Throughout most of 2017 the food and beverage industry feasted on the momentum and innovation surrounding plant-based proteins. It was clear that increased consumer focus on vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets was influencing trends industrywide. But if 2017 was the year of plant-proteins, market research firm Packaged Facts predicts that 2018 will be the year animal-based protein makes a push to reclaim space on America’s center plate. Packaged Facts covers the market for animal-protein trends in Protein and Center Plate: Culinary Trend Tracking Series, a new and captivating report featuring more than a dozen areas of meat innovation.
Spurring the renewed focus on animal protein is increased creativity and novel approaches from food marketers and culinary visionaries.
“The rules about protein and the rules about center plate are being completely remade. As a result, neither protein nor center of the plate will ever be the same,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “In short, 2018 won’t be the year of your daddy’s steak or burger.”
Where once there were steaks and chops and chicken breasts, there are now novel nose-to-tail cuts such as culotte, short ribs, shoulder, neck and thighs—more value-conscious and comforting, but also more adaptable to cheffy culinary flourishes and global inspirations.
Burgers and meatballs keep gaining traction and consumer appeal, branching out beyond beef to introduce lamb, pork, duck and more. Sausage and charcuterie are flourishing, as chefs seek to burnish their culinary cred and use up every bit and scrap of the animal to an increasingly adventurous audience. And everywhere there is spice and innovation and novelty, from chile-laced Korean fried chicken to foie gras to worldly dumplings offering such as dim sum.
Lesser-known sustainable seafood choices such as trout and octopus are taking over where salmon and swordfish became predictable or ecologically problematic. Seafood preps favor the healthy and transparently fresh, including (as with meat) raw and tartare.
Even the familiar egg has taken off on a trajectory of its own, in familiar or exotic standalone specialties such as Benedicts and okonomiyaki, or deviled on small plates that move this workhorse protein miles beyond breakfast. Meanwhile, over easy or sunny side eggs are almost topping everything, including donuts, sandwiches, and vegetarian bowls.