Three Top 2016 Trends in Review

Zucchini pancakes with tomato salsa

photo credit: istockphoto

Each year we see a rise and fall of food trends that range from the new “it” foods and ingredients to social issues. So far in 2016 we’ve seen three top trends—functional foods, reducing food waste, and a rise of vegan foods— that helped to shape the retail landscape.

Functional Foods

According to Google’s annual Food Trends Report, functional foods—those foods with added health benefits—were a top trend in 2016. Turmeric, the main spice used in curry dishes, topped the list as the highest trending functional “food”.

Touted for benefits that range from treating an upset stomach to fighting cancer and delaying diabetes, Turmeric is now commonly found in many beverages such as “golden milk,” tea, and smoothies. It’s also available as a supplement, generally in powder or capsule form. So what does the science say? According to the  evidence to support the use of turmeric to treat any health condition; however, turmeric is considered safe for use by most adults.

Reducing Food Waste

The 2016 retail landscape saw a focus on reducing food waste. As of 2010, annual U.S. food waste was estimated at 30-40% of the food supply—roughly 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.3 Food retailers undertook major efforts to help reduce this waste. These efforts included selling “ugly produce” (produce that otherwise would have been discarded for slight imperfections) in stores at a reduced price, setting up programs to donate unsold fresh foods to food pantries, and altering production practices to ensure the least amount of waste is produced for fresh items. Consumers can continue to do their part by practicing smart shopping and planning ahead. Do this by choosing produce that is aesthetically different (“ugly”) but still delicious and nutritious and only purchase food that can be used before it spoils.

Vegan Foods

From coconut water to vegan jerky, Americans continued to include more and more plant-based foods and beverages into their daily diet. Vegan foods are perceived to be healthier, more sustainable, and more humane—traits that are resonating with an ever-increasing group of shoppers.

Millennials have been identified as the key generation pushing this trend forward with 70 percent consuming a meat alternative at least a few times each week4. To ensure a healthful lifestyle, it’s important to review the nutrition facts panel as meat analogues and vegan foods can still be high in fat, sodium, and sugar.


1.Food Trends 2016. Think with Google website. com/docs/FoodTrends-2016.pdf. Accessed July 22, 2016.

2. Turmeric. National Institute of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website. Published March 2007. Updated April 2012. Accessed July 22, 2016.

3. Frequently Asked Questions. USDA Office of the Chief Economist website. Accessed July 22, 2016.

4. Sentenac, H. Plant-Based Food Named a Top Trend for 2016. Latest Vegan News website. Published December 31, 2015. Accessed July 22, 2016.

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