Food, flavor, and wine consumer trends 2019

By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management

While food and beverage trends are released throughout the year, it seems as though a bulk of the industry and consumer trend reports are released during the winter.  In recognition of these reports and the insights and guidance they offer, I have summarized some of the more prevalent food trends and sources that concentrate specifically on the wine industry.  

Food trends: What we will (likely) be eating in 2019  

As we have talked about in past blogs, it is important to have a meaningful conversation with consumers who visit your tasting room or who you communicate with through social media.  Whether it be the starting a conversation, promoting a particular wine, or having a topic for an Instagram post, knowing a bit about current food trends can help you suggest wines that will pair with these important and emerging flavors and cuisines.     

Emerging international fare   

Pertaining to interest in specific international cuisines, adults age 18 to 34 and 35 to 54 years, were much less likely to consume Italian and Chinese foods than consumers age 55 and older.  This is the case whether they are dining at a restaurant, preparing meals at home, and/or when purchasing packaged food from food stores.  The interest in international flavors among consumers age 18 to 44 years is “because they like trying new things” (Failla, 2019).    

So, what is expected to interest consumers in 2019?  Comax Flavors, a “world leader in creating leading edge flavor technology and innovation for the food and beverage industry” uses market research to gain consumer insights to better predict potential demand.  Recently, they identified “A Passage to India,” which “capitalizes on the growing younger demographics’ attraction to multicultural flavors,” and “Steeped in Culture” that includes “high-impact fermented and pickled flavors” as two noteworthy trends for 2019 (Foodingredientsfirst.com, 2018).    

In addition to matching wines to complement individual spices used in Indian recipes (e.g., cardamom, coriander, curry, and garam masala), “Indian-inspired flavors,” like cardamom mocha, maple cumin, and maple curry spice blends may also be important flavors in 2019 (Foodingredientsfirst.com, 2018).  Interest in spice blends appears to appeal to U.S. consumers as the number of consumers who “prefer foods cooked with lots of spices” increased from 41.1% in 2013 to 44.1% in 2018 (Failla, 2019).    

Flavor profiles    

Over the past few years, umami has gained attention within the food industry.  Umami’s “unctuous, savory flavor is presented in high-glutamate foods like tomatoes, meat, and soy” (Mintel, 2018).  Another, koji mold, “a mold spore that typically ferments miso and soy sauce” is used on meats give “a more fermented taste” (Foodbusinessnews.net, N.d.).    

But another lesser-known taste sensation is kokumi.  Mintel’s 2018 US Flavor Trends report identifies kokumi as a food trend on the “fringe,” which is poised, “in the next five years,” to become more popular.  The “taste concept is associated with flavors achieved by slow-cooking, aging, and ripening.”    

Vegan and plant-based diets  

No longer a fad, according to an article published by The Economist, a quarter of U.S. Millennials between ages 25 and 34 claims to be vegetarians or vegans (Parker, 2018).  Consumers may choose to become vegan to lose weight, lower their blood sugar, and try to prevent diseases (Matthews, 2018).    

Whatever the reason, several articles cite a study conducted by GlobalData, which reports that between 2014 and 2017, the number of Americans who indicated they were vegans increase by 600% (Matthews, 2018).  To meet demand, school districts and fast food restaurants are offering vegan options on their menus (Matthews, 2018).    

There is often some confusion as to how vegans differ from vegetarians.  While vegetarians may eat dairy products and eggs, vegans do not eat or use animal products such as leather and fur. But those are not the only plant-based/plant-forward diets that consumers plan their meals around.  The flexitarian trend, for instance, still resonates with today’s consumer.  A flexitarian diet includes mostly plant-based foods but incorporates animable products and meat in moderation (Streit, 2018).    

The importance of plant-central meals goes beyond appealing to consumers based on their food choice philosophy, rather a food tend that has been suggested by several sources will focus on “hearty vegetables” such as cassava, Japanese yams, parsnips, jicama, and white potato (Foodbusinessnews.net, N.d.).    

Not only is there a need for the perfect pairing with plant-based cuisine, but there are a fair number of consumer-focused websites and articles that are educating vegans, vegetarians, etc. about fining agents used in the winemaking process.   An article published by Wine Enthusiast presented the various fining agents and indicated which were vegetarian (e.g., egg whites, casein), vegetarian and vegan (e.g., Poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone, bentonite), and neither vegan nor vegetarian (e.g., chitosan, isinglass) (Krebiehl, 2018).  The author also indicated that some vegans are even investigating whether wine grapes are grown using animal-based fertilizers such as bone meal or fish emulsion.   

U.K. retailer Majestic Wine has added symbols to their website (Majestic.co.uk) to alert customers selecting wine as to which ones are vegan (VE) and vegetarian (V).  Other retailers in certain European countries are also subscribing to this strategy.      

One way or another, whether it is reproducing restaurant meals at home, purchasing prepared food from supermarkets, or subscribing to meal delivery services (Reiter, 2018), consumers are eating at home more – and they need to know what wine to purchase and serve with these flavors.  Take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with prominent trends, listen to your customers, and provide recommendations that will help them have the best culinary experience possible.    

Wine consumer demographics and trends  

U.S. generations   

Before I describe who is drinking wine in 2019 and what has/is expected for this new year, here is a brief primer on U.S. generations, the birth years that define them, and the percentage of U.S. population in each.   

While there are slight differences in the years that mark the beginning/ending for each generation, according to the PEW Research Center (Dimock, 2019), the years that define them are below.   

Pertaining to the percentage of consumers in each generation.  Data published in the first-quarter of 2017 (Nielsen, 2017) described the percentage of consumers in each generation.  

How the generations are impacting the wine industry   

Mintel’s most recent Wine Report (Mintel, 2018) indicates that 55% of U.S. adults, age 22 and older, who participated in the September 2018 survey, drink wine.  This 55% includes a combination of those who drank wine “most often” (25%) and those who drank wine, but not as often as other beverages (30%).  The percentage of wine consumers was slightly lower than the percentage of beer drinkers (57%) but higher than consumers who drink white spirits (42%), dark spirits (35%), and other alcoholic beverages.  

As in the past, a fair amount of attention (and hope) is placed on Millennials becoming high frequency/high volume wine consumers.  According to an article published on BeverageDaily.com, about 28% of adult Millennials indicated that they “drink wine on a daily basis” (Newhart, 2019).  

Each January, the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division releases its State of the Wine Industry (McMillan, 2019). The report provides data on wine-consumer demographics, purchasing and consumption trends, winery owner confidence statistics, the economy, consumer sentiment, and similar.  The Millennial generation, because of its size and that all members are of legal drinking age, is the basis for much of the analysis of the health of the industry.  

As with the Beveragedaily.com article, one major point presented in the Silicon Valley Bank wine Divis report focuses on the Millennial generation’s wine consumption.  According to the author, while Millennials “hold slightly higher consumption shares in the $8-$11 bottle price points” they “aren’t engaging with wine as hoped.  They lack financial capacity, currently prefer premium spirits and craft beers, and have been slow getting into careers” (McMillan, 2019).   

It would be in the industry’s best interest to heed this information and not ignore other generations who are drinking more wine and spending more per bottle.  For example, during the period of 2015 to 2018, Millennials accounted for 16 to 17% of U.S. winery sales, while sales for the smaller Generation X cohort increased from 32 to 34%.  Winery sales for Boomers held steady at 40% for the four-year period. Boomers also account for a greater percentage of premium wine sales (McMillan, 2019).        

Upcoming blog posts will focus on alcohol product trends, consumer demographics, and strategies to consider for utilizing these data.    

References 

Barth, J. 2018. How we will drink wine in 2019: Trends according to winemakers and pros. December 13, 2018 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jillbarth/2018/12/13/how-we-will-drink-wine-in-2019-trends-according-to-winemakers-and-pros/#24b429123a9c 

Dimock, M. 2019. Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins.   http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/ 

Failla, J. 2019. International Food Trends US, January 2019.  Mintel. 

FoodBusinessNews.net. N.d. Ten cutting-edge culinary trends in 2019.  https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/media/photos/4009-ten-cutting-edge-culinary-trends-in-2019 

Foodingredientsfirst.com. 2018. Multicultural and pickled tastes among 2019 flavor trends tipped by Comax. https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/multicultural-and-pickled-tastes-among-flavor-trends-tipped-by-comax-for-2019.html 

Krebiehl, A. 2018. Is wine vegetarian, vegan or neither? WineEnthusiast. https://www.winemag.com/2018/05/09/vegetarian-vegan-wine/ 

Matthews, R. 2018. The vegan trend: Why so many people are changing their diets.  https://chicagodefender.com/2018/05/03/the-vegan-trend-why-so-many-people-are-changing-their-diets/ 

McmIllan, R. 2019. State of the wine industry report 2019. Silicon Valley Bank wine Division. https://www.svb.com/globalassets/library/images/content/trends_and_insights/reports/wine_report/svb-2019-wine-report 

Mintel. 2018. 2018 US Flavor Trends. The report, and other resources, can be downloaded by accessing this website: http://www.mintel.com/us-flavor-trends 

Newhart, B. 2019. State of the industry: What’s to come for alcohol for in 2019.  https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2019/01/03/State-of-the-industry-What-s-to-come-for-alcohol-in-2019 

Nielsen. 2017. The Nielsen U.S. total audience report: Q1 2017. https://www.nielsen.com/be/en/insights/reports/2017/the-nielsen-total-audience-report-q1-2017.html 

O’Brien Coffey, J. 2017. Five reasons to drink spiked sparkling water. Forbes.com https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanneobriencoffey/2017/08/14/five-reasons-to-drink-spiked-seltzer-now/#26799bbc415e 

Parker, J. 2018. The year of the vegan. The Economist.  https://worldin2019.economist.com/theyearofthevegan?utm_source=412&utm_medium=COM 

Reiter, A. 2018. Americans are cooking more meals at home, eating out less.  Foodnetwork.com. https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/news/2018/9/americans-are-cooking-more-meals-at-home–eating-out-less 

Streit, L. 2018. The flexitarian diet: A detailed beginner’s guide. HealthLine.com  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexitarian-diet-guide 

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