Consumers are looking backwards for these cures, beyond our recent industrial era to times long past when healing was more organic and food-based, rooted in real foodstuffs shaped by centuries of tradition and attention to wellness. This interest in preindustrial nutritional healing is also driven by a quest for authentic products, for whole foods and for traditional food preparation methods.
“American consumers are more engaged than ever in managing their health through food in hopes of curing what ails them or preventing ailments to which they are susceptible,” said Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD. “Many of these curative foods have roots in ancient times, and have been consumed by cultures around the world for centuries.”
At the forefront of the trend is the Healing Spices category. “Boasting digestive and mental health benefits, healing spices—such as holy basil and turmeric, both staples of the ancient Hindu philosophy of Ayurvedic medicine—are being incorporated into teas, nut butters and energy bars,” the report stated.
Hemp seed, the edible part of the hemp plant, has also proven attractive. Packing a punch of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), “it has a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linolenic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid, both of which are known for strengthening the immune system, bettering cognitive function and promoting healthy skin, hair and eyes,” according to the report.
Foods and beverages produced by old-fashioned, pre-industrial methods, such as fermenting and sprouting, continue to gain an increased following with niche consumers.
Fermented foods from Asia, like miso, kasu, tempeh and pu-erh tea may soon follow in the footsteps of successful specialty fermented products like kombucha, as consumers seek out foods that are less processed and more nutrient-rich.
The Sprouted Foods category has also garnered more interest. Health-focused manufacturers are sprouting wheat, rice and other grains, nuts and seeds and using them as a base for wholesome grain goods that offer more nutrition and are more digestible than similar products made without sprouted grains.
“Sprouted grains have great potential, considering how grain-based the American diet is, yet the exploding interest in gluten-free also shows many people are having health issues they believe stem from wheat, so sprouted grains may be an answer for non-celiac individuals,” said Kara Nielsen, a CCD trendologist.
Grass-fed meat and dairy, which are free of artificial hormones and contain higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and omega 3 fatty acids, exude a bright halo of health as well as a reputation for improved taste, while meeting consumer wishes for more “authentically good-for-you products.”
Rooted in Mexican cuisine, agave nectar—a plant-based syrup used in place of refined sugar—can be easily added to products ranging from beverages to baked goods to sauces, and also boasts a low glycemic index.
“The hottest topic in our report is probably agave nectar … partially due to the fact that more consumers are familiar with it as they seek more natural-seeming sweeteners,” commented Ms. Nielsen. “However, we see a backlash coming as experts point out that agave is just as processed as corn syrup (though not high fructose corn syrup) and other sugars and its glycemic index may not be as low as thought, nor might it work as well for diabetics as was previously thought."
More mainstream are products boasting docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content, be it naturally-occurring or present because of fortification. Consumers are also hungry for products that may offer a cognitive boosting edge, the report found.
The report also spotlighted products that fit the trends it outlined. “The most innovative product we discuss is Spread Health Food Nutmeric, an almond butter with turmeric and black pepper for enhanced bioavailability,” commented Ms. Nielsen. “It’s tasty, could be incorporated easily into our regular diets and offers an exciting amount of healthful turmeric.”
Ms. Nielsen was quick to point out that although the study hailed consumers’ increased penchant for healthier foods, the study did not claim that consumers are shunning supplements, nor are they dissatisfied with them. “Many consumers are realizing there are a wealth of foods and preparation traditions from the past that have been lost and they are interested in exploring them anew, as they are also planting gardens and growing their own food, investing in locally grown food, raising chickens and putting up their own preserves,” she concluded.