20 Top Food Trends for 2015: Eat, Drink, and Be Savvy
It’s that special time of year, when restaurant gurus and industry analysts gaze into their crystal balls to tell us all the sorts of wacky things we’ll be eating and drinking in the coming year—and beyond.
Still think quinoa and kale are the superfoods du jour? Convinced you’re on the cutting edge because you’ve mastered speed-dialing your local pizza place using Siri? Haven’t shifted to quaffing your cannabis yet? Leave dusty, dowdy 2014 behind and embark on the brave new world that is dining in 2015! Best of all, you don’t have to sift through all the various trend reports to come away with the most intriguing predictions—I’ve done that for you.
Whether you’re a I’m-not-a-hipster hipster prowling for the next culinary craze or a health fanatic dying to get your hands on the newest up-and-coming superfood, there’s a trend here for everyone.
4 for the Foodie:
• International “It” Cuisine: Asian, and not your corner Chinese takeout or sushi joint, but more like regional Vietnamese, creative Korean, and “funkier” Filipino, according to industry analyst Sterling-Rice Group. Surging popularity of all things ramen is forecasted to continue a pace too.
• Flavor of the Year: bitter. As consulting firm Technomics puts it, “Customers are developing a taste for bitter flavors. That means deeper chocolates, hoppier beers and darker coffees.”
• Flavor of the Year, Part Deux: sweet and hot. Building on the runaway success of Sriracha and Americans' love of sweet things, food wizards are rolling out blends like habanero honey, jalapeño honey, and ghost chile honey.
• Think Small: Seems like nothing new here, since tapas took the country by storm, oh, a decade or more ago. But while big chain restaurants may continue to pile on the portions, at trendier spots, as Technomics predicts, “diners demand small plates and flexible portions.”
4 for the Food Activist:
• Loco for Locavores: The trend in local eating shows no sign of losing steam. Take the top 10 trends gleaned from a survey of almost 1,300 professional chefs by the National Restaurant Association, for example. Topping the list are “locally sourced meat and seafood” and “locally grown produce.”
• Hyper-local? In fact, some industry watchers are predicting the die-hard locavores will take the movement even further toward “hyper-local” or “micro-local” sourcing.
• Where’s the Beef? As public awareness grows about the double-whammy health-and-environmental costs of meat eating, Food Genius predicts that “restaurant operators should expect to see an uptick in vegetarian orders.”
• People Power: “The meaning of corporate social responsibility evolves as consumer concerns shift to the human factor,” Technomics predicts. In other words: More Americans are likely to support a living wage for restaurant workers.
4 for the Tech Nut:
• Tablets: Touch-screen ordering is the wave of the future. Even McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are experimenting with it.
• Online Delivery: Tech giants Uber and Amazon recently dipped their toes into the multibillion-dollar restaurant delivery market; expect fierce competition to ensue with established rivals like GrubHub.
• Google Glass: In one of the creepier predictions, industry consultant Baum + Whiteman foresees a not-so-distant future wherein waiters use face-recognition software combined with Google’s next-gen eyewear to identify everyone at your table—and make personalized menu recommendations.
• Reservation Revolution: B+W also posits that we’ll be seeing more nonrefundable prepay reservations at some of the hottest restaurants, in other words “people buying ‘tickets’ for dinner like seats on an airplane.”
4 for the Health Nut:
• Amaranth: This gluten-free, protein-packed "grain" (it's really a seed) is poised to become the next quinoa for the superfood set. It also happens to be a close relative of the Andean crop.
• Cauliflower: Forget steamed-on-the-side; cauliflower is cropping up in everything from pizza dough to porridge as an alterative to grain-based flours.
• Fermentation: Probiotics aren’t just for yogurt anymore. Think kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and even DIY pickles as vehicles for getting good bacteria into your system.
• Matcha: Described by some heath gurus as the “superpower green tea,” this traditional powdered Japanese tea is supposedly jam-packed with antioxidants.
4 for the Foodie Futurist:
• “Cannabis Cuisine”: Sterling-Rice Group predicts, “Cannabis will move beyond pot brownies to confections, bars, simple syrups, and bottled cold-brewed coffee.” The latter, however, has already happened.
• Neurogastronomy: Baum + Whiteman sees a big future for this mouthful of a concept, which it describes as “how our senses cumulatively react to food.” In other words, restaurants manipulating your entire environment through shifting high-definition imagery on restaurant walls or pervading the space with different aromas.
• Outsourced Grocery Shopping: Among the proliferation of food-service options, Technomics notes the rise of web-based subscription services like Blue Apron, which delivers dinner recipes—and the fresh ingredients to make them—right to your door.
• Ten-Year Trends: The National Restaurant Association asked chefs to gaze a decade into the future to predict what would still be hot in 2025. Top picks included environmental sustainability, local sourcing, and healthier fare—yep, it's 2014 all over again.