Today's list, the third in our 12 Lists of Christmas series, comes from the Specialty Food Association. By nature, this category is driven by entrepreneurs, big on innovation but small in batch sizes. Still, six out of 10 U.S. consumers purchase specialty food, and those numbers are expected to rise in 2015, according to association research.
"Consumers will seek more from their food in 2015, whether stronger flavors, alternative sweeteners or snacks made with everything from plant-based meat to even marijuana," the association says in the introduction.
The Specialty Food list:
- Fresh Food Delivery Arrives
Grocery delivery tests will give way to far improved services.
- Embracing Alternative Proteins
Cricket flour and meat and cheese made from plants will gain more fans.
- Snack Bar Stampede
Bolder flavors and ingredients mean a whole new image—and opportunity —for snack bars.
- Asian Food Roots
American consumers reach beyond Chinese, Japanese and Thai to discover new regional foods, from Vietnamese to upscale ramen.
- Tea's Time
Tea is getting the high-end treatment from ingredient upgrades to elegant cafe experiences.
- Sweetener High
More shoppers are swapping added sugars for alternative natural sweeteners, from stevia to reimaginings of honey and maple syrup.
- Packaging Revolution
Transparent labeling is a boon for business, and sustainable packaging gives producers another badge of pride.
- Culinary Cannabis
Marijuana is the latest herb to grace baked goods and candies for that extra punch.
- Generation Z Raises its Voice
Its elders (born in 1995) have reached the age of influence, and their purchasing power will only grow from here.
- Super Bowls
Superfood mania, on-the-go convenience and healthful fast-casual dining make bowls the go-to vessel.
"Food producers are tapping into the growing sophistication and buying power of today's consumers," says Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food News. "They are catering to new demands for better ingredients, sustainable packaging, and more convenient ways to shop and eat."
Bonus: Other Trends to Watch
Small-batch, local yogurt; the next superfood contenders: kaniwa, baobab, soursop; the next kale: seaweed, cauliflower.
Learn more about these predictions in the article in Specialty Food News.