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A return to home cooking, growing use of online and mobile food applications, a local focus, diverse flavors and a trend toward “green” cooking and eating are among the Food Channel’s Top 10 Trends for 2009.

The Top 10 list, which is based on Food Channel research conducted in conjunction with the World Thought Bank and the International Food Futurists, identifies the significant food movements that consumers, foodservice professionals and manufacturers should watch this year.

The Food Channel’s Top 10 Trends for 2009:

1. Home on the Range: The downsized economy is spurring return to home cooking and giving rise to a new generation of home chefs, more food-savvy than their predecessors:

  • Consumers will be learning more about cooking and flavors, turning to online sites and TV cooking shows, taking cooking classes, and sharing family recipes.
  • There will be an increase in slow and unattended cooking (Crockpot 2.0) and meals that offer convenience with economy and flavor.
  • Wii and other cooking gaming vehicles that are both fun and instructional will gain traction.

2. Foodie 2.0: In response to the growing desire for communities around food, both virtual and non-virtual food communities are gaining traction:

  • More online consumers will visit food websites with direct-to-Internet TV and greater interactivity, as well as make use of iPhone applications related to food and other mobile interaction.
  • There will be more Twitter exchanges, amateur restaurant reviewers on Yelp, and recipe widgets all take center stage.
  • The non-virtual community picks up too, though, with people returning to potlucks, cooperatives, food bartering and bulk buying/sharing.

3. Going, Going Green: Kitchens will go eco-conscious as the concept of “green” gets focused in the kitchen, particularly because “green” can mean efficiency and cost savings. In addition:

  • More restaurants will seek to gain “Certified Green” status to attract eco-conscious customers.
  • Fair trade certified will continue to factor into food choices.
  • More grocery stores will offer rebates for recycling or offer easy ways to go green starting at the checkout lane.

4. Living La Vida Locavore: There will be an increase in eating locally, both at home and in restaurants that buy from local farmers. This will give rise to:

  • Knowing the grower/celebrity farmers and having food literally branded to a region.
  • Eating seasonally, since local food equates with fresh. This also will be accompanied by an increase in urban gardening.

5. Too Much Information?: Seeing the calorie count on the menu, at all or in bold type may be either “too much information” (TMI), or will lead to healthier choices. In either case, information will lead to increased discussion about food ingredients:

  • More obesity-related legislation may be debated.
  • Expect to see the words “gluten free” used more frequently, along with more options for the diabetic.

6. FrankenFood: The rise of bioengineering and genetically modified food will lead to foods that have other benefits, including improving health:

  • Consumers will look for food that has a medical boost in other ways, with medicines or enhancements built into the engineered food.
  • There will be increased discussion and examination of food for its natural remedies.

7. Food Philanthropy: Individuals and companies will step up to try to remedy world hunger, to the point where addressing the need becomes almost automatic.

  • Food drives will be enhanced by that $1 donation at the grocery checkout lane, or the purchase of a pink ribbon label product.
  • More websites, more grocery stores, more charities will tie purchases to giving.

8. Food Insecurity: After the tomato and jalapeno scares of ’08, Americans will seek tighter controls around food. The US also will more in terms of preparation in case of disasters, such as the fires in California and hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.

  • The industry will see a resurgence in home canning.
  • There will be more information provided to consumers about food sources and food handling along the way.

9. Brewing Business: Americans are trying to retain select luxuries while cutting back when necessary for cost. This need strike a balance between good coffee and reasonably priced coffee will widen the divide between exotic and day-to-day food needs. As a result, the industry will see fast-food chains continuing to go after the specialty coffee crowd, but the Starbucks experience of an “affordable luxury” will still have a certain cache.

  • Expect a greater divide between the exotic brews that are far removed from fast food, and the daily fix at a lesser price.
  • This phenomenon will be apparent in other areas too, particularly where exotic items (such as chocolate) are competing with the day-to-day.

10. Where in the World?: 2009 will bring globalization and variety even further to the forefront. Though Americans will be making fewer trips abroad this year, there will still be the need to taste what’s new and exotic. Top flavor trends:

  • Peruvian and Middle Eastern flavors are moving into the mainstream.
  • There will be an increase in the use of spices to update flavors.

Additionally, the Food Channel also reports what it calls a “bonus trend,” Clandestine Cuisine, that will play off the new mobility possible around food. This trend incorporates a move toward underground restaurants, where consumers must be “in the know” to know where and when they are serving. This could give rise to website-checking activities to see where a local food trailer is going to be parked.

“Not surprisingly, the majority of the 2009 trends have a ‘value’ message, reflecting the downturn in the economy and how the lifestyle around food is affected,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “We live this daily; food is a constant even in a bad economy. Identifying these trends will help us all do a better job of adjusting and even thriving.”

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