Saturday, January 2, 2016

Foodie trends to watch for in 2016

A recent message came through my inbox from the National Restaurant Association giving some insight into what trends are waiting on the horizon for 2016. View the full list here.

They're predicting some of the following will be making it on to many menus in the year to come:

Sriracha = the new ketchup?: The red sauce in the bottle with the green top is ubiquitous, but just a few years ago, only Thai food enthusiasts were familiar with this condiment. Following in its popularity growth wake are a range of other condiments and spices from various global cuisines applied to anything and everything to create brand new flavor combinations.  Chimichurri as a hamburger topping. Peri peri barbecue ribs. Za’atar spread on crostini. Raita with hot wings. You get the idea.
African flavors: International cuisines have become ingrained in our everyday diets, but despite featuring numerous distinct cuisines, Africa is still relatively under-explored when it comes to culinary experiences in the United States. Perhaps not for much longer, however. Berbere, harissa, dukkah, ras el hanout, tsire and other spice mixes and flavors are likely to gain wider use, as African flavors are a fast-growing trend.
Restaurant stores: “Grocerants” has been around for a few years now – grocery stores increasingly focusing on foodservice. We’re now starting to see restaurants adapting that idea by considering fresh food retail operations. If consumers want to eat where they shop for groceries, it’s reasonable to believe they also want to grocery shop where they eat. In fact, half of consumers say they would be interested in buying fresh, uncooked food items from restaurants (think items like steak, shrimp, bread and pasta of the same quality as served in the restaurant). Hybrid concepts like food halls and market restaurants are leading the way.
No more gluten-free kale salads?: All good things must come to an end, and we may be approaching the end of the trends line for kale salads and gluten-free cuisine. Both of these formerly hot trends have been losing steam over the past couple of years. But don’t expect either to go away altogether. We’re more likely to see these evolve into perennial favorites over time. For example, kale salads are being adapted to salads where other greens are traditionally used, like Caesars and Cobbs, and gluten-free items are becoming menu staples at many foodservice locations. 
Hmmm....my take on it? 
I will miss the kale salads, but I have a hunch it doesn't mean salads will be less prevalent. I think we'll be seeing more of them and perhaps they won't be loaded with kale, but they won't be packed with dreaded iceberg either. Mixed greens, arugula, red varieties of lettuce, spinach I am hoping will still hang around and bump some of that less colorful stuff to the side.
Sriracha? It's so 2013. I think we'll see heat in other forms, like more varieties of peppers and house made hot sauces. And BBQ is so big right now, I think those sauces and flavors will overshadow sriracha in the overall food scene.
I love the idea of more African flavors and more integration of cultural cuisine in general. I hope to see more mashups of Americanized classics with foreign flair. 
I'm also guessing less heavy potato dishes and more lighter sides, mixes and blends of seasonal stuff - at least in the kinds of places where the customer base goes for it. And sweet potato fries have been a big trend. I don't see that slowing down.
And I look forward to the expansion of the craft distillery community as it skates on the heels of the still-not-waning craft beer industry. I love that the little guys are succeeding and hope to see more of it in 2016.
How about you? What are your predictions for food trends in the coming year?




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