Next year’s Whole Foods

It’s been nearly a year and a half since Amazon ponied up almost $15 billion to buy Whole Foods. A lot was written about Amazon’s plans for the new acquisition: Amazon kiosks inside at least some of the 474 Whole Foods stores, lower pricing, new delivery options.

Under the radar, this question: what did Whole Foods customers actually want to buy? What did they buy in 2018? What will they buy in 2019?

Fortunately, some two dozen of the chain’s 87,000 employees get paid to ponder the issue. They are its team of global buyers, considered experts on what shoppers will want, not just this week but next year.

And the winner last year was (hang on, because this could become a meme): flowers. Or floral fragrances and flavors, in any event.

Foragers and culinary stars have embraced edible petals for years, but floral inspiration is finally in full bloom. From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics.

The Whole Foods outlook a year ago was for flowers “used like herbs in things like lavender lattés and rose-flavored everything.” Think pink hibiscus tea and elderflower petals in cocktails and bubbly drinks.

Case in point: a new line of Lime Mint Elderflower Italian Sparkling Mineral Water

Number three: mushrooms. Not just your traditional boletus, either, but “functional mushrooms.” More specifically, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane. You’ll find them in bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies, and, not surprisingly, tea.

In the same vein, trends like root-to-stem recipes, puffed and popped snacks, more Middle Eastern food, tacos for breakfast, and, finally alternative bubbly beverages (don’t call them “soda”).

LaCroix may have paved the way, but now there’s an entire category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention, and it’s growing.

So did you take note of all these predictions? How many did you buy? Is there any reason to pay attention to this exercise? 

Now on to 2019. “Pacific Rim” flavors (guava, dragon fruit, the Filipino sausage known as longganisa, dried shrimp, cuttlefish, and shrimp paste, according to Business Insider). Also stuff like shelf-stable pro-biotics. Ugh.

The short take-away: nobody knows nuttin.