Friday, January 4, 2008

The Future of Food in '08

Would you have predicted, even two years ago, that bottled water would become a pariah and that "locavore"
would become a word?

Here's some excerpt
s from a well done article by ELIZABETH LEE of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Published on: 12/29/07

Out of choice or necessity, consumers asked more questions in 2007 about where their food was grown and manufactured.

High-profile recalls on numerous foods, a federal ban on some Chinese seafood and escalating concerns about the safety of the food supply caused many consumers to take a closer look at labels.

Friendly bacteria that promote digestive health is getting more popular.

John Spink/Staff
More and more people are questioning the environmental wisdom
of bottled water.

At the same time, books like Barbara Kingsolver's bestseller "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" helped boost the local foods movement, sending new converts to farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables, raw milk and pasture-raised chicken, pork and beef.

In the next year, food safety and the search for local, sustainable edibles will play major roles again. Throw in Georgia's new restaurant health code and expect an even greater focus on where food

was grown, how it was handled and what its true cost is. Here are more trends to expect on the table in 2008:

Local and sustainable. Look for more food grown close to home in farmers' markets, supermarkets and on restaurant menus as consumer demand keeps booming (they've become "localvores").
With large institutions giving greater emphasis to local producers, the supply of farmers might grow, too.

Celebrity chefs. Emeril's gets some competition in 2008, with high-profile restaurants coming from Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Spice Market, in Midtown), and Laurent Tourondel (BLT Steak downtown). And our local celebrities: Chef Rick, Orcutt, CA, Chef Evan Treadwell (Lido at Dolphin Bay, Pismo Beach) Also on tap: Bringing Paso back to the future, Chef Chris Kobayashi, Artisan in Paso Robles, CA.

Food safety. Tainted pet food, salmonella-laced peanut butter, cans of chili sauce harboring the deadly bacteria that causes botulism — the list goes on for the food safety scares of 2007. With major food manufacturers, legislators and a federal scientists' panel joining the consumer advocates who have long called for tightening food safety systems, 2008 could be a year of change.

Restaurant grades. More cities and states are passing legislation requiring restaurants to display letter and number grades on reports, which must be prominently posted near their entrances and on drive-through windows.

Faster food. Serving a meal without cooking it will be easier than ever, with supermarkets expanding their prepared meal offerings, and more restaurants adding pickup lanes, cellphone ordering and swipe-and-go payment systems.

Probiotics. Friendly bacteria that promote digestive health might sound like a tough sell, but they're popping up in scores of new products beyond the traditional yogurt. From Kashi Vive to Attune chocolate chip granola bars, the bacteria are colonizing all sorts of unexpected food items. Prebiotics, which contain fiber to feed the probiotic bacteria, are joining the trend in products such as Kraft's LiveActive cheeses. "Honey do you hear something moving around in the kitchen?"

Small plates. Call them tapas or small plates, the downsized portions are still big with chefs. Tiny desserts, too.

More nutritious food. Whether for weight loss or wellness, Americans have become more likely to pick up new products with health benefits than the indulgent best-sellers of past years. Among the top product introductions in 2007: Dannon's Activia yogurt, with probiotics. And in 2006, the Kraft South Beach line and lower-fat ice creams set the tone. For 2008, look for more products with whole grains, antioxidant-rich juices, teas and fruits and vegetables, and without as much sodium.

Nutrition labeling systems, to help consumers more easily sort out the best choice, are on the way. But with at least two competing systems in the works, expect some confusion at the store.

Water guilt. Drinking water used to be so simple. Now bottled water is facing a backlash over the environmental toll of those billions of plastic bottles. And many restaurants aren't serving tap water except on customer request, because of the continuing drought. What's a conscious consumer to order? Judging by beverage trends, pinot noir. Yea for the Central Coast wine industry!

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