Folks who keep their fingers on the pulse of America’s food industry have some predictions for what’s going to tickle our taste buds in this new year. Such as:
It’s time for kale, a culinary darling the past few years, to pass the torch — to seaweed.
Sriracha needs to move over on grocery store shelves to make room for more exotic hot sauces such as sambal or harissa.
Meal-kit delivery services such as Blue Apron and Plated will continue to take a bite out of restaurant sales.
And marijuana is for much more than smoking. From cookies to gummy bears to handcrafted THC-infused chocolates, edible cannabis will continue to gain traction as more states legalize weed for recreational use.
Specifics vary among the many trend forecasts that have landed in our inbox over the past few weeks, but there is some consensus among the prognosticators, who rely on scientific research and intuition to come up with their lists. Both the National Restaurant Association and James Beard Foundation editors say food waste reduction, in commercial kitchens and at home, will continue to be a hot trend. So will a continued emphasis on locally sourced meat and produce.
Food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman report that vegetables (spiralized and otherwise) will take the place of pasta as the new comfort food, and plant-based burgers — including some that appear to “bleed” — will feed America’s appetite for clean eating. Unless, of course, you buy into the “butcher-to-table” trend, in which consumers are served “all manner of charcuterie, innards and odd parts, and newfangled cuts of meat.”
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based firm also predicts breakfast will become the new brunch. (Breakfast sandwiches are more popular than ever, and the nation also has a growing obsession with morning fried chicken.) As for spice, the more the better, especially when it comes to curry blends and Middle Eastern hot sauces.
McCormick’s flavor forecast says baharat — a fragrant Middle Eastern blend of cumin, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, coriander and paprika — will be this year’s all-purpose seasoning. Other spices expected to catch the spotlight include whole peppercorns, smoked paprika and smoky-sweet espelette pepper from France.
Also expect to see more meals in a bowl, often made with ancient grains such as sorghum, millet and teff. Alternative proteins such as soybean spaghetti, edamame and mung bean fettucine and bean-protein cereals (such as Power O’s) also are expected to take off. And, no, it’s not just those with gluten sensitivities who will partake.
Whole Foods Market, meanwhile, expects “creative” condiments such as plum jam with chia seeds and beet salsa to have their day. The eco-minded grocery chain, which has more than 460 stores across the U.S., further predicts that purple foods — plum-colored cauliflower, asparagus and potato chips — will surge in popularity, along with tonics containing botanicals.
And don’t forget about coconut. It’s going to show up in just about everything, says Paul Abbott, director of Giant Eagle Market District Center store.
“Oil, chips, flavored things, butter, vinegars, sugar — coconut is showing up in a lot of places,” he says.
He also predicts a growing interest in alternative snacks, such as beet chips, and animal-based fats such as ghee, pork lard and duck fat, “which is a very common ingredient in trendy restaurants.”
Not so common while eating out but certainly trending upward is edible cannabis. a niche market that is estimated to grow to $22 billion in sales by 2020, with nine states approving it for recreational use. (In Pennsylvania, only medical marijuana is legal.) And we’re not just talking pot-infused brownies and gummies. According to Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, edible cannabis also is making its way into fine dining in underground supper clubs such as New York’s Sinsemil.la.
Other food trends we can expect to see in the next 12 months include Thai-style rolled ice cream, street-food-inspired dishes, hand-pulled noodles, delivery-only restaurants and a “back to basics” sensibility in restaurants. And, if Colorado-based Sterling-Rice Group is on the money, something called dosha dining, which means eating to your “natural constitutions” to follow the ancient practice of Ayurveda.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.