Back to January 2023

Pecans Make Their Mark on Top 2023 Food Trends

At the Not Pie Shop, Lexi Davidson of "Lexi's Clean Kitchen" demoed her recipe for Pecan Popcorn Chicken. (Photo courtesy of the American Pecan Council)

The way we buy, eat, and prepare food has significantly changed over the last year. Many of these changes resulted from attitude shifts (sparked by the pandemic), increased focus on climate change, personal health, and environmental issues. However, one of the biggest issues that has shaped current food trends is inflation. 

According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) U.S. Grocery Store Shopping Trends Report, more than two-thirds of shoppers (70%) say they are very or extremely concerned about rising food prices. Despite these concerns, however, the report states that most consumers would rather spend more money than give up their favorite foods, like pecans. That is good news for pecan growers and shellers.  

In addition to buying wisely, the FMI report also shows that consumers are generally preparing more foods at home, eating leftovers, avoiding food waste, and spending more time meal planning. These moves have significantly influenced food trends in the last year. Below are the three food trends resourceful pecan growers and shellers should consider when marketing pecans to their clients and customers. 

1. Classic Comfort Food Never Gets Old

Consumers will continue to crave nostalgic comfort foods, which are often childhood favorites. Comfort foods call upon happier times and help relieve the daily pressures of life, and many of these foods can be made cheaply at home or with less expensive ingredients or cuts of meat. Pecans fit the bill both ways. Many pecan-centric recipes have been around for generations and are viewed as a family tradition and meal-time staple throughout the year. Additionally, pecans are natural partners with low-cost local ingredients like sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or as a topping for salads.

Consider that many of these old-time favorites are also getting a “retro remix,” meaning nostalgic foods are being refashioned into more health-conscious and convenient products. Because pecans are nutritious, healthy, and indulgent, they are an ideal ingredient for adding value and zing to updated comfort foods. Many iconic pecan-filled dishes like pecan pie, pralines, and tartlets harken back to  Southern traditions, while newer meals like pecan-topped salads or pecan-crusted salmon can create more modern family favorites.  

2. Living and Loving Local 

The desire to support local vendors, farms, and ingredients will continue as consumers rely on foods closer to home. Pecans are the perfect local food, particularly throughout the Pecan Belt. Besides the transparency of knowing exactly where their food comes from, many consumers buy local, either in a supermarket or at an independently owned restaurant, in order to support the culture and community as well as promote a sense of place. 

While buying locally may not always be less expensive than buying the conventional way, many consumers believe the benefits can save money long-term. By supporting local vendors and neighborhood businesses, consumers can create a thriving economic community as well as have the opportunity to talk directly with the farmer and even buy in bulk.  

3. The Power of Poultry 

Chicken has become a popular food trend, especially in the foodservice category, as fried chicken sandwiches are top picks on restaurant menus. Many of these poultry menu items will feature unusual ingredients, sweet-heat or fiery spices, and interesting add-ons to make them stand out among consumers. Pecans are in-demand due to the unique flavor and texture they bring to offerings, such as pecan fried chicken tenders or pecan cranberry chicken salad. They are an ideal component to increase value and add an indulgent quality. On the home front, consumers enjoy chicken as less expensive cuts, like thighs and legs, are surging in popularity. 

Pecan’s health benefits, versatility, and familiarity allow this nut to fit into many new and existing food trends. These are just three 2023 food trends that pecan growers and shellers can play off of when marketing their pecans to consumers early this new year.

Author Photo

Diane Welland

Diane Welland MS, RD, is the Director of Nutrition Communications at the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA). NPSA supports and promotes the interests of pecan shellers and the global industry to assure the quality, safety, and integrity of pecan products worldwide.