Trendspotting 2019

Consumers will embrace brands that ‘do the right thing,’ af&co. trendologists predict

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / tumsasedgars
© Getty Images / tumsasedgars
From the “volatile government situation” to the “crazy acts of nature” across the nation and “senseless hate crimes,” many consumers in the US are feeling uneasy and looking for a way to “escape from some of the badness” by visiting hotels, restaurants and supporting CPG brands that are doing the right thing, according to trendologist and president of af&co. Andrew Freeman.

“The hotel and restaurant industry has the opportunity to lead the charge in creating a world we all want to live in”​ in 2019 by “embracing global ideas, supporting good causes, being more inclusive of the world at large and just stepping up to do the right thing,”​ he explained during his annual hospitality trends report.

“How this will manifest, and how it has manifested already, is that we are not just giving money to every charity that emails or supporting every cause,”​ but rather by entering “interesting partnerships”​ based on common values, he said.

For example, he predicts, more players in the hospitality sector will embrace immigrant support, sustainability and supporting their surrounding communities as a way to not only ease consumer discomfort with the world at large, but also reach out to new consumers who expect more from the companies with which they do business.

This trend is already playing out in the CPG space, but likely will pick up steam in 2019 as packaged goods often follow trends set by the hospitality industry.

With this in mind, Freeman recommends that in the New Year more companies – be they restaurants, hotels or CPG manufacturers – shift some of their direct marketing dollars to community work which will serve the double function of getting the word out about their business and also doing good.

Elevated proteins and produce

While Freeman predicts that ‘doing good’ will be the biggest trend of 2019, he also forecasts the plant-based movement will continue to gain traction and become more nuanced in the New Year.

One way it will evolve, he explained, is by becoming more complicated. The protein equation will no longer as simple as plant vs animal as cell-cultured meat starts to become a viable option for restaurants, Freeman said. This will build on the existing trend of plant-based ‘meat’ that was started by companies like the Impossible Burger.

As more consumers embrace plant-based diets and vegetable-centered dishes, restaurants are looking for more flavorful and unique options, Freeman said.

One way they are doing this is by working directly with farmers to grow more heritage varieties that offer more flavor, but might have lower yield, shorter shelf life and less uniformity, he said. This seed-to-table trend is creating new opportunities for farmers and exposing consumers to produce they might not otherwise have a chance to try.

Another twist on this trend is the rise of globally-inspired salads, such as a Burmese tea leaf salad instead of a more typical mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette, Freeman predicts. As this trend takes off, consumers likely will want to make elevated salads at home, too, opening the door for CPGs to offer more exotic dressings, toppings and mix-ins. Vertical farms also will be well positioned to respond to consumer demand for unique greens and base ingredients.

Garbanzo beans also will take a more diverse role in 2019, as consumers look to incorporate plant-based protein in different ways – such as hummus milkshakes, snickerdoodle hummus and as a blend with guacamole. On the CPG side, industry already offers chocolate covered chickpeas as a sweet treat and savory, crunchy chickpeas in a variety of flavors from basic sea salt to ranch to barbeque.

Mushrooms are popping up everywhere

Mushrooms will continue to infiltrate unexpected dishes and dayparts in 2019, according to Freeman. He pointed to the wild success this summer of the James Beard project that prompted over 350 restaurants to create their version of ‘the blend,’ which combines mushrooms and meat for more nutritious and sustainable dishes.

In CPGs, the mushroom blend debuted in products like Giorogio Foods’ Blendabella dips and sauces that fall somewhere between a tapenade, bruschetta and salsa. The company also was one of many to debut mushroom jerky as a plant based alternative to the popular meat snack. And finally, dried and powdered mushrooms, like those sold by Om Mushrooms, are being incorporated in everything from snack bars to hot chocolate mixes.

New American steakhouse: Where is the beef?

The rising popularity of plant based diets are starting to influence even high end steakhouses, which are offering increasingly more vegetarian and pescatarian dishes, Freeman said. One to watch in this space will be Ocean Hugger Foods, which offers food service providers and restaurants an plant based alternative to sushi. The company is expanding its distribution and its product portfolio.

Sustainable solutions on the rise

The movement to reduce food waste will continue to gain traction in 2019, Freeman predicts, noting that local governments are starting to restrict restaurants from disposing of food waste in landfills – prompting them to look for new solutions.

Some are teaming with non-profits and companies like Goodr Co. to redirect leftovers to those who are food insecure, while others are using food in unexpected ways to reduce waste, such as the Amazing Pasta Straw, which makes straws out of pasta.

Restaurants also are responding to climate change by offering more sustainable protein options, such as goat meat and beans, and selecting seafood that is more sustainable and not overfished, Freeman said. This creates opportunities for manufacturers who offer both CPGs and bulk items to drive trial and awareness.

Carbs are back but higher end

The keto-craze may be in full swing and pushing many to reject carbs, but many consumers are still looking for breads and pastas that they can enjoy without feeling guilty. Freeman said restaurants are responding by offering pastas and breads made from heritage grains that are more nutritionally dense, or that are made with artisanal techniques that offer a unique experience.

Globally inspired breakfast

And finally, Freeman predicts, consumers will continue to seek out globally inspired dishes and flavors in 2019 as they become more familiar with the unfamiliar they will look for new options to start their day, Freeman predicts. In particular, he forecasts globally inspired breakfast and brunch options will take off.

While breakfast may be the focal point of this trend, other day parts also are getting in on the action. For example, Japanese desserts, such as Hokkaido cheese tarts and Kakigori shaved ice are showing up on menus. Elevated takes on street foods from around the world also will increasingly appear as appetizers and entrees. These include foie gras dumplings, kabobs, jianbing, okonomiyaki, empanadas and pupusas.

As with the other trends, this one is already seeping into CPG with products, such as fresh and frozen kabobs and empanadas already available.

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