The food industry is turning increasingly toward ecologically sound foods – and labels that reflect that. That interest is reflected in packaged foods as well as in restaurant menus, according to two recent studies.
Eco-eating goes beyond natural food stores and organic produce, to methods to ensure that meat, fish, dairy, produce and packaged products are made in accordance with ecological and sustainable standards. Consumers are now looking farther afield, to restaurants, hotels and retail stores of all kinds for more eco-friendly food choices. Now, according to Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation, “Progressive diners and food shoppers are beginning to think about their eco-eating foot prints and are looking for sustainable choices in all sorts of new places.”
According to the Eco-Eating Culinary Trend Mapping Report by market research publisher Packaged Facts and the San Francisco-based strategic food consultancy CCD Innovation, trends range from the rather odd – like edible packaging and eating insects – to familiar meat alternatives now going more globally authentic and flavorful. These trends are moving closer to the mainstream all the time thanks to creative entrepreneurs, progressive chefs, and consumers on a mission. The report profiles these trends:
- Edible Packaging: Forward-leaning entrepreneurs are launching edible wrappers for fruit, ice cream, yogurt and sandwiches to help reduce the cost and impact of food packaging. For example, Tom’s of Maine is working with researchers at the University of Maine and the Sustainable BioPlastics Council of Maine to develop polylactic acid (PLA) packaging made from potato peels or from unsaleable potatoes.
- Protein-Packed Insects: The buzz is growing around tapping into the protein insects can readily provide a hungry planet. These critters are already an accepted part of many global cuisines, and the U.N. in May urged their addition to menus. Exo is raising funds for cricket-based flour, and many other companies are marketing insect-based foods.
- Restaurant Gardens & Hotel Beehives: Fine dining chefs are joining hotel chains to plant rooftop gardens and raise honeybees to create ultra-local food supplies and inspire seasonal menus.
- New Sustainable Seafood Choices: Chefs and restaurateurs at all levels are working with seafood certification boards, like the Maine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Seafood Watch, to obtain sustainably raised seafood, whether from the ocean or a fish farm, and looking deeper into the sea for new types of fish that can be transformed into delicious fare.
- Grass-Fed Beef: Grass-fed beef accounts for only 3 percent of the beef industry, but is growing at 20 percent per year, according to a 2012 report by Winrock International. Several chain restaurants are securing grass-fed beef supplies, showing other companies that where there is a demand, a supply can rise to fulfill it.
Other major forces affecting menu labeling in 2013 and 2014 are the rise in demand for nutritional information and government regulations, according to the UK Foodservice Survey 2013-2014: Organic Trends and Menu Labeling report just released by Canadean. The most important factors affecting menu alterations, according to foodservice operators in that report, are the demand for local food, local preferences, and building loyalty and adding value.