I’m wondering which items will end up in the shopping cart this year? Potato chips or rice cakes? Pizza or spaghetti? French fries or potatoes? Will consumers during this recession eat more healthily or resort to junk food? Despite expectations that Americans will focus on health and wellness during the economic downturn, almost half of the Americans interviewed by internet trend market research company Trendsspotting say that they overeat or eat unhealthy foods in order to manage stress. The Dutch trend is a similar one. Over the past year, the Dutch have been consuming more traditional Dutch junk food, namely: “bitterballen” (a kind of mini-croquette served as an appetizer) and “kroketten” (croquettes). Dutch financial director of Royaan, producer of Van Dobben and Kwekkeboom “bitterballen” and “kroketten”, thinks people find solace in these products (Volkskrant). In other words: it’s comforting to eat these snacks. If American and Dutch consumers seem to crave junk food, will these consumers actually start buying more health and wellness products in 2009? Supposedly American consumers are increasingly more focused on how to avoid becoming ill during an economic crisis. Should the food industry concentrate on health and wellness and on building brand awareness, as international consulting firm Frost and Sullivan suggests? In order to be able to profit from consumer fear, Frost and Sullivan’s advice is to position familiar brands and recipes in a way which is reassuring, maximize brand exposure, and to emphasize the health and wellness aspects of products. Nowadays more Americans are staying at home to eat instead of going out to a restaurant. And I’m not quite sure whether this means that American eating habits have actually improved. Certainly the Dutch seem headed down the junk food lane. Since the last quarter of 2008, the Dutch are frequenting snack bars, lunchrooms and fast food restaurants, more often than other restaurants. “When the economy is not doing well, snacks are for many consumers an inexpensive alternative for a meal in a restaurant,” explains Dutch culinary journalist Johannes van Dam. Obviously money plays a role here; but so does the consumer approach to stress and illness. It should be interesting to see whether American and Dutch consumers will choose healthier fare this year or whether junk food sales will skyrocket.   Copyright photo: Pontus Edenberg, www.newsoffuture.com....