There’s a little science to predicting food trends — but there’s a lot of guesswork, too

“I don’t think any list is 100 percent objective, because we all have dreams of what we’d like to see,” said Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor for Nation’s Restaurant News.

Straddling the line, industry-watchers say, is Whole Foods — which, yes, uses its year-end list to promote its products, but also has its finger on the pulse. This year, the company is predicting good things for eco-friendly packaging, exotic ice cream, and snacks made of ocean greens beyond seaweed. (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, which shares an owner, Jeff Bezos, with The Washington Post — but that doesn’t mean our office break room is stocked with exotic ice cream.)

“At the end of the day, the consumer is in control of what trends truly take off, but we always hope to be the first place they go to find them,” said Rachel Bukowski, Whole Foods’ team leader for product development, in an email. “Probably the closest thing to a ‘miss’ that we see is when we’re a little too early on a trend.”

The fourth category, of course, is trend predictions that seem to hit the perfect sweet spot: Still under the radar enough, but gaining momentum, and poised to take off. For this year, that might include Peganism (paleo veganism), lab-grown meat, shelf-stable probiotics (active beneficial bacterial cultures in foods that don’t need to be refrigerated), as well as healthy desserts made with such ingredients as taro pudding and quinoa.