Ana Yoo, Thrive Market’s senior grocery buyer, knows food. Health food in particular—having been in the industry for nearly a decade, she’s seen trends come and go. “Remember when non-fat yogurt was a thing? That used to be the majority of what was available. Now it’s totally changed—stores can’t get enough full fat, creamy yogurts on their shelves,” says Yoo.
Here Yoo looks back the year’s hottest food trends, and shares a prediction for what to expect to see on grocery shelves—and at Thrive Market!—in 2016.
According to Yoo, turmeric is trending. As consumers got more comfortable using this crazy-powerful spice, its popularity skyrocketed. Turmeric’s proven potency as an anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever helped convert the skeptical; studies show the spice is as effective as some over-the-counter pain relievers when it comes to soothing inflammation.
“Plus, we may have only scratched the surface with what it can do for our bodies. We’ll see more from turmeric in 2016,” says Yoo, who believes we’ll see turmeric—which is already available in pill, powder, and chewable form—integrated into foods in other ways.
This year consumers said, “Yes!” to healthy saturated fats, after nearly 30 years of trying to avoid them. With the Paleo diet seriously hitting the mainstream this year, more and more people are learning that healthy fat doesn’t make them fat.
“People aren’t hesitant to use fat, especially with so many studies coming out proving that it’s not necessarily unhealthy,” says Yoo. “And we’re realizing that low-fat foods usually contain tons of sugar, which is actually the thing that’s really bad for your health!”
And it doesn’t hurt that our new-found love of fat makes everything taste just a little bit better; try frying up sweet potato fries in lard, basting a holiday bird with coconut oil, and spreading some ghee over toast in the morning.
“Protein has always been big,” says Yoo, “but this year it started showing up in unusual places like nut milk or grain-free wraps.” Along with dousing meals in healthy fats, more diets are calling for an uptick in protein intake, which might explain why we’re seeing more strange protein sources make their way to the masses. Cricket protein, bone broth, and spirulina all went mainstream this year thanks to their hefty protein count and surprisingly great taste.
“In a way, it’s great that grass-fed is becoming more important for buyers,” says Yoo. “People want more transparency in their food, and they know that if their butter or jerky or protein powder comes from grass-fed cows, then it’s likely those cows weren’t confined to cages and force-fed grain.”
Grass-fed products like beef, bison, cheese, butter, and even pork also contain more nutrient density than their grain-fed counterparts, hence the popularity of these foods among Primal eaters like Mark Sisson and Dave Asprey. (Interestingly enough, juice made of grass is on its way out. “Green juices hit a peak, but they’ve plateaued,” says Yoo.
Nah, this isn’t a Slim Jim situation. The newer, hipper version of jerky is artisanally made and uber healthy. Made from the same grass-fed beef that’s in high demand at the local butcher, this high-protein, low-carb snack is perfect for those on the go. “Fewer people are sitting down to eat at the table—they just don’t have time, and want foods they can take with them that are still somewhat healthy,” says Yoo.
The newest incarnations of beef jerky are free of nitrates, antibiotics, and preservatives—so even the pickiest of eaters can now find a brand that works for their needs.
Raw honey and maple syrup have given other sweeteners like agave and stevia the boot. Yoo attributes their rise in popularity to nutrition: “Honey and maple syrup have a lower glycemic index and are lower in fructose, so technically they’re healthier than other non-sugar sweeteners like agave.”
Raw honey and maple syrup are also a little more approachable and easier to sub into recipes than artificial or fake sweeteners because their taste is more similar to real sugar, which means no complicated conversions for home bakers. “Fake sugar was huge a few years ago, but thankfully that trend is dead!”
It’s no surprise that Yoo has crowned 2015 “The Year of Cold Brew.” As craft coffee brewers like Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, and La Colombe gain huge followings (on Instagram and in person), the slightly sweet, lower-acid cold brew has taken hold of our collective tastebuds. And health nuts love this trend because of coffee’s superfood powers:
What were your favorite food discoveries of 2015? Let us know in the comments below!
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