Whole Foods’ 2018 Food Trends list reads a lot like my Instagram feed. Two weeks, to the day, before the annual list published, I looked around a trendy new restaurant in Austin, Texas, where I was celebrating my husband’s birthday and said: 

“I think eggplant is trendy.”

My first clue? Four dishes on the menu prominently featured eggplant. My second? The giant eggplant painted on the wall. 

Turns out, I’m right. Whole Foods picked a “deeper dive into Middle Eastern cultures” as its No. 4 food trend for 2018, and that includes pomegranates, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam and dried fruit. This trend also confirms an Instagram project I’ve been working on since September – Moroccan preserved lemons. I dragged home 11 pounds of meyer lemons from a trade show for this one. 

Other produce that made Whole Foods’ trend list includes: 

  • edible floral; 
  • functional mushrooms; 
  • alternative tacos, like jicama taco shells; and
  • root-to-stem, with ingredients like beet-green pesto, pickled watermelon rinds (which Produce Retailer covered in July) as a way to prevent food waste.

Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager at Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Specialty Produce, also sees jicama trending, but the big show stoppers are still all about color. 

“Colorful produce is moving to the center of the plate,” she says. “We thought Instagramming food was a trend, but photogenic food is definitely here to stay.” 

Red dragonfruit, Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, watermelon radishes and purple foods continue to gain popularity. Purple, a 2017 Whole Foods trend, is still showing strong sales, especially in items like purple cauliflower, she says. 

Plant-based proteins and meat replacements also are hot right now, she says — items like Soyrizo and protein-rich vegetables like edamame, potatoes and asparagus. 

Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, which markets the Melissa’s brand, agreed that protein and meat substitutes like jackfruit have an almost year-round supply and strong demand. 

Chili peppers like shishito, Hatch and Thai also are trending with Melissa’s customers. He also pointed to strong sales in some emerging specialty vegetables, like organic ginger, petite baby bok choy and Indian eggplant. 

Again with the eggplants. 

I’ll make it happen in 2018. 

 

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