Zap Trends 2015: Will Our Health Be Tied to Our Footprint in 2015 and Beyond?

Alana's 2015 Trend Blog

This is an important year for those in the food industry. The much anticipated 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be out later this year, with a first public look at the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report in the next month or two. The Guidelines, revised every five years as a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provide the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives, and encourage Americans over the age of two years to focus on eating a healthful diet—one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.

While the current Guidelines, issued in 2010, offered improved insight into maintaining a healthy weight by paying attention to calorie intake from nutrient-dense foods and beverages, it also sparked much controversy from both the food industry and consumers alike, specifically over the stark decrease in recommended sodium intake and even more so, the MyPlate icon, which arguably didn’t offer much functional nutrition advice nor a complete picture. Where’s the spoon? The bowl? A cup?

Regardless, studies have shown that over the past few years, since the 2010 Guidelines were introduced, Americans are paying more attention to the nutrients in their foods and the overall healthfulness of their diets. According to the 2014 Food and Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition and Health, published annually by the International Food Information Council Foundation, the number of American consumers who consider healthfulness when purchasing their food and beverages has shown a significant uptick in the past two years, nearly closing the gap on what have consistently been the top two factors – taste and price.

But as important as the nutrients in our food are, so is the way our food is produced and where it comes from. The same Survey reports that more than a third of consumers report regularly buying food that is labeled as “natural” (37 percent) or “local” (35 percent), with 32 percent who regularly buy products advertised as “organic.” In fact, Packaged Facts projected in 2013 that non-GMO foods can account for 30 percent of US food & beverage retail sales by 2017, up to 40 percent if non-GMO food labeling is made a law (voluntary GMO labeling is currently in place by the FDA), with demand for natural and organic foods driving much of that demand.

On a similar note, I found this article from BusinessWeek (October, 2014) very interesting. Titled, “Sustainable Could Become a Food Group,” the article predicts that the “2015 Guidelines for the first time may tell Americans to pay attention to how their food is grown, not just what’s in it,” tying environmental protection to healthy eating. While the article speaks more to consuming plant-based foods because they’re associated with lesser environmental impacts—energy, land, and water use – choosing non-GMO, natural, organic and more local foods are also tied to sustainability and a more healthy environment.

I, too, predict that the 2015 Guidelines and recommendations for a healthier diet will include more focus on choosing foods based on how they’re grown/produced and from where.

- Alana Horinko, Vice President