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Top Food Trends: Brussels Sprouts, Pea Protein And Oats

Outpost Natural Foods
Plant-based foods and diets remain to be the top grocery trend leading into 2020, according to Outpost.

As we embark on this next decade, let's reflect on the major events of the last 10 years. One topic that's always on people’s minds is food — and food trends. Whether you're reevaluating your relationship with food or are determined to try the latest diets, one thing we can count on is a grocery store to fill our changing food needs.

"Right after the recession, there seemed to be a new wave of people's interest in natural and organic [foods]," notes Pam Mehnert, general manager of Outpost Natural Foods Co-op. "We saw a lot of the supermarkets picking up some of the same products that we were selling and it's now a mainstay — it's not a niche market anymore."

Outpost has been in Milwaukee for the past 50 years, and it has definitely seen and survived its fair share of food and grocery trends. Whether it's the rise of the chickpea, the explosion of yogurt options, seltzers, avocado toast, or plant based eating — they’ve seen it all. But what food trends are swaying our appetites as we move into 2020?

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Lisa Malmarowski, Outpost's director of brand and store development, says, "We’ve been that place where people go — and we still find that we are that place where people come to find the newest food trends or plant-based foods in this case, it’s definitely been an ongoing trend for us. But we’ve seen it honestly explode the last couple of years, and this year it’s poised to really be big."

One of the vegetables leading the plant-based trend is brussels sprouts, according to Malmarowski. "We like to say that brussels sprouts this year are the new kale," she says. And while kale hasn't gone away, it's opened the door to the world of cabbages and foods that have a "humble and homely reputation."

"People are finding that they're really adaptable. They either have their great own sweet, nutty flavor or they're a great way to masquerade or be in place of carbs," Malmarowski adds.

Credit Brent Hofacker / stock.adobe.com
Brussels sprouts have exploded in popularity as more recipes have featured different methods to cook them.

Cauliflower has also taken over as a popular plant alternative to typically carb-loaded foods. "[You can] eat it on its own — it's great, it's tasty, but it can also sit in for rice and it can also be a pizza crust. So those vegetables have really stepped up in people's minds," says Malmarowski.

Oats have also stepped up their game from once being a bulk-only item. "Oats can become a milk, but they can also become an ingredient in food to add more protein and more texture. They're really sustainable, too," she notes.

Pea and bean proteins are now even found in things like ice cream, according to Malmarowski. "There's fat in them, there's protein and it can just masquerade as a dairy product," she says. It's also taking the lead in crunchy snacks and even burgers.

However, there's a food trend that has not been good for Wisconsin — and that's the rise of dairy substitutes.

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However, "it's a matter of balance" and riding out the trend, according to Mehnert. "There's delicious foods coming from Wisconsin ... so we try to promote all of it because one particular diet maybe back in the '70s and '80s was great, and now we're trying to meet people where they're at."

One food trend that isn't edible is reducing use of plastic and packaging. Outpost recently switched from plastic produce bags to compostable ones, but Malmarowski says they're committed to "starting at home" and eliminating their use of single-use petroleum-based plastics in their production by 2023.

"We believe as a good corporate citizen we need to take action," adds Mehnert.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.