All right, we admit it: we’re addicted to the Food Network. This channel is often where we first spot a food trend, usually one we’ll immediately try at home. However, FN isn’t the originator of these trends; their scouts will spot something new and different in the field, generally something with a backstory that makes for good television. Television channels devoted to the culinary arts as well as social media outlets serve up the latest regional food discoveries to a population hungry for something new, fresh, and exciting. Even remote cuisines now grow legs quickly and appear on menus across the country. For example, over the past decade the farm to table movement has influenced epicures to turn to West Coast kitchens for inspiration. However, some of the hot ideas listed below were born and bred on the East Coast where our highly discriminating foodies are the stuff of urban legend.
The point is, there are reasons beyond piquing consumer interest, why certain foods trend, find their way onto our tables and across our constantly jaded palates. It is all part of a larger groundswell and a revolution brewing in the centuries-old way our food is produced and makes its way onto our table. As you read the top ten food trends below, note the shift towards providing greater value on one level or another:
- Naked Cakes: Cake consistency is key and the best bakers are flaunting their skills by forgoing icing their creations. Fewer calories per slice, too.
- Medicinal Foods: Been around for centuries. Today foods with medicinal benefits, such as Miso, Kimchi, and Kombucho, are taking center stage on trendy menus.
- Gastro-Pharmaceuticals: At the same time, more chefs with uber fine dining experience are lending their expertise to creating hospital menus. Move over dietitians, menus designed by top chefs offer something new to look forward to post op!
- Food trucks had them first: Arepa, a Venezuelan stuffed bread made from corn flour. It’s the perfect meal on the go, and could give tacos a run.
- Savory desserts: Prepare yourself for less sweet offerings that include pureed bread, cauliflower, and raw yeast topping your ice creams, as well as incorporated into mousse, and puddings.
- Heirloom Foods: Heirloom grains are finding their way into artisan bread offerings. A new twist on Wonder bread, and good for you, too!
- Have Fun with Fungi: Hot on the heels of bone broth is tea made from water that mushrooms have soaked in. Also, new strains of mushrooms are being developed as well. This Dr. Frankenstein technique involves infesting fruits, vegetables, and even tree bark with several types of fungi then serving the result.
Possibly influenced by cooking shows where contests race the clock to produce a meal and often resort to using the fryer, deep fried anything is having a moment.
- Root to Stem: Following our farming ancestors’ thrifty habits to prevent food waste (utilizing the whole animal, snout to trotters) comes pesto made from vegetable stems, including carrot and radish, as well as pickling watermelon rind for a refreshing treat.
- Time for a New Fusion: Australian/Peruvian? Japanese/Mexican? Polish/Spanish? The options are endless and while one is waiting to break away from the pack, try Omurice, trending in Japan, which pairs a soft omelette served over rice. Maybe Japanese/Mexican isn’t so far out after all!
And here are a couple global food trends we’re not likely to embrace in the U.S. anytime soon:
- Raw Meat Birthday Cakes: Japan, what are you thinking? Clearly sushi lost something in translation, like its mind.
- Sparkling coffee: Currently in Europe, adding seltzer to any liquid is finding its way onto experimental menus. Should you ever see it on the Starbucks menu, remember where you heard it first.
Reviewing the top ten food trends so far this year, we noticed again and again that conservation and a return to simpler, healthier cooking and ingredients dominates. This is true for the corner luncheonette as well as in multi-Michelin-star, starched white linen tablecloth establishments. It is this paradigm shift towards the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness, or awareness that is driving change.
The truly alarming statistic that over 40% of all food produced goes to waste is being addressed, if not directly by current and upcoming food trends. Being aware of where our food comes from, how responsibly it is processed, how it is stored and prepared, is top of mind for many in the food industry, as well as for a growing number of consumers. Farming has always been hard work and not very economically profitable. Yet the number of farms run by owners under the age of 35 is on the rise. Of these, 69% have college degrees, as compared against 40% of workers in the general population. The trend here is that these younger, better educated food growers/producers will usher in a new era of agriculture, one that even reconsiders what constitutes arable land.
The majority of 2018’s food trends appear to reflect a growing awareness on the part of U.S. consumers to make smarter food choices and to patronize businesses that support that belief. It is known that the foods we eat are the primary cause of preventable disease and even death. More of us are becoming aware of the importance of what we eat to direct the course of the quality of our lives. However, as a nation, the United States ranks 21st out of 34 countries on an impartial Food Sustainability Index. See how other nations are tackling this issue head on:
2017 ushered in Eataly World in Bologna, Italy. This million-square foot food hall featuring 40 farming factories, 40 restaurants, and six educational rides. Dubbed the foodies’ Disneyland, it is said to be the blueprint for grocery stores of the future. Over in Sweden, the concept of vertical farming will be ushered in by 2020 with the opening of a 16-story multi-use building in Linkoping. The majority of lessees will be vertical farmers. Yes, growing, harvesting, processing and packaging their products all under one roof. This new farmstead expects to save CO2 emissions, and 13 million gallons of water annually. In addition, it uses half the power it generates, thereby additionally producing a revenue stream by selling the kilowatts it does not use in food production.
What are the food trends of 2019 likely to be? One trend among the trends we’ve selected to highlight is the fact that neuro-nutrition, or cultivating foods that support brain health, will break out next year in the form of EPA and DHA omega-3s. These are currently offered as supplements but are now pervading the foods we eat. More and more these neuro-nutrients are being included among the ingredients in foods enjoyed by babies, children, adults, and seniors.
And you thought food trends were just about filling seats at restaurant tables!