The start of each new year brings us something new, some new obsession that will appear out of nowhere and then takeover all conversation for what seems like a never-ending amount of time. This is especially true for food — the past few years it’s been kale, quinoa, acai, etc that have taken over the public consciousness — and this upcoming year will bring us a whole batch of new food and food-adjacent things to talk about. There are new food and restaurant trends for us all to get obsessed with, and while we don’t officially know what will hit and what won’t, there are a few educated guesses for what we can expect to see from the food industry in 2016.
Sometimes it’s a mystery how things get popular. An item can be around for ages and not get much attention, than seemingly out of nowhere just explode to the point where they appear everywhere. About 2 years ago, that was Sriracha in the food world. It went from a hot sauce a few people used to being made into portable squeeze bottles so we can carry it everywhere. But it’s about time for a new sauce to take over, and according to Technomic we should be on the lookout for a new ethnic flavor that steals the spotlight from Sriracha. My money is on an African condiment such as dukka, harissa, or sumac (like Technomic mentions) because these are spicy and uniquely flavored just like Sriracha, but with a different twist based on their origin country. Following this same food-of-the-moment trend, don’t be surprised if you start to see Seaweed appearing everywhere. I’ve already seen Seaweed chips in my grocery store aisle but it’s about to find it’s way into a lot more than just chips. According to the 2016 Trend Forecast from the Specialty Food Association, thanks to it’s nutritional content (it has iodine, fiber, and unsaturated fat) combined with it’s sustainability — 2016 will be the year of seaweed.
Being health-conscious has been on trend for many years and it’s not going to fade any time soon. We’re going to continue to see a rise in creative ways to use one food to replace another in an effort to make dishes healthier. Using chickpeas in this way is poised to become even more popular this year, but also expect to see a rise in “pulses” over all. I don’t mean the pulse that comes from your heartbeat here: Pulses are the name of a legume family that includes dried beans, lentils, dried peas, and the aforementioned chickpea. They are a great source of fiber, protein, and have high levels of iron, zinc, phosphorous, and folate — expect to see them everywhere this year. Another movement that will continue to gain popularity is discovering and being aware of what exactly we are eating and where it is coming from. The demand for transparency in labeling will continue to rise in 2016 according to Technomic. We’ll continue the discussion over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and wanting foods to be labeled clearly if they contain them.
Being conscious of our food is not limited to just what we eat, but it’s also about how we prepare it. Rising food costs and increasing attention to sustainability mean that using every ounce of produce, grains, and meats will become even more popular. The phrase “root-to-stem” might be the “farm-to-table” of 2016, and it means exactly what it sounds like: Using every bit of a vegetable from it’s roots to it’s stems. While the majority of this will be happening at higher end restaurants, it will trickle it’s way down to fast food and QSR+ (quick service restaurants plus aka “one step above fast food restaurants”) menus as well. We are looking for and expect more from our fast food joints these days, so 2016 will bring even more change to these restaurants and businesses. Look out for more sustainability focused menus, a wider range of healthier choices, and even bigger overall changes to the menus. McDonalds got ahead of the curve here by debuting their all-day breakfast menu in October of this past year and the result might be other fast food restaurants changing their menus like this as well.
Food and beverages are going to continue to get weirder and some unexpected things will start to find their way to your grocery cart and in your glass. Coffee is looking like it’s going to find a way to be even more inventive in 2016. We’ve already seen many different holiday flavored drinks and barista art made out of the steamed milk in lattes, but 2016 will bring even more uniqueness. CNBC tells us to keep an eye out for carbonated coffee and coffee mocktails this year. In keeping with the weird drinks — expect to see your super cool, hipster friend drinking beer out of a can again. While they once took a backseat to beer in bottles, cans might see their resurgence this year. And not just any cans, but cans with specific & different looking designs. With a beer can in one hand, you can balance out that indulgence by drinking your greens in the other hand. Now, we’ve been drinking & not eating our greens for a while now, but this year it might be taken up another notch. Bon Appetit expects to see Chlorophyll (yup, that chlorophyll) find it’s way to menus at health-conscious places everywhere — it’s an energy shot that also apparently can break down fat. Another healthy addition likely in 2016? Turmeric could become super popular this year as well. Much like Sriracha — it has been around for a while — but has slowly been gaining steam for it’s color (bright orange!), health benefits (it’s packed with antioxidants), and ability to work it’s way into both sweet and savory dishes.
What food trend are you looking forward to in 2016?
Featured image is by Brooke Cagle.