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FAPC picks top 16 food trends for 2016

Food safety, healthy eating, food waste and big flavors are on the menu for 2016, as Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center picks the hottest food trends for the upcoming year.

By Mandy Gross and Brittany Gilbert

(Stillwater, Okla. – Dec. 11, 2015) Food safety, healthy eating, food waste and big flavors are on the menu for 2016, as Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center picks the hottest food trends for the upcoming year.

Andrea Graves, FAPC business planning and marketing specialist, said change is inevitable and trends help indicate what is coming next.

“Businesses need to pay attention to trends in order to find new growth opportunities and their target audiences,” Graves said. “Understanding these trends help businesses stay ahead of upcoming change, whether it is regulatory or a new flavor profile. Also, in most cases, consumers drive the trends and are looking for products and companies that are meeting their needs and lifestyles.”

Take a look at the top 16 trends for 2016, according to FAPC.

1. New food safety demands for small businesses

Due to customer and regulatory demands, smaller food companies will need to implement preventative controls to meet the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements, which will become mandatory in three years. “Big-box” stores now are demanding third-party audits from suppliers of all sizes to help reduce food safety risks.

2. Ethics

Consumers, particularly Millennials, are choosing to support businesses that are perceived as being ethical. They will purchase one product over another regardless of price if they believe the company has good core beliefs and appears to practice those beliefs.

3. Food application technology

Fast food entities and restaurants, such as Taco Bell and Olive Garden, have started offering applications for mobile devices. The apps make it convenient for ordering, delivery or to pickup your food on the way home. This 2016 food trend will continue to satisfy the younger populations want for convenience.

4. Children’s health

Many restaurants are changing their kid’s menu to provide a healthy choice for all costumers. Grilled chicken, along with other healthy food choices, has been added to menus for children. Some places also have started to remove soda from their menus. This trend is predicted to grow in 2016.

5. Food waste reduction

Reducing food waste is a rising environmental issue. Foods that were once considered “too ugly” to eat will be used instead of discarding. There is a need to make the reduction of food waste important to chefs across the nation. This trend is expected to spread in 2016.

6. New cuts of meat

With commodity prices for beef rising, culinary adventures have started. Chefs are utilizing relatively new or unutilized cuts, such as the Vegas Strip Steak and shoulder tenders for new recipes.

7. Transparency of foods

Consumers want the origin of the food they buy to be transparent. This new trend is increasing the want for certain items to have a special label. Studies say 34 percent of customers would be willing to pay more for the transparency of food products.

8. Natural foods

Many companies have removed artificial ingredients from their products due to the demand for all natural foods from the younger population. This trend will continue to spread throughout food and beverage companies.

9. Locally grown produce

Chefs predict that in 2016 more restaurants will incorporate locally grown produce in their ingredients list. This will support local farmers and fulfill the customer’s want for transparency in the items they eat.

10. Having a story

It is not enough to just have a well-branded and delicious food product. Consumers in 2016 not only want to know where their food comes from, but they also want to know the background story behind the company that made it.

11. Comfort foods

Americans are craving comfort foods. In 2015, more consumers were going toward the food from their roots. The traditional meatloaf, chicken soup, macaroni and many more originals were placed on the table. This trend is sure to advance in 2016, as more people start to crave comfort foods.

12. Meal kit foods

Many big food companies are starting to produce meal kits for convenience. The meals include everything you need but the meat products. If you want a more convenient meal kit, there are delivery options. These options have all ingredients premeasured in their own compartments; all you need to do is put them together and cook them. This option is convenient for the people who do not have time or like to go shopping.

13. Big flavors

Fresh herbs, flowers, olives, wild garlic, cucumber and fennel have started trending as big flavors. Consumers have started buying more foods with flavors such as these, so chefs are incorporating more of these flavors in their recipes.

14. Artisanal foods

Foods such as handcrafted breads, pastries, cheese and chocolate are defined as artisanal. They offer an authentic and fresh quality that consumers are craving. This trend will continue to grow in 2016.

15. Customized foods

As consumers become more and more educated about food through the ease of the Internet and social media, the demand for customized foods will rise in the coming years. Consumers in the U.S. are still reluctant from the recent recession in opening their wallets wide, but they want a sample of what the world has to offer. The demand for small tastes of quality foods at a reasonable price will rise in 2016.

16. Food incubators

More and more food entrepreneurs are using food incubators, or shared commercial kitchens, to develop, test and commercialize their food products in a licensed, health-inspected space. This trend is expected to continue in 2016.

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 260,000 students who have been serving Oklahoma and the world for 125 years.