5 Food Trends for 2009

January 13, 2009 11:16:23 AM PST
Today's tough economic times are forcing many people to cut back on their food budgets and are uncertain about what 2009 will bring. Will President-elect Obama's new policies help or hurt rising food prices? With so many retail businesses trying to trim costs, what will this mean for your neighborhood grocer? And for many shoppers, their biggest problem is figuring out how to eat healthy on a budget. The Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert answers those questions as he takes a look at 5 food trends for the New Year:

1. Weather and food safety continue to affect food prices.

The United States has the cheapest food supply on earth so we feel a little cheated with higher costs. The economy, natural disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding, as well as food safety regulations, have created shifts in all food productions thus increasing the food costs from the produce to frozen food aisles.

Shoppers know now that they have to be smarter about what and how to spend money. A recent study by ConAgra Foods found that more than 50 percent of Americans say they are eating more meals at home to avoid costly dining options.

Here are some simple ways to save cash when shopping.

  • Buy frozen fruits and vegetables when their fresh counterparts are out of season.
  • Buy chicken nuggets in the frozen section; same price as at a fast food restaurant - but get 4 times more.
  • As the economy tightens, more people are turning to pasta. Commercially produced tomato sauces run about $6 to $10 a jar. Canned, crushed tomatoes deliver better nutrition and a fresher taste for $1.50.
  • Look carefully throughout your grocery store for the same cheese product - all with different prices. Head to the dairy case where cheese costs 20 to 25 percent less than at the deli or cheese tables. Same for seafood -- fresh vs. frozen.
  • 2. Look to favorite brands for innovation. While value is becoming increasingly more important to consumers, their taste buds are still looking for excitement. Thus consumers are looking to their favorite brands and restaurants for innovation. Healthy Choice responded to consumer demand for quick, great-tasting lunches that are easily accessible for busy employees and cheaper than take-out options. This required new technology for microwave foods. So to save while still enjoying new and exciting food options, look to your favorite brands in 2009 for new recipes, creations and varieties.

    3. Importance of Locale.

    Shoppers are interested in where their food is coming from for food safety reasons. Nonetheless, local foods can also be expensive. There are ways to know where your food is coming from while still cutting down on costs. Think locale versus local. Consider foods that are made locally but shipped nationally.

    4. How the changing political landscape in Washington affects the food world in 2009.

    With the change of power in the nation's capital, there will be a shift in the food world including a new emphasis on small farms, new food safety regulations and country-of-origin labeling.

    Shining a bright light on farmers, President-elect Obama plans to provide incentives for existing farmers and a call to action to promote the next generation of farmers and ranchers to help develop their skills and offer a tax incentive to bring about new farmers. Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have pledged to support family farmers and their right to fair access to markets.

    With food safety regulations and country-of-origin labeling, the new administration plans to monitor closely processes at factory farms with new food safety regulations, especially regarding meat products. Along with this, there also looks to be a renewed effort to better the USDA and FDA.

    President-elect Obama has always been a supporter of country-of-origin labeling, making more foods traceable to their origin, helping to showcase to consumers exactly where their food is coming from.

    5. What shrinking store formats mean for Chicago.

    With large retail chains adding in grocery aisles and small grocery stores popping up throughout the nation, there has been a shrink in large grocery retail shops. This stresses both convenience and value for both the retailer and the shopper.

    Especially in urban environments, consumers are shopping for less but more often to maintain their busy lifestyle and avoid wasting food and money. Spending less time per shopping trip, consumers don't demand the overwhelming selection of a giant store and neither do the retail chains. For the consumer, this decreases impulse purchases and helps to coordinate meals more appropriately. As for the retailer, this helps to bring down the need for a large shop with a wide variety of brands and offerings.

    Bruschetta Recipe

    Take Hunt's fire-roasted tomatoes. It already has the garlic in it. A little onion, a little balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon of that, a pinch of salt, one tablespoon of olive oil, preferrably extra virgin, a little basil. What you do is mix it up. In less than a minute, you have got great bruschetta rather than paying a lot of money for it. You can save easily half as much on it.