The media has been focused on recapping the previous year as they do each January. I have never been clear if this is to point out the cleverness and accuracy of forecasters from the previous year or to ask, "What on earth were we all thinking?" Perhaps both.
But what I find is not in short supply this year is 2012 trends forecast Top 10 Lists. I have come across 145 so far and at the same time last year there were only 87 posted. Is 2012 just so predictable that everyone has an opinion, or are we just so glad 2011 is over and we are happy to look forward?
With that said there are several holes I have noticed in the predictions put forth so far, so I offer a few more – some obvious, some not – to round things out a bit.
The Unmentioned Top 10 (OK – 11)
Health – Cognitive function research – specifically development and decline. Sorry Gen Y and Xer's this one focuses on the Boomers, WWII, Swing Gen and Gen Z. Think focus, memory, depression, sleep and stress behaviors.
Health – Gluten free (except when medically appropriate), Paleo, Wheat Belly, and any other limited diets are called out for their nutritional deficits and lack of supporting health research for their aid in weight loss, "healthfulness" or whatever other magic bullet they tout.
Technology – BPA and acrylamide technologies moves forward partly due to government concern and adversarial demand.
Technology – Vending is hot, hot, hot. Whether the machine is talking to you, offering suggestions on your next beverage purchase, making you a pizza in real time, or sending out Wi-Fi signals, it has no equal.
Government – FDA pushed to define Natural. Consumer surveys are repeatedly showing consumers trust "natural" less and companies are being accused of abusing the term.
Government – FDA pushed to construct GMO labeling. While research shows there is support for GMO labeling, it also shows that the labeling drive is led by fear and misunderstanding. Studies have repeatedly shown that when consumers are educated on GMO their support grows and fears lessen. Consumers also support GMO when they perceive personal health benefits are gained by such products.
Consumer – The 800-pound gorilla still sitting on a consumer's couch is "Distrust." Distrust of government, food safety, sustainability and health claims, and whatever the next diet fad is to be.
Consumer – My favorite – fearlessness continues to gain ground! This was birthed in the travel and wine scene. Adventure in food and flavor is back, comfort food is out. Think regionally authentic or tie the foods and flavors to a time in history – and above all else – remain humble and don't even THINK about "Americanizing" anything in 2012.
Foods & Flavors – Central America coming in on South America's coat tails. Travel is acting as a courier for these regional flavors coming to town.
Foods & Flavors – Native American foods and diet style make a push forward. It has long been an orphan yet ties strongly to sustainability (local and seasonal eating), balanced nutrient profile, healthful eating patterns, and the promotion of physical exercise.
Foods & Flavors (Bonus) – Creepy crawlers and killers shine in 2012. Think oysters, crickets, agave worms, honeypot ants, cicadas, puffer fish (fugu), raw baby octopus (sannakji), Ackee fruit, foraging (is that really an edible mushroom?), etc. Ties to fearlessness and global cuisine interests.
Well there you have it. But...what the hell do I know? I guess we will see in December 2012 when the press looks back at these and other industry predictions.
I have already sabered champagne, eaten too much, played board games with Gen Z and watched the ball drop! So a late "cheers" to the baby New Year.
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.