Welcome to 2019 and the future of food. Many consumers are working on New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, more nutritious foods. However, the way they are doing it is different than in the past. Today finds them looking beyond avoidance tactics, such as “fat-free”; as well as feel-good terms, such as “organic.” 

Instead, there’s a growing emphasis on foods that can improve and maintain their health: known as “functional foods.” With Prepared Foods focusing on reduced sugar trends this month, we thought now would be a good time to share data on the foods that consumers are buying to feel and look better. The information is from Datassential’s new report, the “Functional Foods Keynote,” which combines the opinions of more than 2,300 consumers along with insights from foodservice across the US. 

For the last several years “functional” has become the hot term, with consumers gravitating towards foods providing nutrients, proteins, and potential health benefits. How can you take advantage of this major shift? You’ll want to raise awareness about the functional ingredients in the prepared foods you sell. 

Highlight the ingredient in the product and mention its potential health benefits (for example, citing the American Heart Association—while ensuring that there are no false or exaggerated claims). Or if you’re a supplier, spread awareness by communicating information about these functional foods to your customers and prospects. One interesting note from the report: functional foods are defying the typical pattern of trends starting in foodservice. In this instance, emerging new products are instead appearing first at retail (organics followed the same pattern). 

Here are a few functional food trends to watch. 

Avocado Oil: With the ability to be used as a cooking oil and an ingredient, avocado oil stands out as a key food with potential functional benefits. It’s also an excellent opportunity for both foodservice and retail because of its growth potential. Although featured on less than 1% of US restaurant menus, 60% percent of consumers are familiar with it. Potential health benefits include reduced cholesterol, eye health, heart health, the ability to neutralize free radicals, and more. 

Maca (Peruvian ginseng): Typically dried and consumed in powder form, this herbaceous plant native to Peru is packed with nutrients including vitamin C, copper, and iron. It also contains antioxidants, glucosinolates, and polyphenols. It’s thought to support everything from cognitive health and reduced blood pressure to a healthy sex drive. While on less than 1% of menus, it has grown 123% during the past four years. 

Cold Pressed Juice: According to Datassential’s Haiku (an artificial intelligence forecasting tool), cold pressed juice is predicted to grow 90% on restaurant menus over the next four years. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and believed to provide energy, detox the body, help with weight loss, reduce aging, and more. Foodservice can make it in-house or sell pre-bottled juice where available. 

Activated Charcoal: While activated charcoal is mentioned on less than 1% of restaurant menus and subject to regulation in some areas, it’s worth a look. Interest in the unique ingredient has grown during the past few years, driven by the substance’s possible functional benefits which include healthy kidney function, detoxification, teeth whitening, and curing hangovers. 

These are just a few of the many interesting foods covered in the Functional Foods Keynote. For more information or a sample of the report, contact Susan Cohen at susan.cohen@datassential.com. And stay tuned for the next big thing in nutrition: an entire market for diets tailored to individuals is forming.

Originally appeared in the February, 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as Nutrition 2.0: Functional Foods.