Food bloggers, recipe developers, menu planners and those who love new and interesting fruits and veggies will want to know what the newest trends in produce are! Here's our recap straight from our visit to the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's annual trade show.
This post is sponsored by Half Your Plate - fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack to fulfill your daily intake of veggie goodness!
We had the good fortune to attend the recent Canadian Produce Marketing Association's annual trade show as guests of Half Your Plate. You all know we're big champions around here of the Half Your Plate message - which may just be the easiest reminder of how to get your daily fill of fruits and veggies - just fill half your plate at every meal and snack. Easy peasy!
One of our favourite parts of attending the event every year is seeing all the delicious ways you can fill half your plate. And every year, new trends pop out at us. So this year, we thought we'd share with you some of the things you're going to be seeing in the coming months at your local green grocer, grocery store or market.
Here's our Top Trends in the Fruits and Veggie World
1. The Potato
The potato can get a bad rap sometimes and it shouldn't - it's packed with nutrients, it's inexpensive and it's often one of the most local crops you can buy all year round. But the mighty potato is fighting back this year.
White, gold, red... those have been staple potato colours for years. Purple and blue potatoes popped up a few years ago and now they're out in full force. Virtually every potato grower we saw had a purple or blue variety on the market this year and The Little Potato Company even has a trio of purple, gold and red mini potatoes available.
And don't forget the baked potato - we saw multiple companies packaging potatoes all ready to pop in the oven or on the grill - complete with foil wrapping. Crack those babies open, let the steam out and top with all your favourite fixings. Dinner does not get any easier than that!
2. Bite Sized Flavour - Mini Veggies Are On The Rise
If there's one trend that stood out at virtually every booth it's the rise of the mini vegetable. There's the usual baby carrots and cherry or grape tomatoes but this year they were accompanied by mini cucumbers (or CUTEcumbers as Mucci farms calls them), eggplants, peppers, potatoes, baby green blends, pretty edible flowers and a plethora of baby citrus varietals.
But perhaps our favourite of them all was the personal sized spaghetti squash. That's right - a spaghetti squash that feeds one - perfect for stuffing and creating a whole meal. With single person households now outnumbering multi-person households in Canada, we expect to see more items like this hitting markets in all parts of the grocery store!
3. Asian Flavours
There's no doubt that Asian flavours is a big category. But it's one that's definitely trending up. Pre-packaged bagged Asian greens like bok choy were available from multiple growers as well as Asian inspired flavour pastes and salad kits. Bold flavours are definitely popular right now.
4. Veggies... Are You Ready For Your Closeup?
Trends are interesting things... while this article is about the trends that are coming at us from the produce industry, it was interesting to see a trend from the blogging and social media world influencing the farming world. There was absolutely not doubt about it - more and more varietals were popping up that are camera ready and dying to hit instagram feeds! Some examples?
- edible flowers that should be easily available in your grocery store soon
- an emphasis on herbs and micro greens
- premium varietals with more vibrant colours and flavours, like Houewllings Delights Premium Cherry Tomatoes and the new, sweet, striped Aloha Pepper from Sunset Farms
- multi coloured potatoes, beets, carros (Bolthouse farms has a new organic baby rainbow carrot mix)
- pre-packaged spiralized veggies like zucchini, sweet potatoes and more
- beets - everyone knows beets look gorgeous on camera either in their raw form or added to other dishes for a splash of colour
Speaking of beets - this is another veggie that's due it's turn in the spotlight and it looks like that's about to happen. Pre-bagged red beets, candy cane beets and golden beets were everywhere. Pre-peeled beets have been packaged up to make prep easier. And pickled beets are on the rise. You will be seeing a lot of beets this fall!
6. Time-Savers for Meal Preppers
Meal prepping is still trending high and producers and packagers are paying attention. From foil wrapped potatoes ready for the oven to flavour pastes and herb pastes, to complete meal kits, time savers were everywhere. While previously it's been easy to find pre-peeled carrots and stir fry packs, growers have gone even further with multiple variations on prepped cauliflower, sweet potatoes, beets, zucchini and more.
Sunset farms has even come out with an entire pasta meal kit complete with pasta, seasonings and fresh veggies. (we tried them - they were delicious).
There was a lot of inventive packaging this year. The greenhouse growers have found unique ways to package to up bite sized tomato varieties with baby sweet peppers and mini cucumbers to create lunch box sized snack packs that are bright, fun and inviting for little hands.
Nuts, dried fruits and dates were also heavily branded and packed in "on the go" containers to appeal to the energy snack market - they make for a nice alternative to energy bars and drinks. Some were flavoured but many were left untouched for a true, one ingredient energy bite. Interestingly, a few producers have also moved into the kombucha and juice space as well!
8. Giving Back
One item that really caught our eye that wasn't quite a trend (but we'd love to see it become one) was the Grower Give Back Pack launched jointly between Sobey's and Red Hat Cooperative consisting of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. For every pack sold Red Hat donated an equal amount of produce to local food banks. The initial goal was to donate 250,000 lbs of produce. Within two months of launching the campaign, they had exceeded that goal by 30%. What a great idea!
Still One Of Our Favourites
There's no question that greenhouse growing has become a big part of farming in Canada, particularly in BC and Ontario which has allowed Canadians to have access to, in many cases, varieties that are locally or Canadian grown almost year round like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, eggplants and now.. the strawberry! We first saw the Mucci Smucci Sweet Strawberry last year and they're back again and more growers are looking at greenhouse strawberries. The berries are red, super sweet and delicious! We hope that's a trend we see more of!
Do You Shop For Local, Seasonal Produce?
One stat that really popped out at us during the event is that 3 out of every 4 dollars spent by consumers on produce in Canada is spent on imported produce! So despite the encouragement to shop local, there is still a long way to go before Canadians are even close to eating a majority of home grown fruits and veg! We hope that's a trend that we see happening soon.
More Fruit and Vegetable Deliciousness
Watermelon Salad With Cucumber, Feta and Mint
Sam at My Kitchen Love made this refreshing, kid friendly six ingredient Watermelon, Cucumber, Feta and Mint Salad after her experience at the CPMA show this spring. It will delight the whole family and it's great for easy summer entertaining.
What You Need To Know Before You Go To the Grocery Store
Puneeta from Maple and Marigold had her own take on the CPMA show and was able to take away 8 great tips for navigating produce at the grocery store - everything from learning more about how produce is packaged to why you can now find lettuce nestled in its root bed or tomatoes on the vine (and why those are important!).
Savoury Oatmeal With Spring Veggies
When you accompany a chef to a convention centre packed with produce you just know their wheels are going to be turning, coming up with delicious ways to use all those beautiful ingredients. Chef Heidi Fink was no exception and went for a savoury take on breakfast with this Savoury Oatmeal with Spring Veggies - power bowl to start your day!
Zucchini Noodle Salad Rolls
Lisa from Lisa Dawn Bolton and the author of our Food Styling Tips and On Board in 20 columns was inspired by the beauty of all that beautiful produce at the CMPA show and turned that inspiration into these stunning, but quick and easy to make Zucchini Noodle (zoodles!) Salad Rolls. Finger food for the whole family!
We hope this has inspired you to get busy in your kitchen filling up half your plate with the literal rainbow of fruit and veggies available to us here in Canada!