SCARBOROUGH, MAINE – Affordable nutrition, more consumers cooking at home, a focus on clean label and gluten free are four of the leading trends predicted to impact retail in 2015, according to Allison Stowell, a dietitian with Guiding Stars, the retail nutrition rating service.

The predictions are derived from Ms. Stowell’s personal observations as a retail dietitian, data from the International Food Information Council, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference this year, and what she sees occurring in food legislation.

“I’m in the stores three days a week just watching people’s habits and seeing what is guiding their purchases,” Ms. Stowell said.

The trends link to the Guiding Stars rating system, but the algorithm used to derive the nutritional value of food and beverage products is not adjusted based on the trends themselves. The Guiding Stars algorithm is reviewed and modified on a regular basis based on guidelines by the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel.

The trends Ms. Stowell has identified include:

Affordable nutrition

Moving forward, it will be key to make sure there is broader access to healthy food.

“There are so many more players in the food business, from big retailers to smaller stores providing food, and I think it’s going to bring down the prices,” Ms. Stowell said.

More home cooking

The idea of a staycation is transferring to the food industry, according to Ms. Stowell. Consumers are looking to get into the kitchen in efforts to create a healthy eating experience at home.

Clean eating

Consumers are looking for shorter and cleaner ingredient lists. This means whole food ingredients without unfamiliar additives. Ms. Stowell said the trend goes hand in hand with the home-cooking trend as people want to be more in control of the ingredients used when creating a meal.

Gluten-free labeling

Ms. Stowell said the gluten-free trend isn’t slowing anytime soon. In addition, manufacturers are taking advantage of foods that are innately gluten-free.

“You are going to see those food manufactures market it even more broadly and take advantage of the labeling standards as a way of appealing to that audience,” Ms. Stowell said.

If the food is naturally gluten-free, it’s a win-win for the company in terms of sales and for the gluten-free customer as well.

Smaller plates and portions

Plate sizes are about to be downsized. The prediction is partly due to the regulation mandating a listing of calories on some menus, which also will affect some retailers. To get around the caloric numbers, manufacturers will have to make the portions smaller.

Mindful approach to eating for weight loss

Similar to the smaller plate sizes, Ms. Stowell is predicting a more thoughtful approach to weight loss among consumers. In general, it’s trendy to take a deliberate approach and pay more attention to what we are eating. This is most likely going to play in through consumer food choices.

Coconut everything

Whether it is coconut oil, flakes or flour, the ingredient is going to continue to be popular in 2015. Ms. Stowell said it most likely won’t become the primary fat of choice in households due to its saturated fat content, but it will definitely be an “it” oil. Coconut will also continue to be used as an addition to bars and baked goods.

Redefining fat fears

The message to not fear fat will come through even louder as the conversation about labeling continues. Instead emphasis will be placed on the type of fat as opposed to the amount of fat. It’s more about being concerned with the source, rather than being concerned about fat intake in general, according to Ms. Stowell

Getting local

Consumers are demanding more transparency, so restaurants and even retailers are sourcing local items and using them as a point of differentiation.

Better-for-you options for on-the-go

“There is obviously a market for nutrition bars, so we are going to continue to see that in addition to products like fruit pouches for adults (with) dried fruit, and nuts,” Ms. Stowell said.