2014: The Year Sustainable Food Hits the Mainstream

'Green' trends dominate the National Restaurant Association's industry forecast for the coming year.

local organic food trends

(Photo: Chris Gramly/Getty Images)

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor. He has written for The Awl, The New Inquiry, and elsewhere.

While most websites are busy compiling listicles of 2013’s best and worst of everything and anything, researchers at the National Restaurant Association are looking forward.

At the beginning of the month, the NRA, the industry’s largest business association and trade group, released its annual culinary forecast for 2014.

The organization’s outlook on the coming year is, in a word, green.

“The top restaurant menus trends for 2014 focus on local sourcing, environmental sustainability and nutrition—children's nutrition in particular,” reads the press release announcing the “What’s Hot in 2014 Culinary Forecast.” “These trends have been gaining momentum for several years, indicating that these wider themes influence the national culinary scene.”

Here’s how thoroughly the issues we cover in this space dominate the report. I give you the top 10 trends of 2014 as reported by what is not exactly a progressive group:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood

2. Locally grown produce

3. Environmental sustainability

4. Healthful kids’ meals

5. Gluten-free cuisine

6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g., restaurant gardens)

7. Children’s nutrition

8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g., quinoa, rice, buckwheat)

9. Sustainable seafood

10. Farm/estate branded items

So sustainable food is poised to hit the mainstream in a major way—and the 1,300 chefs the NRA surveyed for the report believe it’s here to stay.

“When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine,” the release reads.

Now, the question is, What will broad adoption of these trends look like—will restaurants become truly green or simply green-washed?

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