We interviewed Caroline Gray, the editor of Easy Food magazine, and asked her what she thought about food trends for the upcoming year.
Q: What do you see as being some of the big trends in food for 2018?
People are still very health conscious. A lot of recipes are about adding more food, rather than the elimination tactics that people have used in the past. Consumers are looking to food for solutions, i.e. you can eat this to accomplish this. Whether that solution is a health boost or clear skin or better sleep, we’re going to see food filling the role of a well-being tactic, like food as medicine.
On the health kick as well, vegan-friendly or vegan labels on food is the new gluten-free packaging. Even if you’re not vegan or don’t eat that way, having that branding on food is a call to consumers that it’s an ethical food and you can feel good about buying it. Having those friendly calling cards on your food, even if you’re not catering to those specific people, can speak a volume about your brand.
More hybrid foods. We saw the cronut, we saw sushi burrito. I think there’s going to be more blending of flavours into cool and unique products.
Fermented foods is still really big. Pickling or fermenting things is going to stay popular but we’re seeing Asian influences increase, aside from kimchi. This means that pickled tea leaves and pickled bean salads are the kinds of things could be popping up on menus.
Floral flavours. Elderflower will be all over the place from soft drinks to sparkling waters, but even in products like jellies and sweets.
Cracked pepper. It’s going to be huge. They’re saying cracked pepper is the new sea salt, but like salt mostly comes from the sea, adding that extra adjective of ‘cracked’ to pepper takes it to an artisanal level. You’ll be seeing cracked pepper crisps, cracked pepper flat breads and it’s just stating what’s basically always been in the products, but bringing it to that extra level.
Q: What about trends for food brands? Whether in marketing or design or how they reach out to their customers?
Video is enormous still. There are some 2016 studies analysing social trends online and food is far and above the most popular video content area. For food brands, it’s really important that your products and messaging are very open to the grassroots type of thing. Whatever a brand can put out there that helps to connect with your consumers is the best approach.
Recipe videos are still very popular but even using videos to inspire or educate or give viewers a break. Consumers might not be watching the videos to go make that recipe, but just because they need to zone out. People are using food content in many different ways, not just to cook.
Funny or quirky food videos are performing well. It doesn’t have to be recipe videos, but maybe it’s a ridiculous product you want to test, like the instant omelette maker where the eggs come out in the shape of a tube. Things like that get a lot of engagement.
And, of course, Facebook live and Instastories are still big with food content. Staying engaged with your audience and your consumers is the main objective.
Q: Are there any trends that you see as being specific to the Irish market?
With the Irish market, my observation is that Irish people love talking about Irish things so for food trends, it’s not so much the style as it is the content. If you’re a food brand and can tap into something that’s uniquely Irish, people go crazy for that. For example, it might be ‘you can only do this thing in Ireland’ or ‘things that only Irish people do to their sandwiches’.
The fact that there are so many iconic Irish food brands can make this easy. Plus research shows that Irish consumers have allegiance to Irish brands, so many food brands can use this fact to their advantage. Whether it’s those iconic brands on their own, or those brands pairing up with one another, there is a lot of opportunity to create content that appeals to the Irish market.
Q: Where do you get your trending info?
We’re always following anything and everything we can see in terms of food media. Whether it’s for Easy Food or food clients, we’re looking to see who is else is sharing recipes and videos. Since food content is everywhere now, it can be hard to keep up because there are so many sources for that content.
You have to look at organisations or websites that have a broad reach. There are tons of them that are getting into creating food content, like the NY Times or Buzzfeed, but anyone who is doing a good job reaching a large audience, we’re looking to see what they’re doing and how we can use their content to relate to, or inspire, what we’re doing.
It’s also useful to read consumer reports and research from think tanks to find out what insights they’re seeing from the tens of thousands of videos they’re studying. What wisdom are they pulling from all that content? What strategic ideas are they getting that we can begin to implement in our own work? When you see the recipe videos flooding the market, it can be hard to know what’s next, but often you have the format right, but just need to work on the message. It’s definitely a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analysis of everything.
Q: Why is it important for food brands to keep an eye on these trends?
Food brands don’t want to just be jumping into a crowded pool. You want to be able to see where things are headed so that you can take advantage of the trends that are in the early stages of taking shape. Food marketing is all about content marketing these days so you can’t just push out a message and expect that people will find it. You have to be following up with them, answering questions they might have, even if that question is ‘I’m bored. What can I watch to entertain myself?’. You can be that content provider.
What are people engaging with? Where are they spending their time online? By providing the information around food — recipes, what to cook for dinner, new restaurants to check out — you can position your food brand to be the best answer and the go-to information resource. It’s important to be in touch with the trends so that you can implement them and so that you know where to go to execute them. Staying in the past won’t do anyone any good and doing traditional marketing just because that’s what you’ve always done, isn’t a recipe for success. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but that’s why brands need to know their message and know their audience.
Want to find out how Zahra can help you navigate the food trends in the New Year? Send us a note and see how Recipe Lab can create something special for your product.