In this, the second day or our 12 Lists of Christmas, the Food Channel, in conjunction with insights company CultureWaves, released its top 10 food-related trends for the new year.
- The Dinner Party Revival. The Food Channel notes it’s now acceptable to use a “third space” and take the pressure off entertaining in your home. "On the other end of the spectrum, we see people making dinner at home an 'occasion' with friends and making everything homemade." And then there's "tablescaping," or table fashion, as a way of extending the cooking experience and even validating it.
- The Loss of Ethnic. Ethnic is becoming one big mash up. Combing global flavors or mixing them into something we already understand. "Along with this, we are looking at what we call Edible Geneology, where we hang onto parts of our history by incorporating them into our foodstyle. Right now the flavors getting mashed into our culture are heavily Asian and Brazilian, but it’s a moving target."
- Hand Touched Over Handmade. It’s no longer about making the recipe totally from scratch. Shortcuts are acceptable, as long as we touch the final product in some way. "It’s no longer just the recipe from scratch, but it’s the recipe from scratch with the story behind it."
- The Casualization of Wine. Millennials are drinking so much wine that wine is being rebranded as an everyday drink. No longer left to special occasions, it’s got a health halo (especially red) that adds to the license to enjoy. It’s changing how we look at everything from wine pairings to quantity and quality of wines.
- My Kitchen. A rebellion against “Distracted Diners” with a cell phone in one hand, the new trend is, “It’s my kitchen, my rules.” We predict you’ll start choosing your restaurant not only for the type of food or the value but for how closely your palate and ambiance desires align with that of the chef. Restaurants are also making it clear they frequent the local farmers market and are very transparent about the backend of the restaurant. They are adding demonstrations, cooking classes and social events that feature fresh market items as part of this trend.
- Food Incubators. Culinary or food incubators are simply shared commercial kitchens where those with a food idea can develop, test and try to get their idea to market — all in a licensed, health-inspected space. The rise in food media over the past 8-10 years has caused a lot of people to want to take their own ideas to market, and incubators reduce the cost of entrepreneurship and give you business support in the process.
- Seasonal Transitions. In recent years we’ve been encouraged to “eat seasonally” for maximum health benefits. The new twist on it all is what we call “transition food,” where we are inserting a combination of two seasons in between — perhaps as a way to psych people up for what’s to come. So, now there is the “late summer” season, and “early winter,” instead of simply summer and winter.
- Spice Alchemy. With the proliferation of global spices and spice combinations, people are experimenting with spices — "becoming mixologists with spices, in a way." The flavors they’ve learned to love in dishes such as hummus are popping up in other menu items, so expect more cumin, saffron, cardamon, sumac, etc. The spice craze is also attributable to concerns over sodium intake, with the thinking that spices can replace the need for salt to some extent.
- Replicating Restaurants. We are starting to bring our away from home experiences back into the home, taking what we see and downsizing it as necessary to be able to repeat it ourselves. What began with home espresso machines and Belgian waffle makers continues with cooking styles (sous-vide), safety (a cutting board for each purpose), efficiency (high powered blenders and juicers) to design (kitchen remodels). The equipment you use is becoming as important as the food you serve.
- Cooking by Life Stage. Once again the Baby Boomers are leading the way on this one. We’ve always known that you generally cook more when you have a growing family at home, and have to learn to downscale when the family grows up and moves away. Boomers aren’t giving up the convenience of starter packs for dinner — they just don’t want to eat that casserole for four meals. As a result, retail food companies are beginning to make “cook it together” packages and meals for two. Hint to food manufacturers: This means the frozen dinner is prime for a re-invention.
- Technology has made its mark, with the latest attention being given to high speed ordering (i.e. the new Taco Bell app). The amount of time from sit-down-to-check is becoming increasingly more relevant as consumers spend more time discussing what they’re eating instead of simply eating.
- Cultured Meat — otherwise known as in-vitro meat — is on the scientific horizon, or at least the discussion is. This process reportedly produces meat from cultured cells and is touted as one of the solutions to the demands of a global food supply. We’re watching this, along with other scientific challenges.
- We’re also watching an evolution of the gluten-free identification. Digestive health in general is receiving a lot of attention, with grains often blamed for problems. We’re seeing more use of hemp flour as well as exotic grains that are easily digestible yet full of fiber and vitamins.
- We’re seeing “bitter” crop up more in flavor profiles, with kale and bitter chocolate leading the curve that is also trending into coffee and hoppy beer.