Around the first of the year, there are a number of “top trends” articles released to cover the full range of the food industry. Pick any food category out there, and you can find a list, from alcohol to jams & jellies. You want burger trends? Here you go, and have fun working on your breakfast burger. Want general consumer trends for meat? There are literally dozens of reports out there. We did one, of course.

Depending on the type of company you are, these trends reports may or may not be vital information. It all comes down to your customer base. Are you a national brand? Do you have a substantial presence on the East Coast or West Coast? If so, then you ought to pay attention. If the flavor of the moment is something from Argentina, Korea or western Africa, then it’s probably time to start experimenting with those flavors and see if it’s something you can incorporate into your portfolio.

If, on the other hand, you run a meat market in Nebraska or Mississippi, you may not be ready to jump onto the sriracha bandwagon. Your customers like what they like, and a taste trend that’s all the rage on the coasts may not even make a dent in your audience.

Still, you shouldn’t ignore taste or flavor trends. As a processor, you can be more than a trends follower. You can be a trends creator. The one thing that all meat companies have in common is that they can’t rest on their laurels. Product development should be a fun part of your job, and a chance to flex your creative muscle. Look at what spices or seasonings are trending and think about how to incorporate it into what you do. There’s no reason that a peri-peri sausage or snack stick can’t sell in a market with little to no knowledge of Portuguese cuisine. Experiment with it, test it with your customers and see if they will take to that flavor as much as their like your existing products.

Not every new product launch is a raging success. But new trends that reach American audiences represent opportunities for food companies, regardless of size.

Sam Gazdziak