Shared from HuffPost

So long, kale and avocado. Food industry analysts predict the next big produce trends.

seaweed
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Before kale was kale, it primarily functioned as a decorative accent on the Pizza Hut salad bar. But that was before everyone learned of its antioxidant benefits, when people starting writing kale cookbooks and farm production of kale rose 60% between 2007-2012 to meet demand for the leafy green.

Kale is not an anomaly in the produce section, as every once in a while a fruit or vegetable will capture the attention of the American public at large, and interest in it will skyrocket. We spoke to two analysts who study food trends in America to help figure out the next fruits and veggies you’ll be obsessed with.

It used to be that chefs would solely dictate the food trends. That’s not the case anymore, according to Melissa Abbott, vice president of culinary insights for The Hartman Group. “The best way to understand where trends are coming from is looking toward the progressive consumer, the one who is proselytizing about anything and everything,” Abbott said. “I don’t call them foodies ― they’re culinary obsessives. We spend a lot of time with them, and the chefs that are really pushing the envelope. We’ll look at their menus, look at their pantries and fridges.”

Social media also has an effect on what will be the next fruits and veggies to capture the public’s interest. Chefs scroll through Instagram looking for the next new food, and trends also come from unexpected sources. “We’re even seeing agriculture playing a bigger role,” Abbott said. “Anthropologists are out in the jungle finding amazing things in the Amazon or Peru. It’s not just chefs anymore. It’s coming from all places.”

And with that, here are the fruits and veggies that are predicted to soon be on the tips of everyone’s tastebuds:

Seaweed

Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group, sees the popularity of this sea vegetable increasing.

“One of the fastest-growing items at restaurants is seaweed,” Seifer told HuffPost. “It’s also spilling over into the home through snack foods. We’ve seen seaweed chips show up in grocery stores.”

It doesn’t hurt seaweed’s popularity that it has potential health benefits, which is part of a larger trend Seifer sees with regard to plant-based foods. “I think in the last decade, we’ve been introduced to the notion that food either has healing or sustaining power to it,” he said. And that’s something consumers are actively looking for when they fill up their shopping carts.

Jackfruit

Southeast Asia has long been a consumer of jackfruit, which is often used as a vegan protein for its meat-like quality when cooked. But consumption has recently increased stateside. “It’s benefited from consumers moving toward the plant-based burger world,” Seifer said. “It’s another way that restaurants can use plants to mimic meat. For many of the same reasons, there’s health reasons for why consumers are moving toward plant-based burgers. It’s better for them.”

Restaurants are not alone in raising awareness of jackfruit, as food manufacturers like The Jackfruit Company and grocers like Trader Joe’s also seem poised to capitalize on the trend.

Honeynut Squash

Nope, it’s not butternut squash, but it’s close! With the help of Dan Barber, chef/co-owner of the famed Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a Cornell plant breeder developed this tinier-looking version of a butternut squash.

“It’s intensely flavored ― way more than a traditional butternut squash ― and you don’t have to use as much butter or maple syrup,” Abbott said. “It’s much easier to cook and chop. You don’t have to cut it in half. We’re seeing more and more retailers pick up honeynut squashes.”

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