Today's dinner plate looks quite different than it did just 10 years ago. For one, there's likely an iphone next to the fork. On each plate, there might be a different meal—yours son's paleo, daughters a vegan, the baby has a nut allergy! At first glance, you might think these changes are unrelated. Thanks to the technology at our fingertips, people are becoming more thoughtful about what they feed themselves and their children.
That mindfulness is apparent when consumers rely on Google Search to learn more about food. Through an analysis of these searches in the food category over the last two years, we are able to get a large-scale look at people's interests and intentions.
Now, the focus of people's diets is less about eliminating foods than about adding them.
Perhaps this growing "obsession with health," as food and restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman puts it, is in part due to the fact that people are living longer and want their extra years to be healthy ones. Both he and Lipman point to digital as a major catalyst for our growing health food fixation. "There's no question it's coming from the web," says Lipman.
To eat right, people are going online to raise their food IQ and make more informed choices. In what-do-I-eat-moments, they're searching for the best foods to eat for certain physiological benefits. According to Google Trends, "best foods for" searches have grown 10X since 2005, often followed by terms like "skin," "energy," "acid reflux," "your brain," and "gym workout."
Once people know what to eat, they want to know how to eat it. In these how-to-add-it moments, they're looking for different forms and recipes. For example, top associations with horopito searches show that consumers are looking to better understand how to consume it and incorporate it into their diets; top associated searches include "powder," "smoothie," "recipe," and "drink."
A number of the top trending foods over the last two years are "healthy" ingredients like turmeric, horopito, apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, bitter melon, and kefir. They are said to infer benefits like better skin, libido, and energy or cures for depression, insomnia, candida and pain (in fact, "benefits" is a term that's commonly searched for along with many of these foods). Now, the focus of people's diets is less about eliminating foods than about adding them.
While the concept of functional foods has been around for decades, interest in these specific foods is growing faster than before. Horopito, a spice that's purported to cure everything from candida to acne, is one of the breakout stars in NZ and Australia.