Supermarket sweep

Austin grocery giant reveals hottest food trends for 2018

Austin grocery giant reveals hottest food trends for 2018

Whole Foods food trends
Cooks will be using the entire plant in 2018. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Move over kale. Step aside udon. Those once-hot ingredients are now as fashionable as fedoras and bodycon dresses. But what foods will be the new cool kids of the grocery aisle? The experts at global grocery giant Whole Foods Market have just released their 2018 forecast of the top 10 food categories that will be filling carts all over the nation.

Floral flavors
Upscale chefs have been tweezing buds and blooms onto their composed plates for years now, drawn to the color and texture that botanicals add. Now, flowers are perfuming the grocery aisles. The trend is most prevalent in beverages, where everything from elderflower to lavender is used to give some complexity to lemonades, coffees, and teas. It is also showing up in some unexpected places, like Whole Foods' violet-flavored dark chocolate marshmallows.

Super powders
When most people think of adding powders to food, they think of the overly sweet supplements beloved by gym rats the world over. However, the new generation won’t have you gagging if you try to pound them before a workout. Energy boosters like matcha, maca root, and cacao are among the most popular, followed by a variety of botanicals. Ground turmeric continues to fly from the shelves, especially in the ever-popular golden milk.

Functional mushrooms
Mushroom varieties like Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are moving from the supplement aisle to the rest of the store. In broths, they provide a rich, plant-based alternative in soups and sauces. In chocolate and coffee, they provide an earthy base to the roasted beans. They are even showing up in beauty products like bath gels, where they are touted for their concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.

Feast from the Middle East
We hate to call this one a trend. The ingredients that make up the foundation of Middle Eastern cookery have been feeding people for millennia. But culinary diversity is always a good thing, and we’re glad to see more availability of ancient flavors like harissa, za’atar, and pomegranate. And we are glad to see comfort classics like shakshuka and grilled halloumi popping up on menus, too.

Transparency 2.0
Consumers across the board are starting to take what goes into their bodies more seriously. GMO labeling is still important, but grocery customers are also looking at things like Fair Trade certification and animal welfare reports. In 2018, Whole Foods is giving shoppers more tools with calorie labels on their food bars, GMO information on all items, and an assurance that all canned tuna comes from sustainable one-by-one catches.

High-tech goes plant forward
Food scientists have gotten a bad rap from the unholy brew of preservatives, bulking agents, and emulsifiers that have been a hallmark of prepared food production since the dawn of packaged foods. But these days, scientists are working to transform plant ingredients towards a more sustainable future. Think milks and yogurts made from unconventional sources like peas, “bleeding” vegan burger patties, and “tuna” made from tomatoes.

Puffed and popped snacks
From potato chips to pretzels, shoppers are addicted to the crunch. The new generation of crispy ingredients lightens things up a little. New manufacturing techniques allow for airy snacks like puffed rice clusters and popped cassava chips while traditional chips now come in healthier options like jicama, parsnip, or Brussels sprouts.

Tacos come out of their shell
Gone are the days when all you could find at the grocery store were gummy flour tortillas and half-broken yellow shells. Driven by specialty diets, the category has exploded over the past few years to include seaweed wrappers for poke tacos, heirloom corn tortillas for classic recipes, and gluten- and grain-fee options. Try tortillas made with cassava or almond flour from Texas company Siete.

We can’t think of a more delicious way to reduce food waste. Cooks across the country are experimenting with the parts of plants that too often get overlooked. Next year, look for stems, seeds, and skins to add new twists on traditional dishes like pestos or slaws, while leaves from ingredients like celery and tomato will add a subtle essence of the plant to pastas and other starches.

Say cheers to the other bubbly
LaCroix and Topo Chico are not the only fizzles in town. Sparkles are now a huge segment of the beverage market. Try maple and birch sparkling water from Sap! or ginger and citrus flavored sparkling cold brew from Stumptown. Or keep it local with Texas alternatives to LaCroix like Austin’s Waterloo Sparkling Water.