What do dads, frozen peas and smartphones have in common?
They're all on Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert's list of food trends to watch for 2013.
Lempert, a consumer trend-watcher and analyst (maybe you've seen him on "The View"), predicts that frozen foods and snacks will move into the supermarket spotlight while dads and Millennials get more comfortable in the kitchen.
"Not only will there be an increase in male and Millennial grocery shoppers, but there will be a dramatic shift in the sizes of meals and an emphasis on frozen food," says Lempert, who works closely with ConAgra and retailers across the country. "Consumers are looking for food to prepare quickly and conveniently while offering fresh, high-quality ingredients and homemade taste."
Here are some of the topics on the front burner:
Snacking and mini-meals: Smaller bites and more frequent eating patterns will reduce overall portion size and increase variety. Restaurants will add more small plates and appetizers to the menu while grocery stores will offer new snacks with appropriate pre-portioned options to take the guesswork out of portion sizes.
Evolution of frozen foods: According to NPD Group's National Eating Trends, despite the popularity of food shows and cookbooks fewer meals are made from scratch (59 percent in 2011, down from 72 percent in 1984). Enter frozen fruits and vegetables, which, according to the FDA contain virtually the same nutrients as their fresh counterparts and provide a shortcut to meal prep. Portion-controlled packages may even mean less wasted food.
Boon for breakfast: According to the NPD Group, 90 percent of U.S. consumers say they eat breakfast every day, but the new focus is on what foods are best to eat for breakfast. Expect lean proteins (eggs, Greek yogurt) to become as common as a bowl of Rice Krispies.
Smart home, smartphone: Sure smartphones are handy for checking recipes while you're shopping, but the newest wave of technology includes phones that network with kitchen appliances and allow users to check how much milk they have left in the refrigerator and turn on the oven from another room. Soon, Lempert says, mobile apps may determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature farm to freezer and even test for foodborne bacteria.
I wonder when I can get a phone that will do the actual cooking?
The next 'super food'? Aside from a bout of pink eye, my family has been pretty darn healthy this winter. Maybe it's because we all got our flu shots, or maybe it's because we've been munching on aroniaberries.
Specifically we've been eating Superberries' gummy chews made from 100 percent aroniaberry concentrate.
Aronias contain high doses of disease-fighting antioxidants, more than blueberries, and have been shown to prevent cell damage better than raspberries and goji berries.
But could it be the next "super food?" Maybe. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, "total anthocyanin content in chokeberries (another name for aroniaberries) is 1480 mg per 100 g of fresh berries," placing it "among the highest measured in plants to date."
The Superberries product line includes 100 percent Pure Aroniaberry Concentrate ($29.95 for a 30-day supply) that contains a full seven pounds of aroniaberries in every bottle. I prefer the 100-calorie pack Aroniaberry Gummy Chews ($19.95 for 12 ounces) that I can toss into my purse and the boys' lunchboxes.
If you prefer whole foods, look for frozen Aroniaberries ($24.95 for 32 ounces -- there's a $5 coupon) that are grown and harvested in America and can be mixed into muffins, parfaits and any recipe calling for berries.
Superberries products are available at local Fruitful Yield stores and other health food outlets. Or, order online at superberries.com.
Soup season: Meet Soupalooza columnist M. Eileen Brown at 7 p.m., Jan. 9, at Cook Memorial Public Library District's Vernon Hills facility.
Brown, a longtime "soupaholic" who writes a monthly column (watch for this month's dispatch on Jan. 30), will talk about why soup is a perfect outlet for culinary creativity. She will also share samples of her split pea and tomato soups.
The soup event is free and open to the public. The library is at 701 Aspen Drive. (224) 513-3751.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at email@example.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend on Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.