Food-trend experts are busy predicting what Americans will crave in the year ahead, including purple produce, an even greater use of coconut and a big bounce in wellness products. But consumers are also likely to meet more “by product” products, such as leftover whey from strained yogurt, or the “spent” grains from beer makers, reports Whole Foods Market, in its annual trend forecast.
Purple produce is having a major impact, reports the Austin, Tex.-based retailer. Look for it in cauliflower, asparagus, elderberries, acai, corn and rice. And Frieda’s Produce, the Los Alamitos, Calif.-based trendsetter, has been singing the praises of Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, used as everything from an oatmeal add-in to bread replacements. “Savvy shoppers are looking for more than just orange sweet potatoes to add nutritional value and color to their meals,” it says, describing the tubers as having all the nutrient density and anti-oxidant power as the orange tubers, with a lot more flair.
Whole Foods says wellness tonics are also likely to loom large in food retailing, going past the pressed-juice craze to include tinctures, “drinking” vinegars and botanicals, tiptoeing toward alternative medicine. Ingredients likely to top the buzzword lists: kava, Tulsi/holy basil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms, and “adaptogenic” like maca and ashwagandha.
In the by-product category, it’s already selling Eco-Olea, a cleaner made with water used in olive oil production, and Sir Kensington’s vegan mayo, which uses repurposed liquid from cooking chickpeas.
And while Americans are accustomed to seeing coconut water and oil used in many products, the chain says the new year is likely to bring an onslaught of coconut flour tortillas and coconut sugar aminos. “Virtually every component of this versatile fruit-nut-seed (coconuts qualify for all three!) is being used in new applications,” it says in its report.
Whole Foods, meanwhile, continues to face considerable challenges as the rest of the food retailing world improves their own organic, innovative—and more affordable—offerings. And observers say meeting those challenges will require substantial changes.
“We continue to believe Whole Foods is a best-in-class operator,” writes Barclays in a recent analysis, “and believe the company could stabilize the business and grow earnings again. However, this would entail embracing maturity and transitioning to a new life stage … quickly as the competition continues to improve/encroach on both quality and price.”
One key element in such a reinvention, it says, are establishing itself with everyday low prices, and abandoning its current “high/low approach, given the dominance of stores like Kroger, Costco, Thrive, and Trader Joe’s. Another is continuing to build on its differentiation in meat, seafood and prepared foods. “Premium prices are warranted in these categories due to their higher quality and uniqueness,” Barclays writes. “In order for this to happen, it would require acknowledgment by management and the board that Whole Foods Markets is, in fact, a specialty retailer – and that a 1,200-unit potential is not realistic.”