THE BLOG
11/26/2014 03:50 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2015

Top Food Trends for 2015... Are You Ready?

There is a lot to look forward to in the New Year for food trends and the evolution of supermarkets. Expect to see smoked as this year's key flavor and a huge rise in popularity for fermented foods. Online grocery shopping will continue to expand to even small markets around the country and supermarkets will evolve into one-stop-shops to win back customers. We're already starting to see top trends like these emerging in the media, in the supermarket aisles in restaurants and on popular cooking shows so expect to see these trends take off big in 2015.

For the last ten years, I've worked closely with ConAgra Foods to produce the annual food trends forecast for the coming year in order to share these with supermarkets across the country to insure they have what you want when you shop their stores. Here are the top trends on my radar:

Grazing Golden-Agers
Ninety-one percent of people say they snack daily, according to Nielsen. While snacking is on the rise among all ages and genders, research shows that snacking among consumers over the age of 65 could contribute to additional years with a higher quality of life. We'll see more boomers - those raised in the "three square meals a day" era - employ a "grazing" approach to eating next year. When boomers snack, they'll focus on foods rich in nutrients like protein, fiber and Omega3s that can help promote bone health, like sunflower seeds, nuts and whole grain popcorn.

Grocery Shopping Goes 24/7 Online
Online grocery shopping and delivery has become a crowded space, with a number of services competing for consumer attention. Once online grocery delivery was considered a luxury for those living in urban areas, but revenue gains among these delivery services indicate the trend will expand to mainstream consumers living in both urban and rural areas next year. Previously, major e-commerce players like Amazon would only deliver non-perishable items, but other services like Peapod, Fresh Direct, Amazon Fresh and Instacart make it possible to have perishables delivered as well.

Everything Smoked
Just when you thought the bacon trend had cooled off, restaurateurs and at-home cooks are continuing to turn up the heat. The demand for smoked foods has risen as chefs begin to apply smoking and grilling to add some sizzle and impart new flavor to other proteins and alternatives like vegetables, butters, and even cocktails. And, with smokers gaining in popularity in backyards across America, at-home cooks are also experimenting with smoking non-traditional foods.

The Rise of Fermented Foods
2015 will be the year fermented foods - foods like yogurt, tempeh and sauerkraut take center stage. These foods contain live cultures, or are preserved in liquid so their sugars and starches can become bacteria-boosting agents. After multi-year growth of gluten-free foods, many consumers have found their digestive health improved. Nearly 50 percent of Americans have changed their diet to help improve digestion, with nearly 20 percent doing so in the past year, found a recent survey by ConAgra Foods. Gluten-free will continue, but also evolve into a focus on fermented foods as people continue to look for foods to aid digestion. Once toppings or side items, these foods will become commonplace in meals this year.

Gen Z: Chefs Everyday
Millennials' passion for food-related adventures is undeniable, but Gen Z, the demographic group born after Millennials (1995 to present day), brings an entire new set of food values to the kitchen table. Exposed at a young age to more flavors and variety than previous generations, Gen Z's collective attitude toward food is simplicity and health. They tend to use stove tops rather than microwaves for cooking meals and fresh ingredients to prepared foods. Research by NPD Group indicates some of their favorite foods to cook include eggs/omelets, hot dogs, potatoes and chicken, which they can "dress up" with their own unique touch.

Craft Foods Make its Way into Kitchens Everywhere
Typically associated with foods made in small batches with specialized, local ingredients, major companies are finding ways to produce craft foods in larger quantities. The phenomenon of craft beer brought new excitement, flavors and sales to the struggling beer industry. In 2015, look for this trend to extend to other beverages and food, as Millennials in particular continue to seek unique tastes and foods with authentic origin stories.

Nutrition Labels: No Longer Just on Packaged Foods
As consumers want more information about their foods, innovative devices like Prep Pad will soon offer this information instantaneously. The Prep Pad pairs with an iPad app to calculate the exact nutritional content of your meals, including the carbs, fats, protein and calories by scanning the bar code of food packages used as ingredients or the items on your plate. Information about a food's ingredients, chemical makeup or nutritional values will become more readily available and commonplace in the supermarket and our kitchens.

Supermarkets Convert into Socializing Spaces
Supermarkets have evolved from straightforward centers where consumers could buy groceries to purveyors of lifestyle. Present day supermarkets are developing a variety of services that help set them apart and establish each outlet as an ambassador of niche lifestyle trends. In the near future, we can expect supermarkets to further specialize in order to present their customers with a unique experience that showcases their personality and philosophy toward foods - instead of presenting themselves solely as vendors of goods.

Check out more of my predictions at forkful