The Food Channel® announces its picks for the Top Ten Food Trends of 2018. Based on research and collaboration between The Food Channel, CultureWaves® and the International Food Futurists®, the list identifies some of the most significant shifts in behavior we’re seeing around food. This is the 30th year in which The Food Channel has predicted top trends that are destined to change the ways we think about, and consume, food.
1. Screen to Table
With food fully ingrained in pop culture, and with more content than consumers can possibly watch, food has become a way to help people engage with a brand, across all screens (TV, iPad, mobile phone, movie theater, etc.). In response, brands are extending themselves by using food in promotions, even if they aren’t a food brand. For example, Hallmark recently introduced eBooks that are companions to its movies, with each book containing a recipe referenced in the movie.
Netflix and video game companies like Blizzard are offering extra food content inspired by their most popular titles. World of Warcraft launched an official cookbook based on food that is in the game. Netflix has a cooking show based on Stranger Things. Alamo Drafthouse does specialty menus that pair with the theme of the movie being shown. These brands have learned that food can be a tie that binds.
2. Simple Foodies
Food for “foodies” has gotten complicated, and we’re seeing a movement back to quality simple food that is both fresher/healthier AND more polished/elegant. Simple food has long had a health halo due to its limited number of ingredients translating to clean labels in the minds of consumers.
Simple foods are even showing up on traditional menus, giving consumers a better chance to focus on the flavors and the essence of the dishes. We’re seeing major chains cut back on their core menus and simplify dishes and ingredients. As they look to simplify, chances are new flavors and ingredients will be used to keep things interesting.
3. Food Tourism
As consumer focus shifts from simply “going out to eat” to creating an entire dining experience, more attention has been given to the origins of popular flavors and the cultures that surround them. Consumers want the back story as they more fully appreciate individual regions and specific cultures that influence the foods they eat. This experiential eating has created a tourism industry based on exploring the cultural and historical influences on foods.
This is changing the way hotels and the travel industry develop food offerings, as they begin promoting local flavors and chefs, rather than adhering to a corporate menu. It has also focused some of them on becoming destinations in, and of, themselves, working with local farmers and hosting events to build a total food experience.
4. Innovation in Beverage
Beverages have seen a lot of change. For one, they’ve found a solid position as a healthy, portable meal replacement. They have all the buzz words: probiotic, plant-based, and healthy infusions of natural supplements. Beverages are not only healthier these days, but they actually have a lot of interesting things going on, such as cold-press/brew, and a new focus on non-alcoholic beverages and mocktails.
Don’t even get us going on coffee, which has gone from high quality, specialty ingredients to cold-brew process and infusions in the future. Bulletproof coffee has been leveraging this for years by dropping fatty yak butter into coffee for health benefits.
As we see greater ethnic and cultural food influences embraced in the U.S., it’s only natural that fusion comes next. We’re seeing things like eggs and cream being swirled into coffee in a traditional Vietnamese preparation; Coffee as a base for floats with ice cream; retail brands such as Eight O’clock Coffee infusing its product with things like turmeric, chamomile or guarana—following in the footsteps of specialty teas.
These examples emphasize how beverages offer process and flavor stories. It’s also a generational story, as beverage companies look beyond soda for Generation Z appeal. Beverages are more experienced-based than ever, and flavor is crucial to the mix.