Top Food Trends of 2014

Every year, consumers and packaged foods manufacturers are looking forward to the new hottest food trend.  Often driven by a consumers’ desire to change the way they eat, introduce new and exciting flavors to their palates or explore a foreign country in the comforts of their own home, CPG companies are constantly innovating and working to be one of the chosen products in the shopping cart.

Below are 8 food trends we’ve predicted, with some help from Food Network and the National Restaurant Association, as we move through 2014.

Midwest food movement – Chipotle is already practicing this trend by finding locally sourced ingredients as often as possible. This trend takes sourcing to the next level by focusing on Midwest accessible ingredients only. Root vegetables are becoming more popular due to this movement.

Tea – Consumers are becoming more and more focused on what they consume and what those foods do to their bodies. Tea has grown in popularity over the last few years as a natural dietary supplement, helping to suppress hunger and increase metabolism. Tea also has the benefit of not being over processed so consumers know what they’re buying is what they’re getting with no unnecessary additives. In 2014, tea will become a term used more for a time of day than a specific beverage. “Low Tea” will refer to a 4pm light snack to hold consumers’ hunger over until dinner helping consumers to consume smaller meals more frequently.

Bread rising to the top – As consumers continue to get creative and move back to home cooking roots, bread will start to move to the center of the plate. Look for breads in more flavors and forms than ever before. In addition to bread becoming a main course focus, popular carb-heavy meals are seeing a shift in main ingredients. Pastas are being made with alternative flours or quinoa, adding an additional healthy benefit to popular meals.

Ethnic Inspirations – We’ve seen this trend continue to rise to meet consumers’ ever changing and challenged palates. The sense of adventure Millennials are bringing to dining and cuisine has created pressure for restaurants and brands to work outside of American borders to bring bold new flavor inspirations into their mix. Indian cuisine is leading the charge with curry, coconut, ginger and garlic flavor profiles.

Hybridization of Foods – New combinations that allow consumers to get more from their food are becoming increasingly popular. Vegetables are becoming enhanced by proteins and vice versa for a more robust flavor experience. CPG brands can use this as inspiration for partnerships outside of their distinct category to propel use usage occasions.

Small Scale Molecular Gastronomy – Or in simpler terms, affecting a food’s taste by pickling or brining. We’ve seen in past years consumers’ increased desire to make something of their own, whether it’s a homemade recipe or simply a twist on a classic meal. Brining and pickling both fuel creativity in the kitchen while allowing an enhanced taste experience at home. Recipe ideas can help create use for brands at shelf or as part of creative messaging.

Personal Shopping – No longer for those who are reaching an age where shopping is challenging, consumers in urban areas are placing convenience and delivery fees over the browsing inherent in aisle to aisle shopping experiences. Stores are creating apps where consumers can select items, the store will package them up and deliver them to customers. This is crucial for impulse CPG brands that rely on browsing habits of shoppers to become aware of their products. Generating awareness and desire for brands and products before shopping takes place is key to compete with growing convenience offered by retailers.

Flavors without Boundaries – this trend can be broken down into a few distinct catories, labeled by Comax Flavors.

  1. Fresh Focused – adding a fresh, healthy halo to snack foods. Think Carrot watermelon and pineapple cucumber.
  2. Sultry Sweets – combining multiple sweet or savory flavors into one new product will give consumers a unique experience in one product. Think Ginger Sesame Caramel, or Maple Bourbon Banana
  3. Some like it Hot – Similar to sultry sweets, combining spicy flavors with sweet flavors creates a new twist on popular foods. Think sriracha chocolate and honey wasabi.

As consumers are constantly asking more of the brands they buy and products they search for, CPG companies will need to be flexible in their innovation year over year. By being aware of consumers desires and choosing which of those desires to fulfill on an ongoing basis, brands will continue to evolve with their consumers to maintain loyalty at shelf and on shopping lists.

With contributions by Jen Aldinger


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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