Food innovation is running at an all-time high and the Specialty Food Association's Trendspotter Panel has named what it believes will be hot trends in 2018.
The panel draws perspectives from retail, foodservice, strategic marketing, and culinary education, and includes Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect; Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University; Kara Nielsen, CCD Innovation; Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market; Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation; and Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market.
"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."
Here are the Trendspotters' predictions for the top 10 food trends of 2018:
- 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.
- Upcycled products. As consumers become more aware of how much food is wasted in the US, 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.
- Filipino cuisine. Often overshadowed by other Asian cuisines, the foods of the Philippines have not yet captured a broad US 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Root to stem. Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking—utilizing the entire fruit or vegetable, including things like stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.