The fourth annual "What's Trending in Nutrition" Survey from Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian examines what consumers will seek and avoid in the coming year.
"When it comes to forecasting nutrition trends, there are no better experts than registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs). They are at the forefront of everyday eating habits and purchasing decisions of people from all regional and economic environments. With almost two decades of working on behalf of dietitians, we know they have their finger on the pulse," says Today's Dietitian publisher Mara Honicker.
For 2016, the survey, conducted by the nutrition trade magazine Today's Dietitian and a leading food, health, and wellness public relations agency, Pollock Communications, revealed that clean eating is where it's at, ancient grains stay strong, low fat moves out, and seeds steal the show. Not to mention that shoppers will seek more seafood, read more blogs, buy based on antibiotic-free claims, and continue to favor gluten-free.
Whether they're in, out, or staying the course, the following are the top 10 findings for 2016:
1. Clean Shopping
According to the survey, RDNs agree that more consumers will base their purchasing decisions on "clean eating", or shopping for foods that fit a plant-based diet, such as a Mediterranean-style diet. Gluten-free and Paleo diets will still be popular, but the nutrition pros' results show that consumers will move towards "clean" vs caveman.
2. Seeds Bloom
Most registered dietitians say seeds (55%) have superfood star-power, followed by avocados (52%) and ancient grains (50%). Meanwhile, kale loses its luster. When it comes to popular beverages, green tea brews to the top.
3. And the Influencer Award Goes To...
Celebrities! According to the survey, most registered dietitians believe that nutrition trends start with celebrities, with 33% citing them as the initiator of food and eating fads, while 26% name social media as having the most influence on consumer eating trends.
4. Protein Picks and Peaks
Shopping carts will have less beef, bacon, and other processed and red meats as more consumers look to seafood, nuts and seeds, eggs, poultry, and dairy to provide quality protein in their diets. That said, the number of individuals focusing their attention on high protein eating may have peaked—two-thirds of RDNs say that protein enthusiasm will be about the same in 2016.
5. Shopping for Free
When it comes to the messages and claims that impact shopping decisions, 2016 will look for "free." Claims like "GMO-free" and "antibiotic-free" will prompt purchases, as will "additive-free" and "locally sourced." The question is whether these characteristics actually drive healthier purchases. Jenna Bell, PhD, RDN, senior vice president, director of food & wellness for Pollock Communications, says you can't be so sure. "While consumers may look for GMO-free or other 'free-from' claims on the label, it doesn't mean that it has always led to healthier, more nutritious options." Dr. Bell warns that an unintended consequence of choosing "free" foods could be that consumers might not assess the overall healthfulness, consider food safety issues, understand truly sustainable practices, or might pay unnecessary costs. "Make decisions based on the quality of the whole food and the variety and quality of your overall diet," Dr. Bell suggests.
6. A Matter of Taste
When it comes to deciding what to eat, RDNs say that taste and convenience are consumers' most important considerations. Some 97% and 93% responded that convenience and taste, respectively, are important or very important when it comes to deciding what to eat. While healthfulness is the not the deciding factor according to one-half of the respondents, Dr. Bell points out, "Even when you're making healthy choices, RDNs know that taste and convenience are deal breakers if not satisfied."
7. Healthy Eating — There's an App for That
Seventy-one percent of RDNs believe more consumers will use technology to help improve their diet in 2016, likely tracking their food intake or activity with smartphone apps or wearables like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and Fitbit, among others.
8. Blogs, Social Media and TV Trumps…
When it comes to getting nutrition information, the RDNs cited blogs, social media and TV – in that order. "This could be good news," remarks Dr. Bell, "a growing number of RDNs author national and personal blogs, are active on social networks and are making TV appearances." Dr. Bell notes that for credible information, look for that RD or RDN after their name when online or watching TV.
9. Mis-Fortunate Information...
However, not all blogs are created equal. Nearly two-thirds of RDNs are concerned that consumers are getting wrong and potentially harmful nutrition information from blogs and social media. Dr. Bell speculates that this may be due to the number of non-experts sharing information.
10. Nutrition Ed — Choose MyPlate
Year after year, Choose MyPlate, the USDA's guidance for healthy eating (myplate.gov), continues to play an important role in nutrition education, with 76% of dietitians utilizing MyPlate as a tool to help consumers eat right—up from 73% last year.
"Registered dietitian nutritionists are the top experts for consumers, brands, and the media, in all things food and nutrition. Hence, Pollock Communications has been working with the RDN community for nearly 20 years. Their insights and expertise are unprecedented, making The 'What's Trending in Nutrition' Survey a valuable tool to forecast new data in the food and beverage industry for all aspects of the business," remarks Louise Pollock, founder and president of Pollock Communications.