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Americans' Surprising Food Vows for 2013

Salads, probiotic nuts and the ubiquitous cup of yogurt with fruit are slowly replacing breakfast, lunch and dinner . / Credit: Vegetable stand image via Shutterstock

Even more than wealth, good health is at the top of consumers' to-do lists for 2013, a new survey shows. So jumping aboard the health wagon while it's still picking up speed may be a savvy move for marketers and retailers in the coming year, experts say.

The top five consumer health trends for 2013 will be food-waste consciousness, wellness in the workplace, mini-meals and snacking, mainstream veganism and gluten-free diets, according to a national survey of 2,800 adults conducted by the Values Institute at DGWB, a social science research group.

Consumers are increasingly adopting the ethos of "waste not, want not," especially in the kitchen, the survey found. Almost four in 10 Americans (39 percent) feel guilty about trashing food, more so than any other "green" sin. Since some waste is unavoidable, though, communities and corporations alike are looking for ways to convert compostable scraps into disposable cash. Marin County, Calif., has begun processing wasted food from local groceries and restaurants to generate electricity, and Starbucks has found a way to recycle coffee grounds and baked goods into laundry detergent.

Employers are realizing that working health into the corporate agenda benefits waistlines and bottom lines. With health care costs expected to rise 7 percent, companies are improving employees' health and minimizing health care expenditures by adding wellness programs. The survey predicts that we will see more discounted gym memberships, group Weight Watchers accountability plans, and active-design workspaces this year.

The trend toward mini-meals and snacking is expected to accelerate this year, as research has shown that those who eat between meals tend to have healthier diets. Already, snacks make up one of every five eating occasions in the U.S., the survey found. Especially prevalent is the advent of multiple mini-meals in place of the standard three squares a day. Salads, probiotic nuts and the ubiquitous cup of yogurt with fruit are slowly replacing breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Last year's rise of the flexitarians is foreshadowing a trend toward meatless eating and outright veganism, vegetarianism's older brother, the survey found. Consumers seeking exotic natural ingredients like jackfruit and quinoa have helped turn the tide, especially as increasingly popular Asian and Indian flavor profiles that turn their backs on animal products. The survey foresees the migration of herbivore-accommodating menus to mid-America from restaurants on both coasts next year.

Next year will witness even more Americans making the decision to go against the grain, the survey found. The past year saw an influx of gluten-free products as everyone and their brother started shunning their Wheaties. Gluten has joined carbohydrates and corn syrup as ingredients Americans love to leave out. From grocery stores and gastro-pubs to brands like Betty Crocker and Domino's, the food industry is taking advantage of this new, not-so-niche need.

"Our 2013 findings are consistent with the growing importance of health in America  – if not yet as a daily routine, then certainly as a primary goal for three out of four consumers," said Mike Weisman, president of the Values Institute at DGWB. "More than ever, health is the new prestige barometer  – meaning that most Americans would rather be called healthy than wealthy. Certainly this trend will have major implications for marketers and retailers looking to sway consumer opinion in 2013 and beyond."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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