As 2017 draws to its close, here are our predictions for the year ahead in food and drink. In our comprehensive annual guide, we’ve highlighted 12 global trends we expect to have an impact, and outlined the ingredients, cuisines, dishes and flavours every industry insider needs to keep their eye on.
Organic, natural and sustainable food is becoming an entry-level expectation for consumers of all generations. Claims such as organic, additive- and GMO-free appeared on 29% of global food and drink launches from September 2016 to August 2017 – a rise of 17%. When it comes to nutrition and wellbeing, many consumers are now increasingly distrustful of regulatory systems and marketing. In the year ahead, manufacturers will need to be open about their ingredients and supply chains in order to allay the widespread scepticism around the safety of products and produce.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
A third of the world’s food is being wasted, and the food and beverage industry is the biggest contributor to reckless refuse. With the problem reaching crisis point, we’re likely to see a mounting number of startups and big businesses trying to combat the problem in 2018, as well as cash in on its marketing potential. Edible upcycling firms such as ReGrained, Toast Ale, Bio-bean and ChickP are already leading the way in using food waste as a potential source of revenue. Unilever has launched a ‘wise up on waste’ app that allows businesses to gauge how much they create, while some say the solution lies in changing the way we talk about recycled produce, believing chefs will struggle to inspire the public with ingredients referred to as ‘trash’. We’re also likely to see the rules around the sale of products past their ‘best by’ dates start to bend.
The Growth of Urban Farming
Vertical- and urban-farming initiatives are also ones to watch. Huge numbers of sustainability-led initiatives have launched over the past year and show no signs of disappearing, with the likes of LettUs Grow, Plenty, Agricool and GroLocal bringing urban farming further into the mainstream. These city-based solutions will reduce the time and distance from farm to table, increasing both the productivity and sustainability of produce.
Face-Free Food Tech
Animal products are under fire and vegan food has made it to the mainstream. This year, we’ve seen it everywhere from high-end restaurants to fast-food chains. McDonald’s released its first-ever vegan burger, the McVegan; Pizza Hut is trialling vegan cheese in five of its outlets; Le Cupboard launched the vegan vending machine; and Kitava and Tyme, among others, started offering vegan fast-food options in the US. The tech industry is reaping the benefits of this global dietary overhaul. We’ve already seen the emergence of the ‘bleeding’ vegan Impossible Burger and fish-free seafood, and are very likely to see more of such science-led fare in 2018.
Self-Care and Mood Food
Modern shoppers are overburdened with hectic lifestyles. With more people looking for ways to escape stress, flexible and balanced diets will become integral elements of self-care routines. Consumers are already starting to develop their own definitions of a healthy lifestyle, which includes balance and relaxation. Next year, we’ll see a fresh focus on comfort food and preferential eating, and a further backlash against the clean-eating brigade in a reaction against stress and restriction. Instead, more people will start to embrace the idea of ‘permissible indulgence’ in its various forms, as well as a kinder approach to the concept of ‘food as medicine’.
Man Meets Machine
The robots are here. Technology is transforming every corner of the industry, with brands such as Chipotle and Domino’s Pizza already testing driverless-delivery systems, and Gammachef and Chowbotics introducing robots that prepare food for you. There’s real mileage in the kinds of app-based food-recognition technology invented by the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SRI International – the lab responsible for Siri – which can analyse your food from a photograph. In theory, they can give accurate nutritional information or suggested recipes from just a single snap. This could coincide with the development of individualised food profiles that travel with us through our various food experiences. Expect to see both of these improve exponentially in the next few years.
The entertainment industry is branching out from the big screen, and immersive-dining experiences are on the up. Disney has announced the opening of a Star Wars hotel in 2019 that it is describing as its ‘most experiential concept ever’. In the British capital, Londoners’ love of drama is being creatively combined with their passion for great food, with restaurants such as Dishoom, venues like the National Theatre and even productions like the musical Mamma Mia and seasonal pantomimes getting in on the act. Expect even more in 2018, with the film, theatre and gaming industries incorporating new kinds of immersive tech (think TastyFloats) into their businesses.
Instagram is an industry influencer and an incredibly powerful business tool – it’s now not only about how good a dish tastes, but how well it will photograph. Although this trend won’t be going anywhere fast, we could see a rebellion against the culture of ‘Instagrammable’ cuisine that can cause some to forget what food is really all about. The Guardian recently published a piece by Nigella Lawson, who claims, ‘Instagram can make a cook despair’ She and other chefs are starting to celebrate unphotogenic ‘brown food’ in protest – we think others will follow suit.
A Feast for the Senses
That said, millennials are still hungry for alternative ways to experience their food. Products that appeal to multiple senses – offering sounds, sights and touch, as well as taste – are set to scale new heights. Food and drink producers are using natural ingredients – such as matcha, charcoal, pulp and turmeric – to create vibrantly coloured products, with an element of surprise, that attract the attention of social-media-savvy youngsters. Colour will continue to be key, but texture could be the next step for multisensory eating: look out for puffs, pops and bubbles.
Oppressive, high-end dining is increasingly out of fashion. Modern consumers favour informal fare over the buttoned-up style of yesteryear, and upmarket fast food and fine-casual dining are set to take its place. The popularity of pop-ups, tapas and small plates, and speedy dining is likely to continue, with even Michelin-starred restaurants pressurised to offer quicker, cheaper options. Eleven Madison Park and Momofuko in the States, and Duck & Waffle Local in Britain are some of the standout establishments already offering fine-casual options.
The Future’s Frozen
The freezer is back in fashion for 2018, particularly when it comes to healthy eating. A new wave of startups. including New York’s Daily Harvest and Dublin’s Strong Roots, are now re-imagining frozen food through modern branding and healthy options. Larger companies, such as Nestlé, Pinnacle Foods and B&G, are also finding ways to re-market their frozen products in line with current trends that favour both health and convenience.
Our Mighty Microbiomes
With the publication of more research findings over the past decade, we’re starting to understand that the ecosystems growing in our guts are even more labyrinthine than we realised. Our digestive systems are now believed to be as complicated as our genes. As the world begins to wake up to the importance of gut health, fermented foods and drinks continue to find a place in our habits. In 2018, we’ll be indulging our insides in innovative ways and incorporating anti-inflammatory ingredients such as artichokes, turmeric, aloe, flaxseed and tummy-friendly teas.
- Ancient grains: pinole, kamut, kernza
- Brown butter
- Chaga mushrooms
- Coffee fruit
- Duck wings
- Green-banana flour
- Kelp and kombu
- Kola nuts
- Mocktails and alcohol-free spirits
- Pea protein
- Purple sweet potato
- Purple ube
- Seaweed and algae
- Super powders
- Contemporary Chinese
- East African
- Indian street food
- Japanese dude food
- Jewish deli food
- Craft hot chocolate
- Fried pickles
- Indian ice creams
- More takes on pizza
- Multi-grain pizza dough
- More umami
- Tea-flavoured food
- Flavours that soothe: chamomile, honey, lavender, milk
- Flavours that energise and excite: ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper
- Modern takes on comfort classics: meatloaf, devilled eggs, beef Wellington
As always with modern eating, we’re witnessing a distinctive yin and yang to today’s trends. Wellness coexists with comfort food, classics with the cutting-edge, and more than ever before, our food preferences are a clear mark of personal choice. Whether eco-friendly, indulgent or restrained, shared with friends or savoured solo, food choices are now a mode of self-expression. We really are what we eat.
Images courtesy of Flavour Feed