We are used to seeing new trends drawing inspiration from decades past, especially in the fashion industry. And in spirits, recent growth has come from the good old-fashioned brown spirits (whiskey, bourbon, rum. And now healthy food preferences are shifting backwards. Not just by decades but centuries.  This is a very important clue for healthy food marketing.

The Paleo diet has established a strong hold on the super-competitive fad-diet list, encouraging us return to a diet much like that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But fad diets aside, there are a few primitive foods that are shaping up to be huge areas of opportunity for healthy food brands.

  • Ancient grains – Beyond quinoa and farro, grains like spelt, amaranth and kamut are quickly finding their way onto consumers plates. These grains boast additional minerals, vitamins and proteins than. their better-known relatives. Although they have been around for ages (amaranth was a superfood to the Aztecs) brands are just tapping into ways to incorporate them into their offerings in everything from breads, to pancakes, to cereals-and at a premium price. According to a New York Times article by Vauhini Vara, sales of ancient grains are growing at triple digit growth as brands respond to consumer demand.

“At General Mills, market research and taste tests conducted by Alan Cunningham and his colleagues showed that consumers were taken with the concept of ancient grains, and were willing to pay a premium for products containing them.”

  • Kefir milk – Cited as “the next Greek yogurt” in Alexander C. Kaufman’s Huffington Post article, is another one to watch in healthy food marketing. Kefir milk and yogurts have recently seen strong growth. Touted for their protein content, probiotic and mineral levels, kefir products were once more of a regional specialty in eastern Europe. Fermented products are starting to see their time in the sun right now across the healthy food segment and kefir is poised to benefit.
  • Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables – Another area where consumers appear to be looking to turn back time is their produce. While heirloom tomatoes may be familiar fare for the average consumer, the health conscious consumer is looking for more variety for other benefits. In addition to better taste, they are looking to support small farmers and crop diversity, Matthew Kadey, R.D. noted in his article in Shape Magazine,

“While research comparing nutrient levels of heirlooms to garden-variety vegetables is sorely lacking, many nutritionists trumpet the nutritional prowess of vegetables that are allowed to ripen fully as Mother Nature intended, as opposed to being picked will still unripe and boxed up for the boat, airplane, or truck. Plus, selecting more old-timers at the market will increase the diversity of your diet, which will expose you to a greater number of disease-fighting compounds.”

So what actions do we need to take as health food marketers? Tune into some of the simpler more basic needs of our consumers, and evolve (or devolve in this case) our offerings.  Healthy food marketing is changing before our eyes.