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Trends for 2017 show wellness and foods link to grow

Paneer and roasted beet salad photographed in Washington, DC.
Deb Lindsey | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Paneer and roasted beet salad photographed in Washington, DC.

Getting serious about physical fitness is a common New Year's resolution, but the coming year may help some stay on track, as emerging food and beverage trends point to healthy living.

While food trend watchers have predicted spikes in popularity for everything from different fruits, plant-based milk to poke bowls, one thing is clear: Health is king.

"Interest in naturalness and clean label continues to feature strongly," Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said recently, as the market research firm announced its Top Ten Trends List for 2017.

The focus on wellness in has been a running theme in consumer food trends in recent years, Williams added.

For starters, consumers actually want to eat their veggies now. With the practice of adopting cleaner lifestyles going mainstream, vegetables, fruits and other fresh produce are becoming more important to health-conscious consumers.

Eat your vegetables

Purple cauliflower, one of the predicted "It" vegetables of 2017.
Loretta Felli | AGF | UIG | Getty Images
Purple cauliflower, one of the predicted "It" vegetables of 2017.

The focus on health has also resulted in changes in consumer diets, facilitating the rise of vegetarianism and veganism. Flexitarianism, referring to the occasional consumption of plant-based foods, is also increasingly popular as consumers turn to animal-free diets.

In turn, food manufacturers are responding to these preferences by introducing a greater number of vegan and vegetarian-friendly products.

According to the Mintel Global Food and Drink Trends 2017 report, there was a 257 percent increase in the number of vegan food and beverage launches in 2016, compared to 5 years ago.

Baum + Whiteman, the food and restaurant consultancy, declared in its annual trend report that vegetables would extend their "domination of the dinner plate" in the New Year.

The report also predicted that the preference for plants will lead to more vegetable-centric dining options, from more vegetable-based fast-casual food chains to vegetable-inspired sit-down restaurants.

Another innovation originating from the clean and green trend will be the rise of the vegetable butcher, Baum + Whiteman stated. From vegetable-based salami to imitation barbecue ribs, plant-based charcuterie is increasingly gaining ground among consumers due largely to health and environmental reasons.

Peak kale?

Mock meat, often made from tofu, has been used in Chinese cuisine since the Han Dynasty and remains a common sight in parts of Asia. Today, meat substitutes are also made using wheat gluten, konjac and yam starch.

Despite the resurgence in all things clean and green, Baum + Whiteman was certain that 2017 would be the end of kale era, stating that the popularity of the leafy cabbage in consumer packaged goods had reached its peak.

In the vacuum kale leaves behind, several other ingredients appear to be well-positioned to vie for the position of the next "it" health food.

Whole Foods, the specialty supermarket chain, stated that purple-shaded vegetables, including cauliflower and asparagus, would be in demand next year. The supermarket chain also predicted that ingredients such as turmeric, reishi mushroom and maca (a powdered herb) are likely to grow in popularity as consumers turn to wellness tonics.

Meanwhile, Pinterest has placed its bet on jackfruit, based on data on the social media site collected from its most popular pins. Baum + Whiteman hedged its chances on squashes.

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