To develop its forecast for 2018, the specialty grocery chain compiled input from the experts who source items and lead trends across the cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments for its more than 470 stores.
The top food trends include:
Flower power. Floral flavors are blooming in beverages and snacks, from lavender lemonades to hibiscus mint popsicles. Elderflower is a favorite in cocktails and sparkling drinks, and violet is paired with dark chocolate in confections.
Powder players. Powders such as matcha, maca root, cacao and turmeric pack a nutritional punch in lattes and smoothies, nutrition bars and baked foods. Protein powders have expanded way beyond whey to include alternative sources such as egg white protein and nutrients like collagen.
Mushroom mania. Functional mushrooms have stepped out of the supplement aisle. Reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane are featured in bottled beverages, broths and even body care products.
“The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavors,” Whole Foods said.
Middle East goes mainstream. Harissa, cardamom and za’atar are heating up on US menus, and Middle Eastern ingredients such as pistachios, eggplant, mint and tahini are gaining steam.
“Things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top,” Whole Foods said.
High-tech, plant-based. From “bleeding” vegan burgers to sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes, an emerging crop of plant-based products are designed to appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. Ingredients such as pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts, pecans and avocado stand in for dairy in new yogurt, ice cream and milk products.
Puffs popping up. New extrusion methods are bringing more puffed, popped, dried and crisped textures to the salty snacks section. Examples include popped cassava chips, puffed rice clusters and lentil crisps.
Tacos with a twist. A street-food favorite is featured in new and unexpected ways. Breakfast and dessert tacos have emerged on restaurant menus, as well as tacos with alternative shells, such as a seaweed wrapper with a poke filling.
“Classic tacos aren’t going anywhere, but greater attention to ingredients is upping their game,” Whole Foods said. “One end of the spectrum is hyper-authentic cooking with things like heirloom corn tortillas or classic barbacoa. And thanks to brands like Siete, there are grain-free options for paleo fans, too.”
Waste not. Celery leaves, melon seeds and other traditionally discarded produce parts are revived in creative culinary recipes. Examples include pickled watermelon rinds, beet-green pesto and broccoli-stem slaw.
“Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable, including the stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten,” Whole Foods said.