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food for thought

Mashed ube, or purple sweet potato.AmalliaEka/stock

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

Just as it has in the past (almost) three pandemic years, personal wellness will be an important driver of food trends this year.

Environmental sustainability will also continue to sway our food choices in 2023, even more so as consumers become increasingly concerned about climate change.

And with persistent inflation, at least for the first half of this year, we’ll be looking to take care of personal and planetary health without squeezing our food budget.

Here’s a quick look at some of the food trends forecast for 2023.

Reducetarianism on the rise

Plant-based eating will continue to grow in popularity this year. That doesn’t mean, though, that people are giving up animal products.

Rather, a growing number of consumers are opting to reduce, not eliminate, their intake of animal products in favour of plant foods, a movement known as reducetarianism. Such an eating pattern benefits your food budget, your health and the environment.

According to research from Mintel, a global market research firm, from March, 2021, to April, 2022, the number of consumers who considered themselves carnivores dropped 5 per cent, while the percentage following omnivore and flexitarian – a.k.a. semivegetarian – diets increased.

Recent research suggests that one-in-four Canadians are flexitarians who eat mostly a plant-based diet but occasionally consume animal products.

It seems reducetarians aren’t replacing beef with so-called “faux” meats.

Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger, for example, may taste and look like meat, but their sales momentum has flattened, highlighting consumer demand for nutritious and more natural meat alternatives with simple ingredient lists.

Still, the adoption of newer product categories such as plant-based chicken and plant-based seafood is expected to grow this year.

According to Jo-Ann McArthur, president of Canada’s Nourish Food Marketing, in 2023 “expect more emphasis on older plant proteins like tempeh … any new introductions may be around kelp-based products.”

Foods for female health will enter the market

Last year, foods and beverages targeting healthy aging – supporting muscle health, immune function, brain aging and restorative sleep – were trending. And they will continue to do so.

According to the Nourish 2023 Trend Report, however, the big opportunity this year and beyond is for “female” foods.

Data from Spoonshot, a U.S.-based food and beverage AI research company, shows leading online female health conversations revolve around wellness, menopause, pregnancy, weight loss and gut health.

Also consider that, compared to one year ago, an increasing number of consumers prioritize personalized health and wellness products, especially millennials.

MPowder is a U.K.-based company that offers a range of plant-based powders designed to target symptoms associated with the stages of menopause. And U.S.-based Moodygirl sells a variety of chocolate bars (shipping to U.S. customers only) touted to ease premenstrual symptoms, from irritability to food cravings to low libido.

In 2023, expect to see more social media influencers promoting an increasing number of foods and supplements tailored to female health.

Increased focus on decreasing food waste

High inflation means consumers will put an even greater emphasis on cutting food waste in 2023.

Strategies such as planning meals before you shop, buying only what you can use, storing foods properly and finding uses for leftovers help save on your food bill.

These approaches also mean less food will end up in landfill, where it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

We’ll see more initiatives aimed at reducing food waste this year, such as upcycling surplus and unsaleable produce into plant protein powders and food ingredients, “intelligent” bottle caps to gauge a food product’s freshness and curbside collection of food waste for composting.

Ube, unique pastas, dates on the 2023 menu

Watch for ube (pronounced ooh-beh) this year, a sweet, nutty-flavoured purple yam from the Philippines that’s rich in fibre, vitamin C and anthocyanins – phytochemicals that give these tubers their deep purple hue.

In Filipino cuisine, the ube is made into cakes, puddings and other sweet desserts. In North America, it’s trending in lattes, air-fryer “fries” and as a commercial spread (thanks to Trader Joe’s).

Heritage pasta, which is cut through bronze dies, giving the noodles a rough texture (allowing sauce to cling to it better), is also expected to trend this year. So are plant-based pastas made from produce such as carrots, zucchini, cauliflower and green bananas.

And as demand for natural sweeteners grows, dates are expected to show up as date syrup, date paste and dehydrated dates in smoothies, protein bars, breakfast cereals, snack foods and salad dressings.

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