The Food Channel has released our 2012 Trends Forecast – the top ten food trends we see for the coming year. This report is put together in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists® and Mintel International. Here’s a look at what we see happening in the world of food for 2012.
1. Black Market Foods. No, we’re not talking about anything illegal here. What we’re talking about is the growing use of intentional scarcity and limited supplies of items that serve only to drive up their popularity. After all, if we humans are told there is something that’s really hard to get, we immediately want it. The Black Friday limited-supply “doorbusters” are a good example—so is the McRib. There’s sort of a reverse psychology going on here. Many of us remember the old Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld (did you know, in an ironic twist, those soups are now available in stores?). Another example of this limited supply philosophy: the Tamale Queen in Atlanta, whose signage proclaims they serve from “11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or ’til the food is gone.” Read more.
2. Inconspicuous Consumption. We all recognize conspicuous consumption by its over-the-top, in-your-face obviousness and excess. But inconspicuous? This is the new luxury—spending quite a bit, but making it look like we’re not really spending much at all. We’re seeing it in restaurants and in travel experiences, particularly with the rise in culinary tourism and food-related travel. In fact, what we used to think of as more generic, non-branded hotels can actually become the hotels of choice when their restaurant and food offerings are upgraded. Read more.
3. Social Media: Finding Common Ground and Common Courtesy. What do you get when you mix social media with restaurants? Often a lot of frustration on both sides. This is the year we see a lot of that coming to a head, with a line being drawn in the sand(wich)…which is eventually crossed peacefully by both the restaurateurs and the patrons. Read more.
4. Shopping Schizophrenia. Welcome to the new balancing act when it comes to eating. On the one hand, we have to fit our food styles to our paychecks. On the other, we have to feed our soul. In certain parts of the country we have the Food Desert, where nutritious food is hard to get. In other areas, we have bountiful markets on every corner. We see the rebirth of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker [link to where we called it out before] right next door to the newly defined “neighborhood markets” that are, ironically, owned by the big box stores. The point is, we either can’t decide, or we want it all. Read more.
5. Beyond Ramen Noodles – It used to be that college students lived on Ramen Noodles and other inexpensive food that provided some sustenance without breaking the nearly nonexistent budget. Things have become much more complicated, and we expect it to continue in that direction. Campus “cuisine” has now become part of the “clockless” world, where grocery stores are in student unions and you can charge food against your student account. Colleges have been forced to provide a wide-ranging food experience for the younger generation, who expect more out of what they put in their bodies than previous generations. Read more.
6. So THAT’s What it Tastes Like! – There is an interesting byproduct of the health movement when it comes to food. Less sodium, fresher locally-sourced produce, and fewer smokers on premise means people are tasting ingredients as they were meant to be—sometimes for the first time. We can also credit menu transparency and menu labeling, since companies are making a real effort to keep all those scary-sounding ingredients out of the mix. Read more.
7. The New Agri-Chef. Along with health concerns, food safety concerns, and old fashioned flavor, you have a new breed of chefs that simply like to cook with what they’ve grown. Expect to see this move beyond simple herb gardens or rooftop displays and into some full-fledged branded farms. Read more.
8. Groovin’ On Peruvian. It looks like Peruvian cuisine may be the next Big Thing on the ethnic culinary scene. Gastón Acurio certainly hopes so. He reportedly has invested $5.5 million on his La Mar Cebicheria Peruana restaurant which opened its doors this fall in New York. The Mistura Food Festival, held annually in Peru’s capital of Lima, has become one of the biggest food events in the world, attended by a half-million foodies, including many internationally-known chefs. Read more.
9. Social Cooking. Who would have thought we needed kitchens outdoors? For grilling, perhaps—but a full kitchen, complete with covered patio, granite-counter prep area, sink, mini fridge, rotisserie, stove top, and TV? They are becoming the new home essential. Expensive, yes, but people are justifying it by continuing to stay home more, entertaining more, and doing it in style. Read more.
10. The Rise of the YouTube Chef. Everyone is their own food TV star these days. All it takes is a simple camera and a YouTube account. It came to the forefront with the book and movie, Julie and Julia, but today you can find everyone from precocious kids and teens to wiseacre twentysomething dudes to Italian grandmothers, all cooking up a storm and teaching you how to do it. Read more.