Food forecasts

Every January is filled with predictions about what the New Year will bring, and this month has been no exception. As a journalist, I love these forecasts for the fodder they provide for news and commentary, but as a reader, sometimes I roll my eyes at how “inside the box” many of these rather obvious “predictions” seem.

Which is why I was especially interested in the Things To Watch in 2013 Food & Beverage Report from marketing consultancy JWT. Sure, some of the items came across as sort of old news — the rise of allergen-free foods, the movement of veganism increasingly into the mainstream — but more than a few also had me raising my eyebrows. Take reduced-guilt candy, for one, based on the idea that sweet treats like jelly beans and caramels can be enhanced with vitamins and electrolytes. JWT also highlighted what it dubbed “menu-free dining,” based on the idea that some restaurants are rebelling against the demand to be all things to all diners with an approach that purposefully limits options.

I asked Corey Nyman of Las Vegas-based consultancy The Nyman Group about the list. He cautioned that some of the trends — the rise of potential fad foods like chia seeds and teff, for example — are likely just flavors of the moments. But he also noted that the report reflects a powerful reality affecting every aspect of F&B — guests are more inquisitive and aware about what they eat and how they eat it than ever before, and it’s increasing the prominence of dining throughout the hospitality world. Regardless of what you think of any New Year’s prediction, to me, that sounds like a pretty sunny forecast.