What’s New on Your Supermarket Shelf?

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Last year’s hottest supermarket craze — low-carb products — can be found in this year’s clearance aisle. In a country obsessed with dieting, we’ve seen low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb, and no-carb foods come and go with little impact on our girth. In fact, as a nation, we’re heavier than ever.

So what new foods can you expect to see next on your supermarket shelves? WebMD asked the experts for their predictions on the latest trends.

As with most everything else, baby boomers are affecting how the nation eats, according to the NPD Marketing group. Boomers made their mark with fast food in the ’60s, fern bars in the ’70s, microwaves in the ’80s, take-out in the ’90s, and a trend toward healthier foods today, according to Harry Balzar, NPD’s vice president. As the boomers age, they are coping with health and weight concerns that drive their eating patterns.

But boomers aren’t the only ones behind changes in food buying habits.

“Increasing Latin populations have had an enormous impact on our food trends,” says supermarket guru Phil Lempert, editor of the Facts, Figures and the Future newsletter. “They don’t drink sodas with high-fructose corn syrup, and their diets are more abundant in fruits, vegetables, and fresh foods.”

Among the once-exotic nutrition, as much as ecological considerations, are driving the move toward organic, experts say. Consumers want familiar products that taste better and are priced competitively, like Frito-Lays’ line of natural products.

“When Mom buys organic, she is looking for wholesome nutrition, not necessarily foods with the least impact on the environment,” says Gilbert.

Hundreds of products are now labeled “organic,” “natural,” “homestead,” “farmstead,” “toxin-free” or “hormone free.” But these aren’t all necessarily better for you or the environment. The only term regulated by the government is “organic”; all the others are at the discretion of the manufacturer, says McDonald.

Meal Solutions

No one seems to have time to cook anymore, so consumers want good nutrition packaged conveniently. And, of course, these foods need to be great-tasting.

“Moms want solutions and convenience to buy them more time to spend with their families,” says Gilbert.

Popular products include snackable items like drinkable yogurts as well as grab-n-go foods that make it easy to throw together meals in no time. Already cooked, preseasoned, and “halfway homemade” are the hottest trends, according to McDonald. And quick-cooking doesn’t rule out upscale, she says.

“There are more sophisticated and innovative flavors across all food varieties that are quick and easy to prepare,” she says.

According to the Institute for Food Technology, grocery stores now abound with delicate flavors and global influences to help meet our demand for quick meals with interesting flavors. Look for upscale salad mixes and prepackaged dinners, gourmet tuna, fancy cheeses, and gourmet vinegars and sauces.