I’ve always thought it kind of crazy: There exist food trends — ingredients, diet plans and food styles that become the “it” thing in food. The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) Trendspotter Panel recently announced their predictions for what will be hot trends in 2018.
The panel, formed from the SFA’s thriving community of food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs, draws perspectives from retail, foodservice, strategic marketing, and culinary education.
“Macro trends like sustainability and health are converging in the 2018 trends,” says Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “The Panel is predicting more algae and other plant-based proteins and products meant to reduce food waste, as well as growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called ‘goth’ foods. But, while a lot of these trends speak to health and better-for-you choices, consumers’ demand for deeper flavor exploration is still strong, as evidenced by the interest in Filipino and regional Middle Eastern foods.”
Predictions for the Top 10 Food Trends of 2018
Food Trends #1: Plant-based foods.
Plant-based options are proliferating in many categories beyond meat substitutes. Segments like cheese and frozen desserts are enjoying growth in plant-based subcategories. As for meat alternatives, algae is winning fans. 2018 will bring more plant-based convenience foods too.
I’ve found that algae-based foods are improving in flavor from when I first started seeing them any years ago. One of the main benefits of using algae in food is its sustainability. But there are health benefits, as well, including evidence that consuming various forms of algae can help with weight loss, hay fever, diabetes, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression and premenstrual syndrome. People have been consuming algae at least as far back as the Aztec civilization of the 14th century.
Food Trends #2: Upcycled products.
As consumers become more aware of how much food is wasted in the U.S., upcycled products made of ingredients and scraps that would have otherwise been discarded will hold bigger appeal. We’re already seeing pressed juice made from imperfect fruit, chips made from fruit pulp, and snack bars made from spent grain from the beermaking process. Expect more to hit the market in the coming year.
There was a time that using recycled food in this way was less than appealing, but just because food isn’t choice, doesn’t mean it isn’t edible. For an overview of upcycled food and the companies that make these types of products, check out this article on MarthaStewart.com.
Food Trends #3: Filipino cuisine.
Often overshadowed by other Asian cuisines, the foods of the Philippines have not yet captured a broad U.S. audience. That’s shifting, as American palates have become more sophisticated and attuned to the complex flavors and bitter or sour notes of Filipino dishes. Chefs and tastemakers are taking to this cuisine that infuses Asian and Latin flavors, and #filipinofoodmovement, founded in 2012 to create awareness and appreciation of Filipino culinary arts, is a growing force.
Filipino cuisine is influenced by Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Spanish and American cooking. According to Wikipedia, “Filipino cuisine centers around the combination of sweet, sour, and salty, although in Bicol, the Cordilleras and among Muslim Filipinos, spicy is a base of cooking flavor.” If you wish to experiment with some Filipino recipes, check out these resources:
Food Trends #4: Goth food.
Possibly a reaction to the 2017’s deluge of rainbow and unicorn foods, black is the new black. Activated charcoal — produced by heating coconut shells to extremely high temperatures until they are carbonized — is gaining superfood status for its reported detoxifying attributes and is being used as a surprising twist in everything from pizza crust to lemonade to ice cream. We’ll see it spread in the coming year.
I had no idea this was a thing until I received this report. But I found several resources that you can explore if you are interested.
- Awesome Goth Food Party Ideas
- 10 Goth-Inspired Foods To Cure Your Unicorn Fatigue
- Goth Pizza Is Here to Feed Your Unicorn-Hating Soul
Food Trends #5: Alt-Sweet.
With sugar topping the list of dietary watch-outs, consumers continue to look to alternative sweeteners for lower glycemic impact, fewer added-sugar calories, and intriguing sweet flavors as well as sustainable footprints. Syrups made from dates, sorghum, and even yacon and sun root will join monk fruit on the market as emerging options for sweet.
The problem I have with this trend is that people think if what they are using as a sweetener isn’t cane sugar it is automatically healthier. However, sugar is sugar is sugar, regardless of what plant you get it from. So be careful with how you interpret the “healthiness” of an alternative sweetener.
Food Trends #6: Product labeling 2.0.
More is more when it comes to product labeling. Consumers will seek greater on-label visibility into the farms, ingredient sources, and supply chain of each item in their shopping basket. GMO transparency is among the most prioritized details, but shoppers want new depths of information across the spectrum, including Fair Trade certification, responsible production, and no animal testing.
Labeling has always been an issue. Many companies bend the truth to get you to buy something. I’ve talked about organic labeling before, but there is also the “gluten-free” label that shows up on things like milk — like milk ever had gluten, to begin with. And don’t get me started about “light” vs. “lite”!
Food Trends #7: Root to stem.
Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking — using the entire fruit or vegetable, including things like stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. I would assume that eating more stems in your food would increase the fiber content, a very good thing, but I could not find any information to substantiate that idea.
Food Trends #8: Cannabis cuisine.
As more states legalize recreational marijuana, the varieties of pot-enhanced food and beverage will increase. Look out for continued interest and acceptance in a host of snacks, treats, and beverages with a little something extra.
It is interesting that the Specialty Food Association felt the need to add this caveat: They recognize that Federal law prohibits the possession, sale or distribution of marijuana, but its sale and use is declared legal under some state laws. In recognizing cannabis as a food trend, the SFA in no way endorses or encourages activities which are in violation of state or Federal law.
And now I’m going to put in my two bits, however unpopular they may be. I am totally against the legalization of marijuana. That stuff is lipophilic, which means “loves lipids.” Guess what makes up every cell membrane in your body? That’s right, lipids! When you consume cannabis, it stays in your body for a very long time. In fact, your hair can test positive for marijuana use a year or more after your last use. In addition, marijuana use can cause brain damage. I have friends who used to be very smart who are no longer because of pot use. I’m sorry, but marijuana is not comparable to alcohol, which you piss out of your body within hours.
O.K. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Food Trends #9: A (deeper) feast from the Middle East.
Foods like hummus, pita, and falafel were easy entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional differences, and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian, and Lebanese influences rising to the top.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’ve been to many restaurants featuring this cuisine and what I like the most is that you can find richly flavorful food that doesn’t burn your tongue off or aggravate your stomach.
Food Trends #10: The rise of traditional bread.
Although much attention has been placed on gluten-free options in recent years, the traditional side of bakery has also been elevated by the same sourcing and fine-tuned production processes we see with proteins and vegetables. Bakers are using local grains, milling the day before baking, and incorporating long proofing times, re-inventing what good bread means.
There’s nothing better than a richly flavored, freshly baked loaf of bread, am I right?
More Trends on the Way
The Trendspotter Panel also mentioned a few other trends that we might see growing in popularity:
- cricket flour and non-grain sustainable proteins;
- fermented foods;
- cocktail mixers and bitters for home use;
- savory flavors where one would expect sweet;
- pasture-raised animals for welfare, better health, and taste;
- bananas transformed into milks, snacks, frozen desserts, and flours and baking mixes.
- eating for beauty with products like collagen-infused foods (like collagen-infused beer);
- moringa as the new superfood;
- mushrooms (extracts, powdered, or whole) as a functional ingredient in everything from chocolate to lattes.
So, what do you think of these trends? Any of them especially appeal to you? Any give you pause? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so post them in a comment below!