By Lisa Abraham Akron Beacon Journal
It’s the time of year when all of the prognosticators put on their thinking caps, shuffle their Tarot cards and try to predict what’s in store for the food world in 2012.
Often, these predictions have the accuracy rate of Punxsutawney Phil. Recall last year when every food expert claimed that the cupcake’s reign was over? Here we are in 2012 with more cupcake shops than before.
For better or for worse, here is what we can expect in 2012.
Food prices will keep rising: Crops devastated by weather, rising fuel and packaging costs, and increasing global demand will send food prices up 2 percent to 3 percent on top of 2011 increases that exceeded 5 percent for some items.
The poster child for rising food prices this year will be everyone’s cupboard staple, the jar of peanut butter. Because of one of the worst peanut crops in history, peanut butter prices have been on the rise since fall and aren’t expected to drop anytime soon. Some estimates show that prices could increase by 40 percent before the year is over.
Frugality is the new normal: At the end of 2010, experts kept talking about frugal fatigue, but 2011 has showed us that frugality is really just the new normal for many.
People who haven’t seen pay increases in several years and whose job security continues to be precarious, aren’t rushing out to charge restaurant dinners three nights a week.
When we do eat out, we’ll be looking for the best value for our money. Burgers still fit the bill here and will continue to ride their three-year wave of popularity.
Healthy eating is here to stay: Experts predict that vending machines will continue their conversion from chips and chocolate to more healthful offerings. Look for offerings like bags of mini carrots, nuts, fruit and even hummus.
Baby boomers control the cash: Baby boomers, folks between the ages of 48 and 66, handle most of the money when it comes to food.
Social media reigns supreme: While boomers may control the money, youth has the tighter grip on how we communicate.
There’s an app for all things food, and younger folks will keep using their phones, tablets, Facebook and Twitter to tell the story of what they are eating, where they are eating it, and who they are eating with.
So, no, all of those folks taking photos of their plates in restaurants aren’t going away.
Locally sourced everything: A few years ago, tainted food scares sent folks looking for locally sourced produce.
We’re happy to have farmers, both large and small, to provide our meat, dairy and produce, as our networks of local farmers markets prove.