechnology in order to make an informed decision.

Less than one-fourth of consumers see no application for biotechnology whatsoever in food production, IFIC found.

Coffee is hot


Millennials are driving record demand for coffee, inspired by increasingly trendy new ways to consume the beverage, such as cold brew. Combined with recent studies supporting coffee’s role in cancer prevention, java will thrive in 2017, according to IFIC.

Consumers appear to be more aware of their caffeine intake, IFIC noted. Sixty-nine per cent of survey participants said they know how much caffeine they consume, up from 64 percent in 2015 and 63 percent in 2014.

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The pursuit of app-iness


Apps are growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated 269 billion downloads expected in 2017, nearly twice the number from three years ago. The number of devices that run apps is projected to reach 6.2 billion in 2020, up from 2.6 billion in 2005, as desktop and laptop screen time decreases and mobile time increases.

Twenty-two percent of consumers in 2015 reported using an app or other means to track the healthfulness of their daily food and beverage intake, which compared with 11 percent the year before who said they regularly use apps to plan what they eat and drink.

“So it’s not exactly going out on a limb to expect even more proliferation of app and mobile usage this year, but be on the lookout for new ones that cater to almost every conceivable aspect of what we eat and how we can lead healthier lifestyles,” IFIC said.



Weight loss gains


The number of Americans trying to lose weight increased to 57 percent in 2016 from 52 percent in 2015, according to IFIC survey data. Meanwhile, the number of consumers aiming to maintain their weight fell to 23 percent in 2016 from 29 percent in 2015.

The survey also revealed the number of overweight and obese Americans based on body mass index decreased to 60 percent in 2016 from 64 percent in 2015.

“When it comes to weight loss, Americans clearly have the will,” IFIC said. “But will they find a way?”