Allrecipes.com and The Hartman Group's Allrecipes Measuring Cup: What American Families are Eating and Cooking, 2012 Insights and Trends (25 million home cooks and a survey of 1,391 Allrecipes members) finds that healthier and more informed eating habits are a common thread fueling the top 10 emerging trends for home cooks in 2012.
2012 trends include: Flexitarians -- More than one-third of households ate less meat in 2011, and the No. 1 reason they did was to "eat healthier" (80 percent). This doesn't mean cutting out beef and poultry altogether, just enjoying more meatless meals. As this trend grows in 2012, meal inspiration will come from cultures where there is an inherent knowledge in vegetable preparation (Asia, Italy, France and India); Back to Food Basics -- From an interest in the Paleo Diet to consuming fewer carbohydrates, 2012 will be a year of "cleaner" eating. Consumer goals for the coming year include limiting highly processed foods, plus seeking foods and beverages that have antioxidants, probiotics, no hormones, and a list of ingredients they can recognize and pronounce. Consumers will also increasingly try to avoid MSG, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, benzoate preservatives and salt; Label Listings -- Fifty-seven percent of people reported they read labels more frequently in 2011, and this vigilance will grow even more in 2012. Consumers themselves say they read information on a product label for various reasons: Health, curiosity, and weight management are primary considerations, which research confirms is very often aspirational in nature. Calories are of the greatest interest as consumers scan each package and box; Mini-Me -- Miniature sweets were all the rage in 2011. Forty-six percent of home cooks reported eating a mini-dessert in the past year while 29 percent have tried making them at home. Allrecipes expects this trend to move out of the bakery and into the kitchens of home cooks as the enjoyment of eating these sweet, yet tiny, treats continues in 2012; Home Economics -- While consumers will continue shopping frugally in 2012, their values and demands will shift. They will not abandon their interest in having or creating a quality food experience for themselves, their families, and friends, and for cooking and eating will prioritize Quality = fresh, less processed, sustainable, Experience = consumption enjoyment (indulgence) or transfer of knowledge (culinary know-how or product narratives), Lack of waste = product right-sizing; You Inspire Me -- Mom's cooking, although inspiring to some, is having a hard time keeping up with the ability to search any time of day or night for a recipe idea online. Home cooks now tap a variety of sources for mealtime inspiration any time of day or night. Food websites such as Allrecipes.com are a resource for 68 percent of consumers, followed by food-focused TV programs, magazines, and email newsletters; Devices -- It doesn't really matter whether a home cook is keying smartphone apps in the supermarket aisle or setting up her laptop or tablet in the local café to plan Saturday's dinner party, mobile technology is definitely the top trend for meal planning. As proof, visits to Allrecipes.com from a mobile device were up 218 percent year-over-year in November 2011, while downloads of the popular Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app surpassed 10 million; What's on Your Fridge Door -- Ketchup has reigned as the U.S. condiment king for 125 years, but now salsa is nipping at its heels, and mayonnaise is enjoying a revival. A sampling of the most purchased condiments in the past six months also shows that international condiments such as hoisin sauce, wasabi sauce, and tahini will increasingly find their way into American fridges in 2012; Anytime is a good time for a Snack -- Turns out adults snack just as often as children, men and women snack about the same amount and, in general, snacking has become as culturally relevant to consumers as meal time. Research confirms snacking accounts for nearly half of all eating in the U.S, so it's only natural to conclude the consumer is interested in healthy snacks too. That said, when whole grain chips and toasted seeds, beans and nuts begin to gain in popularity - and kale chips are a polarizing discussion - it's noteworthy; Love the Sandwich -- Higher quality ingredients from herb-infused bread to grass-fed pork and innovative ingredients (e.g. caramelized onions, watercress, and Sriracha sauce) will elevate the humble sandwich to one of the top comfort foods of the year. One of the reasons for this popularity is the roving food truck that will continue to introduce consumers to higher-quality sandwich options at decent prices.Ingredients on the rise include Half and half, Quinoa, Chickpeas, Ground chicken and Mayonnaise. On the decline are Scallops, Avocado, Phyllo, Blackberries, and Caramel."It's fun to look at what wacky foods or gourmet trends are predicted this time of year, but with nearly a billion annual visits from home cooks each year, Allrecipes really knows what most families will be cooking and eating in 2012," said Lisa Sharples, president of Allrecipes. "We're absolutely seeing a renewed appreciation for healthy home-cooked meals as consumers take a more sophisticated approach in their everyday cooking with an emphasis on simpler ingredients and fresher food."