TRENDS THIS WEEK:
Healthy Fast Foods? Not so fast!
By Gerald Celente
Trends Journal Publisher
20 May 2015
It’s all the rage. The stocks are flying high and it’s big news in the business media. However, what is being called a hot new trend in fast and healthy food chain-store restaurants is little more than a return to a way of life that has existed since the beginning of recorded history.
Organically-grown vegetables and free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef and poultry were the norm for eons, but now they have been rediscovered and branded as the next big thing.
And big it is. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Shake Shack are among an endless variety of hipster venues and food truck fleets selling farm-to-table and clean foods. They are the hot sizzle that’s adding a new twist to the saturated fast food sector of a Baby Boom era gone-by.
For the Trends Research Institute, healthy fast food is yesterday’s news. Two decades ago we coined the term “clean foods” (The New York Times, “Eating Well; A New Goal Beyond Organic: 'Clean Food,' February 7, 1996). In Trends 2000 (Warner Books, 1997), we forecast that the fast-food-health-food trend would be a new millennium money maker. As the stock prices prove today, it is just that. And for those business operators that stay on top of the trends and evolve with the times, growth and profit opportunities will continue to accelerate.
Buddha Burgers and Karma Cola
But as big as the clean food, farm-to-table trend is and as high as the profit potential and market penetration can reach in its current early growth states, it is nonetheless a micro-niche in the mass market world. How many Chipoltes, Paneras and Shake Shacks are there in the world compared to the number of McDonald’s, KFCs and Subways? It's nearly a 30-1 margin.
Again, while the trend is strong for clean foods/fast food, whether in the restaurant sector or on supermarket shelves, natural and organic product lines represent a small percentage of the total market sector.
Go to any major supermarket. Take a walk down any aisle. Look at the endless rows of low quality and chemically-laced soft drinks, soups, vegetables, meats, fresh and frozen foods that dominate the shelf space. Compare the quantities of those products to all-natural and healthy products. Then count the environmental-friendly detergents, pet supplies and natural health care products compared to multi-national, chemical-friendly and artificially-colored big name brands. Stop off at a convenience store. Look at the low quality, plastic-wrapped sandwiches. Look at the beverages, snacks, dairy and other products...small chance you'll find high-quality clean or environmentally-friendly options.
Trend Forecast: The clean and natural food trend will continue to advance. However, it’s pace of growth will directly reflect personal income levels. Lower income sectors will continue to find value in traditional junk fast food options out of economic necessity and convenience. Higher income sectors will be drawn to healthy fast food outlets. But as long as income growth is stagnant and the economy lags, the cheap-and-plenty fast food outlets will continue to dominate the landscape.
Gerald Celente is the founder and director of the Trends Research Institute in
Kingston, N.Y., and publisher of the Trends Journal and Trendsresearch.com.