Topline Trends Tuesday: Is less more?

December 1, 2009

For a few decades, food product manufacturers had a lot a fun tossing all kinds of special ingredients into their products. People liked it. In fact, they bought crazy stuff like freeze-dried astronaut ice cream for their kids as a fun treat. It was good to be a food manufacturer with a chemistry set. And then, it wasn’t.

People finally decided that weird stuff in their food might do weird stuff to their bodies and they started to make it less fun to be a food chemical maker or one of the food producers hooked on chemicals.

In fact, recent research shows that:
• 63% of consumers want to recognize all ingredients on a label
• 34% want as few ingredients on a label as possible

The good news is that food companies are pretty resilient. Already a lot of them are putting away their chemistry sets and giving people what they want.

It’s true. Consider Haagen Dazs Five and Pillsbury Simply Cookies (available in the USA) and Back to Nature Nut Blends. Each is produced by a huge company (Nestle, General Mills and Kraft to be exact) and all of these products have ingredient labels where every ingredient is familiar. It’s so retro, it’s modern.

Would you pay more for a similar product that offered you less additives and manufacturing ingredients?

Love learning about food trends? Subscribe to my Topline Trends newsletter now to receive my 2010 Food Trends Predictions when they go live on December 15th.

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Frozen fun

November 9, 2009

Sooshi-05Whether it’s in a bowl, a cone or just out of the carton or ice cream maker, I think ice cream is a fun food. Others (who likely lead more exciting lives) don’t agree. The evidence is all around in the ever  exciting ways people keep finding to make ice cream surprise and delight:

Sooshi: This New Zealand product (pictured here) combines ice cream, candies and fruit to resemble maki rolls that will please even the fish phobic.

Icecreamists: Dragging ice cream by the hair out of childhood and into the counter culture is this pop-up restaurant in London’s Selfridges department store. Its menu features alcohol-spiked ice cream concoctions (the word “sundae” just doesn’t fit) with names such as Axl Rose-water and The Sex Pistol (laced with absinthe) that kick conventional ice cream treats in the teeth.

Dippin’ Dots: These pebble-shaped ice cream orbs are sold in mall kiosks and vending machines so that you can enjoy an unusual ice cream treat any time.

Dibs: These frozen snacks are like ice cream M&M’s; they feature vanilla ice cream enrobed in a crunchy chocolate shell. The idea is that you can eat just one but in reality, you’re likely to keep grazing once you open the package.

Beyond the usual cones, sundaes and shakes, what’s the ‘coolest’ ice cream novelty you’ve seen or tasted?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Extra crispy gets extra attention

October 13, 2009

kfcYou know, if fried chicken were a person and not a food, its story could be the basis for the movie of the week: with humble beginnings as a homespun, comforting meal that epitomized all that is good about family life, it had a supremely wholesome beginning. Later, after fried chicken rose to success as a part of our popular culture as a fast food phenomena, this much loved entrée became a pariah shunned by the fat police. Then, just when fried chicken’s prospects seemed the worst, this crispy, battered food was rediscovered to become, along with a handful of comfort foods, elevated to gourmet status by chefs. A true underdog success story if  ever there was one.

Today fried chicken is a  menu star at fashionable restaurants such as Momofuko Noodle Bar in NYC and Harlem Restaurant in Toronto while slow food mecca Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California is serving it, too.

When’s the last time you had fried chicken? Did you order it at a fancy restaurant or have some of the Colonel’s special recipe? Or, did you make it at home like I did?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Men still avoiding aprons

September 8, 2009

a96674_WivesAreFor

According to this recent Toronto Star article, in the last census, nearly 25% of Canadian women spent 30 hours or more taking care of the home in 2006, compared to 7.7% of men. This US report shows that the trend is the same in that country, too.

What’s interesting for me as a trend tracker is that, while many young men tell me they love food TV shows and want to know how to become chefs like Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain, it’s this same group who do the fewest household chores. In fact, according the US report linked above, teenage boys and young males performed the fewest hours of household work – 8.9 hours per week, compared with 15.9 for young women.

While “chores” aren’t broken down between cooking and cleaning, I have a feeling that this old ad isn’t as quaint as I’d like to think.

What do you think prevents more men from being involved in daily food preparation? Are women too ready to jump in and make a meal or do we make them feel unwelcome in the kitchen?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Kids & Food

September 1, 2009

Kidsfood

Sigh. Not only is it the first day of September, but I was cold when left the house this morning. Summer – such as it was – is pretty much over. I’m just not ready. But, try as I might to deny that I need to stock up on ingredients,  school lunches are just around the corner for Canadian families like mine. Plus, this year the food children eat for lunch and as after school snacks is being scrutinized and discussed like never before.

Recently two new marketing initiatives aimed at kids caught my attention. First the Kinder chocolate folks sent me a press release about their new line of mini-treats and info about using these bars as a reward for kids who behave well. To be honest, I worry about linking indulgent food to love and reward for anyone, especially kids. That said, the smaller bar sizes do help teach kids portion control.

Then, I got info about these new snacks from Summer Fresh Salads that are perfect for lunch boxes and entice younger kids to eat protein-rich hummus and to dip veggies by using cartoon images they love. Despite the fact these products have a lot of packaging, I feel a lot better about this attempt to sell kid food to parents than I do about the Kinder mini-bar bribe idea.

If you’re concerned about controlling your child’s weight you might be interested in this study of 9- to 15-year-olds that found that all kids, regardless of their weight, tended to eat more when they had the chance to snack with a friend. Due to shyness or some other unknown reason, they ate far less when they were snacking with a peer they did not know. Interestingly, the biggest calorie intakes were seen when an overweight child snacked with an overweight friend:

• Overweight friends consumed 738 calories, on average, when snacking together
• When an overweight child was paired with a normal-weight friend they consumed an average of 444 calories.
• Normal-weight kids consumed an average of about 500 calories when paired with a friend, regardless of the friend’s weight.

How do you feel about rewarding kids with snacks or buying them foods specifically marketed as “kid foods?”


Topline Trends Tuesday: Black garlic

August 4, 2009

Aged Black Garlic

What? Aged or fermented black garlic was developed as an Asian diet supplement; it’s made using a patented, month-long heat curing process that creates not just a change in flavour but also a high level of antioxidants that are associated with cancer prevention.

Why? Besides its health benefits, black garlic tastes really, really good. I first tried it in Denver when I dipped into my friend Robin Asbell’s vegetarian plate at Rioja. The mellow, savoury yet sweet, deep, satisfying flavour smote me hard (why are you looking at me that way? Smote is a word, okay?).

When? This trend started late last year when chefs began to experiment with this supplement as an ingredient.

Where? I bought the aged black garlic pictured above at McEwan but I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Toronto.

Who? Have you tried this yummy new ingredient at a restaurant or seen it at one of your local stores? If so, tell me what you thought or where you found it.

Post edited to add this link to an article about San Francisco restaurants that are using black garlic.


Topline Trends Tuesday: Coffee talk

July 28, 2009

iStock_000003030567SmallWhile retail experts expected grocery store coffee sales to grow 2.4% in 2008, the changes in the economy led many consumers to choose a homemade cup of java over a $4 latte. As a result, sales grew by 6% and are predicted to stay as strong as a Starbucks espresso.

In other coffee related news, the makers of Dippin’ Dots ice cream pellets are applying their super cold technology to coffee concentrate so that soon homecooks will have another, hopefully better, instant coffee option.

And, for those who still splurge on coffee shop coffee, a new website and iPhone application from Dunkin’ Donuts now makes placing large orders easier. The person making the coffee run can send out a group alert asking people what they want; then, those people can place their orders online. The person going to Dunkin’ Donuts can print out the order or look at it on his or her phone.

Personally, I’m not a huge coffee drinker. I usually have a cup a day, so buying my coffee from a coffee shop doesn’t have a big impact on my budget. What about you? Has the economy changed your coffee drinking habits in any way?