“We saw chia seeds come up a few years ago … and we though it wouldn’t continue to grow – but it has,” as has demand for other seeds that promise health benefits, such as sunflower, hemp, flax and sesame seeds, Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications, told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained consumers are eating more seeds because they want a healthy and convenient alternative to carbs. Seeds also are versatile in that they can easily be added to salads, shakes, stir-fries, yogurts and be enjoyed on their own on-the-go.
Other superfoods RDNs predict will gain traction include avocados, ancient grains and green tea, according to the survey, which also found kale is losing some of its appeal. Pollock adds avocados are especially appealing because a growing body of research supports their health benefits and because, like seeds, they can be used in many ways, such as a topping on toast, a fat replacement in baked goods and a nutrient-booster in smoothies.
Clean-eating and free-from claims continue to grow
RDNs agree that in 2016 more consumers will buy foods that they deem “clean,” which includes products that have “free-from” claims, according to the survey.
“There is not a clear definition of clean eating and it varies by person,” but some say it means eating organic, others say eating less processed foods with short ingredient decks, Pollock said. She suggests manufacturers tap into this trend by explaining to consumers what unfamiliar ingredients are and do. A good place to do this is on social media, rather than on already crowded packages, she said.
Popular free-from claims include GMO-free, antibiotic free and additive-free, as well as locally sourced, according to the survey.
But RDNs say free-from claims are not the best way to determine if a food is healthier than other items that do not make the claims.
Rather, the top five claims RDNs say consumers should look for include: locally sourced foods, high quality carbohydrates, high quality protein, clean food ingredients and plant-based protein, Pollock said.
Protein will level off in 2016
The number of people seeking high-protein products likely has peaked, according to two-thirds of RDNs surveyed who said protein enthusiasm in 2016 will be about the same as in 2015.
Pollock added the type of protein consumers choose, however, is changing. She said consumers likely will switch to more seafood, nuts and seeds, eggs, poultry and dairy and will eat less beef, bacon and processed or red meats.
Convenience and taste rival for top priority
Taste has long reigned supreme, but in 2016 convenience could edge it out of the top priority for consumers, suggests the survey. It found 97% and 93% of RDNs said convenience and taste, respectively, are important or very important to consumers.
About half add that healthfulness is not a deciding factor for what will end up on most consumers’ plates.
Consumers will be inundated with nutrition information in 2016 from blogs, social media, TV and celebrities, according to the survey. But not all those sources are accurate, RDNs fear.
The report found many RDNs are worried about wrong and potentially harmful information being shared, and Pollock suggests manufacturers can help by working with RDNs to spread accurate information in 2016.