If we really are what we eat, food trends show that we are becoming more ethnically diverse and mindful of our health and environment. Travel and social media are bringing far-away flavors within reach to our homes and restaurants. We are more intentional in choosing foods that offer health benefits with less processing. Also, consumers and food vendors are finding ways to save time and money preparing meals. Get a taste of what's showing up on our tables in 2020 and the next few years.
As more people visit the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the appeal of these regions’ flavors lingers long after they return home. Diners are craving the fresh, healthy culinary options, and restaurants are sprouting up all over to meet demand. Highlighting vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets appeal to increasingly health-conscious eaters. Dates, rosewater, and seasonings such as za’atar, toum, and harissa will become menu staples as well.
Asian-inspired cuisine has long been popular in the West, but demand has resurged and is expected to grow higher than ever in 2021. Now, the flavors of Asia are not just limited to traditional Chinese, Taiwanese, or Thai dishes; they are crossing over into sauces, burger toppings, and desserts. Expect to find ingredients such as miso, gochujang, and kimchi infused into familiar foods. You might also see more Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and pho on the market, too.
More people are catching on to tajin, a chile-lime seasoning common in Mexico. Disneyland's pineapple whips have been featuring sprinkles of this savory blend for quite some time, and folks are craving the spice on eggs, fruit, and just about anything else. Food Network’s Facebook video featuring this condiment on watermelon has over 35 million views. Google searches for tajin have spiked over 120% year after year, so it’s a big deal these days.
In 2019, Uber Eats saw a rise in demand for dishes with reishi mushrooms. These beautiful reddish-brown fungi have been symbols of immortality and staples in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. They are gaining popularity in the West as research indicates reishi’s potential to strengthen immune response and halt the growth of cancer cells.
Babka, a sweet dough confection of Jewish and Eastern European origin, is showing up in more bakeries across the nation. Filled with cinnamon, fudgy chocolate, or dried fruits, this bread-textured cake swirls all over Instagram. Although it looks difficult to make, home bakers are finding that it’s not all that hard to create and well worth the effort.
Plant-based, gluten-free, and low-carb diets continue to grow in popularity, and cauliflower fits the bill for all these trends. The mildly flavored, versatile veggie is replacing mashed potatoes, rice, buffalo wings, and flour in pizza crusts. Nielsen reported that cauliflower product sales skyrocketed by 108% in 2018, and the trajectory appears to continue sharply upward. Green Giant calls cauliflower one of its hottest veggie offerings.
Wood pellet grill sales have increased by almost 10% since 2016, and “pellet head” Facebook groups boast over 100,000 members. Heating compressed sawdust pellets with an electric rod, these grills disburse even heat that’s easy to control. Fans insist that this is the tastiest and cleanest way to grill and smoke simultaneously.
People have tagged #mealprepping on Instagram over 600,000 times, and Sunday is the most popular day for flocking to meal-prep pages for inspiration. Busy, budget-conscious Generation Z’ers are really into packing multiple meals for work and home in one session. This food preparation method takes many forms, such as prepped ingredients, batch cooking, or individually portioned meals. This trend has given birth to an upsurge in reusable containers available in a wide range of sizes.
Ghost kitchens also called virtual or cloud kitchens, are networks of restaurants that only offer take-out or delivery. The advantage is a huge overhead saving for these businesses. Food industry researchers predict that the online food delivery market will expand to over $75 billion by 2022 as sales gain a larger share of the restaurant business. Kitchen United has ambitious plans to build 400 kitchen centers and 5,000 virtual kitchens in high-demand areas throughout the country within the next few years.
Executive chefs say that diners want more interaction with their favorite restaurants. As a result, restaurant owners are planning more open counters, kitchens, and chef’s tables along with smaller tasting menus. Private supper clubs and dinner journeys are on the horizon as well. Meanwhile, industry experts project that culinary tourism will grow by $82 billion between 2013-2019, increasing at a rate of 9% during this period.