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The Values Institute at DGWB, a social science research group, has released its second annual forecast of health-related trends that consumers are expected to embrace in the New Year. They include:
1. Food waste consciousness. A recent Eco Pulse survey found that 39 percent of Americans feel guilty about trashing food. Communities and corporations have begun converting compostable scraps into disposable cash. Marin County, Calif., has begun processing wasted food from local groceries and restaurants to generate electricity, and Starbucks has found a way to recycle coffee grounds and baked goods into laundry detergent. McDonald's units in the UAE have figured out how to turn their leftover vegetable oil into fuel. Meanwhile, new mobile apps such as Love Food Hate Waste help consumers plan meals from leftovers and manage portion size.
2. Wellness in the workplace. With health care costs expected to rise by 7 percent, companies are improving employees' health (and minimizing health care expenditures) by adding wellness programs. Plan on seeing more discounted gym memberships, group Weight Watchers accountability plans, and active design workspaces this year. The National Business Group on Health found that 48 percent of companies surveyed plan to use incentives to get workers involved in wellness in 2013.
3. Mini-meals and snacking. As the snacking trend continues, new research shows that those who eat between meals tend to have healthier diets. The NPD Group reports that snacks make up one out of every five eating occasions in the U.S. Especially prevalent is the advent of multiple "mini-meals" in place of the standard three squares a day.
4. Meatless mainstreaming. Last year's rise of the flexitarians is foreshadowing a trend toward meatless eating and outright veganism. Consumers seeking exotic natural ingredients like jackfruit and quinoa have helped turn the tide, especially as increasingly popular Asian and Indian flavor profiles eschew animal products. Look for herbivore-accommodating menus at restaurants on both coasts to start migrating to Mid-America in 2013.
5. Going against the grain. Gluten has joined carbohydrates and corn syrup as the newest ingredient Americans love to leave out. While some experts see this as self-diagnosis gone awry, consumers increasingly see the "GF" logo as a guide to healthier eating. From grocery stores to gastro-pubs to brands such as Domino's and Chuck E. Cheese, the food industry is taking advantage of the rising demand for this diet.
"Our 2013 findings are consistent with the growing importance of health in America — if not yet as a daily routine then certainly as a primary goal for three out of four consumers," said Mike Weisman, president of the Values Institute at DGWB. "More than ever, health is the new prestige barometer — meaning that most Americans would rather be called healthy than wealthy. Certainly, this trend will have major implications for marketers and retailers looking to sway consumer opinion in 2013 and beyond."
A total of 2,800 adults ages 18 and above participated in the national online study rating personal values and health actions. For the study, The Values Institute at DGWB, based in Santa Ana, Calif., collaborated with the international research firm Iconoculture of Minneapolis.
Read more about trends and statistics.