New York…2018 is already shaping up to be a year of more innovation, creativity and expansion. In interviews with a half dozen food mavens, there was agreement that 2018 would be a year of moving more into the natural and organic, both as ingredients and as a blend for customary foods. “We’ve gone well beyond kale in incorporating new exotic and healthy veggies,” said one food expert. Several new restaurants will highlight thematic cuisines that go well beyond the traditional Eastern and Western menus. Whatever can be into an energy bar or the equivalent will end up on supermarket shelves. Innovation will also be the order of the day for the lucrative prepared food sections of supermarkets, particularly the independents. Upward of 500 new items will be introduced, some products that are tweaked, others simply part of line extension. One category destined for growth is non-alcoholic beverages and teas. Several chefs are stressing the growing focus on color as part of the perfect presentation. While calorie-counting may be a perennial exercise for many, there is a growing emphasis on such healthful ingredients as Probiotics. Overall, the industry is expected to again grow by double-digit numbers.