10 trends will dominate 2009’s nutrition landscape

By Janet Helm Special to the Tribune
January 7, 2009

Our troubling economy, concerns about the environment and the desire to prevent age-related ailments are behind many of the top 10 food and nutrition trends that will shape supermarket shelves and restaurant menus in 2009.

1. Recession-proof eating: The economic crisis has made frugal the new black, and has brought comfort food, nostalgic brands and at-home cooking back in style. Expect to see a continued focus on value, especially the concept of maximizing nutrition on a budget.

2. Stress reducers: In these uncertain times, look for new foods and beverages to help you de-stress, such as Dasani Plus Calm + Relax water, Arizona Rx Stress tea and Blue Cow relaxation drink. Chill-out claims will likely increase as companies spike products with purported calming ingredients, including botanicals (kava-kava and chamomile) and amino acids such as GABA, L-theanine and tryptophan.

3. Snooze foods: The ultimate relaxers are foods that promise a better night’s sleep. Nearly 30 foods and beverages were launched last year as natural sleep remedies, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. These include a hot cocoa drink and chocolate “pillow” with melatonin created by Dreamerz Foods (dreamerz.com).

4. Planetary health: Eating green will transition from niche to mainstream, as more Americans embrace the concept of sustainability. Look for more environment-related information on labels, including where ingredients come from and how they are packaged. Placement of the word “eco” on products doubled in the last two years, according to Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics.

5. Condition marketing: Expect to see even more foods and beverages with ingredients that promise condition-specific benefits, predicted Chicago dietitian and nutrition consultant David Feder. Beyond targeting specific parts of the body—from your brain to your bones—marketers will be touting multitasking products that promise to deliver against multiple conditions—for example, fiber-rich foods that boast digestive-health, cholesterol-lowering and appetite-curbing benefits.

6. Pure and simple: Quality will be redefined to mean few and familiar ingredients, according to Jarrett Paschel, an analyst with The Hartman Group, a market research firm in Bellevue, Wash. Instead of “medicalized eating styles,” he predicts a return to foods that are naturally rich in nutrients. As consumers look for more authentic and real foods, manufacturers will focus on ingredient labels that herald the products as “clean” and artificial-free.

7. Vitality boosters: The idea of “energy”—both physical and mental—will greatly influence food product development, according to Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior analyst with the Chicago-based market research firm Mintel. It’s no longer simply about caffeine (which is being added to everything from water to candy and potato chips); herbal ingredients like ginseng and guarana, and amino acids, such as taurine and L-carnitine, are now migrating from energy drinks to foods.

8. Defensive foods: A desire to avoid a trip to the doctor is driving the trend of immunity-enhancing foods, according to Mogelonsky. The number of foods and beverages claiming to strengthen the immune system has tripled in the last year, according to Mintel, citing a growth in probiotics and products rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

9. Allergy-friendly: The number of people who claim to suffer from food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities continues to grow, creating a lucrative market for new products, said California-based trend expert Elizabeth Sloan. Even though the allergy enthusiasts may be disproportionate to the actual medical incidence, the increased concern has driven companies like Allergy Friendly Foods, LLC (allergaroo.com) to create a line of products for kids that is free of the eight major food allergens.

10. Inflammation fighters: The concept of inflammation may finally achieve mainstream status, predicts Monica Reinagel, author of “The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan.” Researchers have long linked inflammation to a wide array of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and even obesity. Now it may reach a tipping point with consumers, she said. Evaluating foods based on their anti-inflammatory potential may be the next big thing, which is something you can do at nutritiondata.com.[email protected]