Are you a ‘wildatarian’ or a ‘locavore’? Chances are you may be keeping up with the latest food trends, even if you don’t know what these words mean.
It’s pretty simple when you break it down: A ‘locavore’ is someone who only eats produce that has been sourced locally, and a ‘wildatarian’ is someone who usually only eats plant-based, but will include meat in their diet when they know where it has come from and can be sure it was ethically sourced.
The latter is a core lifestyle concept of My Food Bag founder and chef Nadia Lim, whose Royalburn Station in Central Otago is one of the largest wildatarian farms in New Zealand.
‘Locavore’, meanwhile, might be a fancy new word, but at its core it’s about familiar sustainability values, says Trish Whitehall, head of innovation at My Food Bag, which has now been providing meal kits to Kiwi diners for a decade.
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“During Covid, when there were supply issues, [some of] our competitors couldn’t get pork because they import it, but we didn’t have any of those issues,” Whitehall says, describing how 98% of My Food Bag’s ingredients are “local fresh produce and protein”.
“We feel fortunate that we stuck to our guns on sourcing local. Understanding where it comes from is a better way to do business.”
Whitehall has had a front-row seat as Kiwi eating preferences have rapidly shifted in the modern era, particularly during her seven years with My Food Bag.
“When I first started, ‘express’ meals were 30 minutes,” she says. “Now 30 minutes is the slowest, unless you’re using a slow cooker.”
These days, Whitehall says My Food Bag customers want recipes where ingredients come pre-chopped, pre-marinated, and sometimes only need a zap in the oven.
“After Covid, a lot of Kiwis were wanting to cook and create at home, due to the skills they may have learnt during lockdown and dining out being so expensive,” Whitehall says.
“But they didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, so we’re trying to bridge that gap. It’s not about fancy dinner parties, but about everyone mucking in and grabbing a plate.”
It’s a constant dance trying to stay one step ahead of emerging food trends, with new hits like polenta chips jostling around “products that have been around for ages, like tofu”.
My Food Bag also now offers a meal selection called “Hashtag Trending”, where customers can choose recipes that have gone viral on TikTok, for example the feta pasta bake – cherry tomatoes and a block of feta baked in the oven then mixed with pasta – which was so huge when it first emerged that some grocery stores completely sold out of feta, according to the New York Times.
“We created ‘Hashtag Trending’ for people who see a recipe online, but then don’t want to go out and find the ingredients, or they lost the video of the meal they wanted to make,” says Whitehall.
However, she and her team don’t just take the internet popularity as gospel, and each viral recipe is tested in their kitchen before it is released to the masses.
“If they’re no good, we’re not going to do it,” she says.
Whitehall says the most significant global food trend is the rise of veganism and vegetarianism.
“Ten years ago My Food Bag offered one vegetarian recipe per week,” she says. “Now we have around 14 vegetarian or vegan recipes on offer every week across our brands and products.”
One of the big factors, Whitehall says, was the 2018 release of Netflix documentary The Game Changers, which explored the negative impact agricultural farming had on the environment.
It’s prompted a shift in the way Kiwis think about food. Previously, people defaulted to meat as their main source of protein – still the case for many of us – but Whitehall points to advice from Nadia Lim to illustrate how that’s changing.
”She always says to not think about the meat first, and instead build around the veggies, make veggies the hero.”
As for what trends are coming next? Whitehall says she’s seeing a rise in demand for Korean cuisine: “We’ve been making a lot of yummy slurpy noodle recipes.”