Move over, kale!

June 3, 2018

What’s the next big trend in ‘better for you’ food and beverages? And how can you incorporate that into your product development process?

We spoke to Christine Couvelier, a global culinary trendologist who will speak at the Nutrition Capital Network – Natural Products Canada Investor Meeting in Toronto on June 27-28.

Christine has a food-focused resume that would make Julia Child proud. Former Executive Chef of President’s Choice, Director of Culinary & Beverage/Executive Chef at Cara Operations, and the Chair of The Chef School of George Brown College. She also worked on Global Innovation for Unilever and was the first Director of Culinary Strategy at Maple Leaf Foods, where she developed the vision, design & construction of the ThinkFOOD! Centre. She is now owner of food-based consultancy, Culinary Concierge, which helps food and beverage companies stay ahead of the competition through creative culinary expertise, idea generation, the global Trend Watch Report, and innovative menu & product development. 

What are some of the trends we should watch for in the next few years?

We’ll be seeing some reinventions of things we’ve seen before like sweet and heat. But it will be fresh and new because of more complex flavours from things like birch syrup and serrano chili. You’ll also see more and more focus on food tribes. Are you gluten-free, vegan, a locavore? We’re associating more with these tribes and you’ll see that in the development of products as we have with the influx of gluten-free everything.

Anything in particular?

Plant-based is going to be absolutely huge. It’s the new organic. Peas are now the celebrity protein. The plant-forward menus are really advancing. I think it will take many people by surprise as they get better and better at developing these products. You’ll have ‘burgers’ that you couldn’t guess were plant-based. It’s going to be REALLY big.

How can companies integrate trends into their product development pipeline?

I think companies have to do their homework and know their target customer. How do they shop, how do they entertain, do they follow a recipe? It’s one thing to know that dates are the next big thing as a sweetener. But can you implement that into your product development process? Will it scale in your production facilities? You need to factor all of that in.

But how can you stay ahead of a trend? How can you develop a product in time to be sure it’s still going to be popular?

I like to help clients think about emerging, existing and developing trends. You can have shorter-term and longer-term projects depending on your customer base, your production process, and where you see trends going. You can’t do any of that from your office though. You need to get out and talk to chefs, go to trade shows, watch the competition, and just get beyond your own little sphere.

I do this full-time, all year, and I create these trend reports, and all of that truly helps companies. But they have to be willing to actually see what’s going on, get out there and taste and try things, and bring some creativity to the process. Above all, it’s always about making truly delicious products. You can be on trend, but you’ll be a failure if you don’t keep the focus on taste.

You can hear more from Christine when she presents her Global Trend Watch report at the Investor Meeting in Toronto, June 27-28.