2018 Healthy Eating Trends

We took a look at the trends shaping food in 2018.

2017 was an exciting year for food makers and innovators. Through the Treatmo marketplace and community we learned a lot about what to expect in the new year. Consumers in greater numbers are seeking cleaner more natural food, homemade, and garden or farm fresh. This drive towards simplicity is inspiring new food entrepreneurs who are reinvigorating traditional industry categories. 

More people are also starting their own local food businesses. The resources available to individuals aspiring to launch a food business have never been greater and are helping owners get their clean food product in front of consumers faster.

While meal kits and food subscription boxes sprung up in great numbers in 2017, some also ran their course. But the desire to eat better, healthier food with natural flavor will be a strong theme in 2018. Our own research showed there is a growth in food enthusiasts seeking better-for-you and homemade food with or without the aid of meal kits.

The themes we wrote about last year, continue to grow stronger including the consumer's desire for simplicity, transparency, local, farm fresh, better-for-you and plant-based food. 

These are the Treatmo healthy eating trends for 2018 that we noticed and top food ideas to jump on to eat cleaner in the new year. 

Healthy Eating Food and Drink Trends 2018

A few of the 2018 trends in food available now...

Quick meal hacks 

Where consumer packaged goods have been defined and limited to a single purpose in practice, new food makers are broadening that scope in some categories to increase range of use and function.

Take hummus. Where in the past you may have considered this tasty chickpea and tahini spread as a perishable item tied to refrigeration, Hummustir has invented hummus on-the-go to enjoy anywhere. Dessert Hummus--a Shark Tank winner--pushes the category further, appealing to everyone's sweet tooth with a healthier, plant based product.

Jar Goods tomato sauce merged functionality into a brilliant jar of vine-ripened tomatoes that goes beyond spaghetti to pizza sauce, tomato base for soups and stews, lasagna and much more. Their pomodoro sauce in classic, spicy and vodka challenges the food waste problem in that the flavor invites you to use more faster, so you're not throwing out half a moldy jar at the end of every month. A family recipe, Jar Goods took part in the Chobani incubator to prepare for broader distribution. Made with cleaner, simpler ingredients and robust fresh flavor, Jar Goods satisfies more than one purpose in the kitchen at meal time.

BOU Gravy Cubes is another example of a product that achieves great results and convenience. For anyone who loves gravy on poutine, vegetables and biscuits, it's as easy as dropping a cube in water and stirring--and the taste is outstanding. BOU puts better for you bouillon and gravy cubes within reach for everyday consumption, even for the office if that's where you want it.

And just as juice-on-the-go became big, pre-made soups and soup blends like Fawen are moving in to "Fuel you anytime, anywhere" making healthy meals in an instant and easily consumable.

Plant based protein swaps

There is no question that the enthusiasm for plant based proteins is on the rise. From the pea protein we've seen in healthier snacks like PROTES Protein Chips to innovative veggie burger creations like Beyond Meat--which recently received investment from Leonardo DiCaprio and has previously been funded by Bill Gates and others--suggests the trend will continue.

Plant based jerky from coconut to soy protein is finding a home where beef jerky once reigned with improved texture, flavor and health benefits.

The competition for creating more authentically flavored cheese and meat options was strong this past year. Between Beyond Meat, Daiya and Gardein at Expo West March 2017, each upended preconceived notions of how plant based swaps can taste and substitute for meat based options.

Big conventional food corporations are getting into the game through mergers and acquisitions of small innovators under the leadership of Denise Morrison, such as Campbell's purchase of several natural food companies, to increase market penetration in the rapidly expanding vegan and health food category.

Hyper-local and cleaner food

There is an emerging and energetic group of consumers actively seeking out new products from local food makers made with cleaner and shorter ingredient lists, purposefully steering clear of big brands. These new foragers are on the hunt for more functional, higher quality food made in smaller batches with bigger flavor, better quality and clear wellness principles.

Everything from ghee to local beef, raw desserts, and tortillas is inspiring real food prepared in fresh ways and styles to inspire appetites.

Healthy fats from nuts, butters and spreads

Last year, we wrote about the increased interest in healthy fats and the rise of new styles of butter including coconut butter, nut butter varieties and spreads. Entrepreneurs are continuing to innovate in this category livening up basic nut and seed butters with functional ingredients like adaptogens, local herbs and nuts and combinations of nuts and fruit. Black tahini butter and almond coconut butter butter stood out as spreads that inspired recipe creators in 2017. We anticipate more innovation in the category in 2018.

The keto diet (a low carb, high fat diet) took off in 2017 and is gaining momentum. Coconut oil, coconut and seed/nut butters and variations of the same are flourishing in keto raw vegan desserts that are appearing everywhere as well as in smoothies, smoothie bowls, and clean snacks.

These good fats are also finding their way into healthy plant based beverages and drinks.

Enthusiasm for home cooked food

While some reports indicated that dining out was on the rise this past year, others suggested that younger generations are dining out less, bypassing big chains. From our own research, we have seen more people making food at home, sharing recipes and preparing meals from scratch using smaller brands. Whether from meal kits or from scratch, it appears there is a trend towards homemade food. We're seeing more meal prepping going on, greater emphasis on healthier meals from home, and a rising interest in plant based diet where meat is more occasional and higher quality. 

A big part of home cooked food is baking. The trend now is to bake better with whole grain baking mixes. The off-the-shelf baking mixes are being challenged by high quality mixes that provide a nutrition in the form of whole grains such as sorghum, millet, oats, rice, and buckwheat that also provide protein and fiber without artificial ingredients. Companies such as Blends by Orly and Whole Note.

Better cooking oils are also an important to home food making as well. The growth of pure oils with stricter production methods and from smaller batch companies is gaining in popularity. From small batch olive oil, to avocado oil, and coconut oil, offering transparency and quality from farm to table is a driver of growth. Kämen Foods sells a range of natural cooking oils including olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil that transform cooking into delicious art. 

Bio-hacking and gut health 

Probiotics have long been of interest. Now they are starting to appear as a common feature in food and beverages such as kefir drinks and nuts (like one of our favorites, Pronutz Pistachios). 

An interest in gut and brain health has given rise to companies focused on product innovation to tackle big health problems through better diet and supplements. Thryve Inside, a new company out of Silicon Valley, provides a service that diagnoses gut bacteria and then formulates custom probiotics along with dietary recommendations for their customers.

Gut health has taken on larger significance even beyond the wellness community as more people acknowledge the link between poor diet, inflammation and chronic illness. A healthy gut has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase immunity, positively impact brain health, and perhaps even enhance longevity.

There is also a renewed focus on pre-biotics: The fiber rich foods which feed the probiotics. Combining both pre-biotics and probiotics is important to maximize the power of healthy gut flora and getting pre-biotics by eating healthy, plant-based foods, is helping drive, in part, many of the natural food trends.

We anticipate many more innovative appearing in these categories to help improve productivity, reduce stress, enhance, mental strength, and increase lifespan.

Spice - not just for flavor

Fresh organic spices are playing a more dominate role in food flavor instead of sodium and sugars. Cardamom, a spice we saw reach a high in 2015 with cardamom ice cream from MELT Bakery in New York, will trend in 2018 along with cumin, cloves, and za'atar. Not only do these warm spices add great dimension to food with little effort, they are also nutrition powerhouses.

Shaking or pouring on healthy spice is another way to get more flavor and nutrients naturally and easily. One of our favorite recipes in 2017 was a za'atar pizza. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend which includes oregano, thyme, and sesame seeds. Use za'atar in salads, stews and, of course, on pizza.

Freshly grown local spices now have become even more significant as they retain their freshness and nutrient value better than spices of the supermarket shelf. Local herb farms like Daddy's Gourmet offer freshly dried herb mixtures and take home cooked food from good to great. Oscar's Chai offers a true blend of real chai spices in a natural format for mixing and blending without any sugar.

Home cooks are gaining confidence in their spice game, ramping up flavor and experimenting with heat. Hot spices are also going to appear in everything. We're already seeing it in ghost pepper nuts and ghee to habañero and jalapeño ketchup and jam from companies like Brooklyn Whatever.

Healthy more productive snacking

Snacking for many is replacing meals altogether and many of the new snack alternatives are filling the role quite well. With added protein, fiber and nutrients from real food, the new snacking options are helping busy professionals fill the gaps between missed meals and substitute for them in some cases.

Healthier snacking from protein bars and chips to raw food snacks, healthy superfood bites and fortified beverages can be as filling as a meal and, depending on the alternative, a lot better for your diet.

Popular snacks will include fruit and vegetable chips which are easy replacements for potato chips from the vending machine. We like Natural Sins fruit chips from Costa Rica and Ello Raw dessert bites from North Carolina. New drink makers are providing healthier alternatives to the sugary and caffeine laden sports shots as well like TruEnergy from Boston. If you are looking for a sweet snack, skip the candy bars and try natural sweets like b Naked Chocolate truffles made from cashews, cacao, and maple syrup so that you get superfood ingredients with every bite.

The attack on sugar continues

Whereas pumpkin spice was popular for the holidays, maple syrup flavoring is just as prevalent. It's being used in lattes, hot chocolate, and tea. But the usage has expanded beyond the holidays as it's now a common alternative sweetener in baked goods and cooking to make a sweet and savory flavor. For more nuanced maple syrup flavor, you'll get the best quality by shopping direct from the farms themselves. Try maple on baked root vegetables or on Brussels sprouts. We enjoy Purinton Maple which makes pure Vermont maple syrup from their family farm along with maple sugar and maple rubs.

Edible CBD oil in food

It's popping up slowly but fiercely. Small food makers are grabbing onto this ingredient and using cannabidiol hemp oil in chocolate, snack bars and raw desserts. As a health agent, CBD helps bring the body back into balance to reduce stress, boost immunity and mood. While it is a hemp product it has only a trace amount of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana. Food makers are getting creative with the product and we can expect to see more mainstream products with CBD in 2018. Cocorau--a brand we enjoy--introduced their first CBD chocolate in 2017. 

Say hello to the egg replacers

The brand known for Just Mayo, Hampton Farms, introduced Just Scramble late 2017 launching another alternative to take on the industrial chicken farming industry. Bob's Red Mill also introduced a powdered egg replacer at Expo West March 2017. Recipe creators are turning to flax, pumpkin and more alternatives instead of eggs. Locally farmed organic eggs, however, are becoming more popular in grocery stores and farmers markets.

Get back to your roots

As concern about the food system grows, we saw more people stepping up and growing their own food in 2017 and expect that to continue. Amazon has also been taking notice in the rising enthusiasm for homegrown food. In 2017, the company secured a patent for an interactive gardening technology that helps people grow better. This will be an interesting category to watch.

Food tech 

The rise in mobile technologies like Treatmo, makes it more fun and simple to access the new food makers and innovators from a national and hyper-local level. With a platform to grow on, Treatmo provides local natural food businesses a place to create a store effortlessly and build community, connecting their customers with delivery or local pick up. Discover and order all of the healthiest food trends on Treatmo. Ship, deliver, pick up or pay in person with Treatmo app. See how it works. 

Get the iOS app or Open A Store!

The Treatmo marketplace makes it easier to shop and sell local natural food. For sellers the technology supports small and medium sized local businesses, including farms, with a mobile sales platform. Shopping fresh natural food and selling it has never been easier than ever. By hosting store fronts for new food makers and innovators in one marketplace, Treatmo makes good food more accessible to more people and provides a space for new businesses to incubate.


by Anna Zefferys, CEO and Co-Founder of Treatmo.