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Food labels, self-checkout among new trends

December 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Restaurant sales are on the rise and electronic technology is taking the grocery store by storm. Those are just two of many trends hitting the world of food.With a slow-to-go rebounding economy, our culinary pleasures come in small doses.

"Food trucks, of course, are a huge trend when it comes to out-of-home eating, but what we're finding is that those trends are actually influencing the flavors we see at the grocery store," said Krista Faron of monitoring company Mintel.

Faron said Mexican and Asian flavors remain popular, but more far-reaching with Korean, Indian and Vietnamese flavors.

A fringe concept gone mainstream, coconut water is a solid beverage trend backed by big companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who have invested millions in this healthy drink.

And take your smart phone with you to the market. Scan for barcodes, which can now tell you about the safety and eco-friendliness of a food.

Another big trend is more and more self-checkout counters.

"While there will continue to be an emphasis on self-checkout, people still always appreciate that human touch and that friendly face," said Faron.

"Of course I like to eat what I like, but I still try to look at the calories and the sugar take," said Dan Sabin of West Hollywood.

We have a continued interest in health, but now the focus is on things that are whole and natural rather than processed. Food marketers now are taking a look at once naked produce and putting nutrition labels on them so you can find out just how nutritious they really are.

"There's really been a move in the industry to standardize how we talk about nutrition, and that's why we'll continue to see more of these front-of-pack labels, even on inherently healthy foods like fruits and vegetables," said Faron.

Watch also for cuts in sodium and-- due to some negative perception--less use of high fructose corn syrup.

Morton's posted a sales increase, the first in a long time. But dining dollars show we are happiest at fast casuals like Panera.

And those government-mandated calorie counts for chains over 20 are slow to show, yet more restaurants are dedicating choices for health-conscious diners.


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