This is Part II of a two-part series, listing the Top Ten Food Trends for 2014 as identified by The Food Channel®, in conjunction with insights company CultureWaves®. Click here for Part I.
6. Ethnic Inspired
The big one we’re watching is Indian cuisine—but this is not meant to designate ethnic Indian food as much as it is a call out of the flavors. Think curry, coconut, ginger, garlic, and more. If nothing else, the viral Google video has people searching for Jhajhariya, a dessert made with corn, milk, sugar and a form of clarified butter called “ghee.” We are seeing the flavor profiles of India coming out more and more, which perhaps is part of the globalization of food. It’s not really a homogenized melting pot, although these foods are finding some Americanized forms. But when Wingstop opens a store in the United Arab Emirates, and Doritos allows international submissions for its American big game promotions, you know for a fact that the world now thinks globally. We expect to see more global flavors, forms, and more and more “melting pot” foods, but foods that retain the authentic flavors and forms of a global society. Start with India, and see where it goes.
7. Hybridization of Food
Americans have upped their vegetable intake, but Meatless Mondays are not even on the radar for a majority. Enter a new mashup—what we’re calling the Hybridization of Food, where we are enhancing our protein with vegetables. Mushrooms in the meat, for example. FLIP Burger Boutique in Atlanta has gone so far as to call it “earth and turf.” It may have started with sneaky moms and a blender, but it’s a growing trend.
8. Small Scale Molecular Gastronomy
It had to happen eventually. We’ve been fascinated for years by chefs such as Grant Achatz of Alinea playing around with the chemical composition of food, and now we’re doing it ourselves: pickling and brining. You might even say it’s a little bit of “what goes around comes around,” because this sort of chemical play is what our great-grandmothers did simply to preserve food longer.
With both brining and pickling you get chemical changes in the food, which can bring about new flavors. While turkey brining has picked up interest over the last few years, we are now into pickling, too. And it’s not just cucumbers—it’s pickled fruit, pickled onions, shrimp, and the full range of pickled vegetables. If you are a Kimchee fan, you are the target for this trend. But even if you don’t go quite that far, we expect you’ll find pickled and brined items on more and more restaurant menus.
Glazing has picked up steam, too—just another example of our desire to change up our food and give it a different flavor, texture, or even color. The trend in customization is going a step further, so that we are not only customizing, but manipulating our flavors.
9. Personal Shopping
Whether it’s app-enabled or not, we’re seeing an increase in having someone else do your shopping for you. Local grocery stores offer apps to help you select your items, then they pull them off the shelves, bag them up, and deliver them to your door. Want mail delivery? Just shop online and have even fresh food delivered overnight. Personal shopping is no longer just a convenience or novelty option for the wealthy—having someone shop for your groceries, with home delivery, is becoming a necessity for some. As the population ages, we’re seeing more people who require assistance, meaning the stores will begin to accommodate it on a more universal level. People want delivery of more than pizza—they want meals, they want groceries, and they feel entitled to customization, just like they see in urban cities. And, they are willing to pay the price when they compare it to the cost of other care.
10. Craft Everything
Blame Pinterest if you want, but the truth is, Americans are celebrating their creativity. Sure, you can make the case that when everyone is creative, no one really is . . . but when it comes to food, the new concoctions are giving us variety and excitement in our food and beverages. Our 2012 call out of Craft Chocolates and our 2011 identification of Craft Beer turns out to have been right on the mark.
We’re throwing it back into the mix because there is an interesting evolution happening at the packaging level, which is going to move “craft” beyond small batch production into something bigger. Expect to see the return of beer in cans, for example. While the traditional thinking has been that you can’t “do craft” in anything but bottles, it benefits the brewer’s bottom line and so far no one is crying out about taste differences. More interesting packaging is on the horizon, along with more in the way of beer pairings.
According to our evidence, people really don’t yet understand the difference between microbrew, craft beer and contract brew. And if the buyers don’t care, how do you really preserve the “craft” aspect? We’ve seen die-hard craft beer fans call out contracted breweries as fake, and we’ve seen other beer fans not really care as long as they can continue to experiment long enough to find a favorite. Other crafts may experience a similar growing up period, as prices are driven down by the push to take craft to the masses.
The question is, will craft be protected? After all, when fast food places start selling wine and beer with their food items, you know an explosion isn’t far behind.
This one is a little far out to think it will come to life in 2014, but we can’t resist mentioning it. After all, we called out Clandestine Dining in 2009 and it came to life in restaurants such as Chicago’s Schwa. So here goes:
Think 3D printers are just for architecture or tech toy modeling? There are now 3D food printers that take paste and extrude it into any shape, meaning complicated food “structures” like decorator icings can be “printed.” We predict the food world will see more on this horizon and that it will have an impact on food in a big way. It may start with decorator icing, but once this goes mainstream, beautiful food may be printable. Just remember, you heard it here first.
Although these didn’t make it into our final list, there are a couple of food-oriented discussions going on that we consider worthy of a quick call out.
Expect changes to food expiration dates as part of a global initiative—potentially to address world hunger. The restaurant in Copenhagen that is taking food past its expiration date and serving it is a model that might not work in the lawsuit-happy U.S., but it is interesting. We think it’s a tie back to the continuation of Food Insecurity and part of a larger discussion about global hunger.
Paying it Forward
Perhaps it’s because exposure to the idea helps give us all “permission” to approach strangers with a little kindness, but we’re seeing some heartwarming examples of people paying for others at restaurants. This is not technically a move by the restaurants—it’s more about personal conscience. But many people are in the habit of picking up the tab of military service personnel, or paying for the coffee of the woman behind us who honked and tried to cut us off in the drive through lane. It’s as though we’ve decided to use food to show a little tenderness.
A Side Note
On an annual basis, The Food Channel tracks trends and publishes a list of forecasts for the next year. As more and more trendwatchers have joined the ranks, it’s interesting to see what “trends” are identified and how long they really last. Many ideas classified as trends are really simply instances of behavior that may have an overarching pattern—and it is that pattern we watch rather than flash-in-the pan behaviors.
For Part I of the 2014 Top Ten Food Trends, click here.
If you’d like to take a look at our previous trends and see how well we did, here are the links to the past two years. For more, simply search by year: