Health & Wellness, Authentic Appeal, Artisan Appreciation and Local & Sustainable are the key consumer drivers with the most power to propel culinary trends, according to the recent A Look Backward & Forward Culinary Trend Mapping Report, a joint publication of the San Francisco-based strategic food and beverage innovation agency CCD Innovation and market research publisher Packaged Facts. Today’s food world is a vastly different place than it was just four years ago. We have reshaped our attitudes and behaviors around food. “Due to paradigm as well as demographic shifts, global flavors have become celebrated as part of the norm for America’s diverse consumers,” says Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation. “Separating out what we used to call ethnic food from mainstream fare is no longer relevant. We are living in a multicultural culinary era.”

Influential food landscape game changers are:

* The proliferation of food and social media

* Increased retail channels for food purchases including farmers markets, drugstores, new foodservice outlets such as food trucks and gas stations

* Consumers increasing expectation to know where their food comes from, what is in it, and having the tech tools to access this information

* The growth of the natural foods channel and embrace of local, seasonal and sustainable fare

A Look Backward & Forward Culinary Trend Mapping Report focuses on trend movement over the last four years, checking back on past trends and tracking their movement across CCD Innovation’s proprietary Trend Map. The report includes the following highlights:

Chia Seeds: Well-informed natural food lovers and wellness subscribers, always on the look-out for the next star ingredient, got excited about the nutritious chia seeds and its ease of use. Add hard-core runners to the mix, lots of humor and great PR, connect with health-seeking women often chatting on blogs and Facebook, and you have a lot of momentum. Check Holy Crap, the world’s most amazing breakfast cereal, a firm with a great product and brilliant use of social media and other marketing tools to rapidly gain consumer’s attention and loyalty.

Third Wave Coffee: The growing food movement with its values in artisan production, connoisseur collecting, and sustainable food production is popular among younger coffee drinkers, many excited to try new Third Wave coffee products to be found in the hip cafes where these brews are served. Specialty chocolates make part of this trend that includes innovation and improvement at all stages of production, from better soil and trees to harvesting and processing, to direct and stronger relationship between bean growers, traders and those that create the final consumer product. Pacari Chocolate and its Raw, biodynamic (Demeter) certified and other lines with exotic ingredients such as maca and Andean blueberry reflect this trend.

Quinoa: Consumers are turning to this Andean grain to answer a number of needs–for a superfood packed with vegetarian protein, a way to lose weight, a gluten-free food and ingredient and as a representative of still-exotic Peruvian cuisine, an up-and-comer on the global culinary scene. Quinua Real syrup, the first natural sweetener made of quinoa introduced by La Finestra sul Cielo Espana at BioFach this year, received tremendous attention for the amazing versatility the golden grain offers.

Coconut Water: Increased Asian and Hispanic populations are a force behind coconut water. The growth of the natural foods channel has given this healthy item a home, along with the increase in beverage cases in convenience stores, drug stores and campus foodservice.

Farm-Raised Seafood: Local & sustainable issues around seafood have pushed Farm-Raised Seafood to the top of the Trend Map. In QSRs and mainstream grocery stores, most of the fish is farmed because wild stocks have been decimated.

Other trends include ice cream as a functional food and Greek Yogurt, which has benefited from the power of several drivers, first and foremost Wholesome Nutrition, under the broader Health & Wellness category. Interest in Digestive Health, also under this umbrella, increased sales of probiotic-rich yogurt and across the board while simultaneously influencing the rise of Gluten-Free foods.

These key products along with sprouted and fermented foods in all sorts of shapes and textures were spotted by your O.W.N. team at the fairs this season including BioFach in Nuremberg, Expo West in Anaheim and CHFA in Vancouver.