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Food trends lean toward healthful, home-cooked and comfortable

Our troubling economy, concerns about the environment and the desire to prevent age-related ailments are behind many of the top food and nutrition trends that will shape supermarket shelves and restaurant menus this year.

Recession-proof eating: Comfort food, nostalgic brands and at-home cooking are back in style. Expect more focus on maximizing nutrition on a budget.

Stress reducers: We'll be seeing new foods and beverages said to help us de-stress, such as Dasani Plus Calm + Relax water, Arizona Rx Stress tea and Blue Cow relaxation drink. Chill-out claims will likely increase as companies spike products with purported calming ingredients, including botanicals (kava-kava and chamomile) and amino acids such as GABA, L-theanine and tryptophan.

Snooze foods: The ultimate relaxers are foods that promise a better night's sleep. Nearly 30 foods and beverages were launched last year as natural sleep remedies, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database. These include a hot cocoa drink and chocolate "pillow" with melatonin created by Dreamerz Foods (dreamerz.com).

Condition marketing: From your brain to your bones — marketers will be touting multitasking products that promise to deliver against multiple conditions — for example, fiber-rich foods that boast digestive-health, cholesterol-lowering and appetite-curbing benefits.

Pure and simple: Quality will be redefined to mean few and familiar ingredients, according to Jarrett Paschel, an analyst with the Hartman Group, a market research firm in Bellevue, Wash. Instead of "medicalized eating styles," he predicts a return to foods that are naturally rich in nutrients. As consumers look for more authentic and real foods, manufacturers will focus on ingredient labels that herald the products as "clean" and artificial-free.

Defensive foods: The number of foods and beverages claiming to strengthen the immune system has tripled in the last year, according to Mintel, citing a growth in probiotics and products rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Allergy-friendly: The number of people who claim to suffer from food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities continues to grow, creating a lucrative market for new products, said California-based trend expert Elizabeth Sloan. Even though the allergy enthusiasts may be disproportionate to the actual medical incidence, the increased concern has driven companies like Allergy Friendly Foods (allergaroo.com) to create a line of products for kids that is free of the eight major food allergens.

Inflammation fighters: Researchers have long linked inflammation to a wide array of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and even obesity. Evaluating foods based on their anti-inflammatory potential may be the next big thing, which is something you can do at nutritiondata.com.

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Food trends lean toward healthful, home-cooked and comfortable 02/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 2, 2009 2:39pm]

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