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Health trends portend to recovering economy

ANAHEIM, CA -- According to Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, health trends among today’s consumers indicate that the economy is in recovery.

“We’re coming into recovering. We’re doing it kicking, dragging and screaming, but we’re heading in that direction,” she told PMA Fresh Summit 2012 attendees during her presentation at the “Top Health Trends to Shape Produce Profitability” workshop on Oct. 26, here.

She added that consumers seem “more realistic” today and will pay more money if they truly value a product.

As the case with most industries, generational differences also play a huge role in health trends among consumers. For example, Ms. Badaracco pointed out that Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers are more brand loyal than Millennials, while Generation Y’s tend to stay away from anything clearly labeled “healthy.”

Another problem in today’s marketplace, however, is that there is a “consumer disconnect” when it comes to the perception of food and misinformation of products. One example Ms. Badaracco gave it the latest fad of “going gluten-free.” Although this seems to be a popular trend among celebrities and common folk alike, the gluten-free diet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“There’s so much focus on gluten-free,” Ms. Badaracco said. “When in reality, only a very small population actually has celiac disease.” The others, she said, admit they are not following the diet for medical purposes, but rather to just lose weight. In reality, 80 percent of patients on this diet actually gain weight during the first year.

Other current health trends in today’s marketplace consist of pure and simple foods, botanicals, flavorful health, double sided menus, mindful snacking and healthy indulgences, she said. And all these different flavors and varieties are a good sign for the economy as they signal a recovery, according to Ms. Badaracco.

“How you position the food you are selling is radically different in a recovery than during a recession,” she stated. “You have to know how the fruits and vegetables are going to play on the plate.”

As for the current rock stars of the food industry, Ms. Badaracco says those rights go to soul food, as well as foods from South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, South America and the Middle East.