Convenience and value still rank among the top criteria for consumers making food decisions, yet there is a growing mindfulness of food and beverage choices and a sincere desire to create a lifestyle that balances healthfulness and indulgence in everyday life.

Mindfulness is a quality shared by both foodservice professionals and consumer foodies, according to Culinary Visions Panel, a food trend forecasting firm. That conclusion reflects analysis of primary research involving more than 3,500 consumers and information gathered from culinary professional groups and more than 20 trade conferences.

Following are some common themes that emerged from the research and what they suggest for the coming year:

1. Deliciousness as a lifestyle choice. Food must be delicious to appeal to consumers, both the value conscious and the gourmet. When consumers are asked to list the most delicious foods, that list often includes some of the most notorious processed foods of minimal nutritional value. Yet when consumers are presented with provocative menu descriptions that focus on taste, flavors and ingredients, they will often rate the more healthful items as highly desirable.



2. Seeking balance. Consumers want to be in charge of balancing their choices and enjoy the freedom to indulge when they choose as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Culinary Visions Panel research shows that consumers evaluate various types of food venues differently when they balance their choices. The research covered away-from-home venues including quick service, casual dining, convenience stores, cafeterias at school and at work, gourmet retail and supermarket delis and bakeries.

3. Escape from deprivation. The concept of banning foods does not work on school and college campuses and it fails in the commercial market as well. Identifying villainous ingredients is on the way out. The future is about reformulating, and many food manufacturers are making subtle changes to product formulations to create more healthful profiles without compromising enjoyment for consumers.


 
4. Minimalism. When consumers look at labels, they want to see ingredients that sound more like a recipe than a science formula. “Homemade” is the term used often by young consumers and adults to describe a high quality experience. Scale and uniformity are not in style as consumers are enjoying foods that look less processed and more like they have come from a kitchen than a factory.

5. Invisibly healthy. Seductively healthy foods that provide the satisfaction of “junk” food are finding favor with consumers. Fun packaging and contemporary marketing are adding new appeal to healthy produce snacks like blueberries and carrots. The salty, crunchy snack satisfaction of packaged snacks is now available in a variety of sizes and includes many different types of vegetables like kale and sweet potatoes.