Food trends 2016

Like fashion, culinary trends reinvent themselves every few years with must haves, new creations and modern versions of old staples. What was once hot (say, coconut water) has fallen by the wayside, foods that were considered waste (carrot tops) are now the darlings of “root-to-stem” chefs, and ethnic foods with their rich colors and flavors are all the rage.

What are the foodie buzzwords of 2016? Here are a few you will most likely hear this year: Açai bowls,  root to stalk, values, kombucha, food waste, koji, spice blends, poke, clean food, high speed delivery, hyper local and heritage cuisine.

Açai (ah-sci-ee) bowls: acai bowl
Froyos and ice cream mix-ins are out, açai bowls are in.  Establishments serving these healthy, filling and delicious bowls are popping up everywhere on the Pacific coast and in large metropolitan areas.  The bowl consists of a thick purée made from Brazilian berries called açai which is topped with fruits, nuts, granola or other breakfast toppings. A favorite of fitness enthusiasts, this superfood bowl packs in nutrients, vitamins, anti-oxidants and a host of other health benefits.

Poke (po-kay or poh-key):poke
Originally from Hawaii, poke is finally coming to the mainland for the rest of the population to discover and enjoy. The traditional dish is served over warm sticky rice and consists of uber fresh, raw, marinated ahi tuna with onions, seaweed and flavorful seasonings. Poke houses are opening up everywhere offering diners the option to build their own bowls using a variety of fish and vegetable combinations.

“Clean” food:
Consumers are more informed than ever when it comes to food, its source and the way it is produced.  They are demanding more and more that their food is “clean” ie free of chemicals, additives, artificial color and sweeteners and that it is not genetically modified (non GMO). Restaurants and retailers will be making huge efforts to source these kinds of foods to serve to their educated clientele.

We’ve had farm-to-table, snout-to-tail as buzzwords in recent years and now root-to-stalk (or root-to-stem) is the ‘it’ phrase used by foodies everywhere.  In effect, root-to-stem means that every part of the plant is to be used in cooking thereby minimizing waste. In the past, tops (and the base) of many root vegetables were removed and discarded, but today you can find a variety of recipes using carrot tops, broccoli stalks and radish leaves in sauces, stocks, creams and dips.

Food values:
Not to be confused with value, consumers are very interested in a company’s or an establishment’s values. Where do they source their food from? Are they sustainable, environmentally friendly, care about animal welfare? Do they minimize waste, support local growers, provide for their employees? Many products and menu items now come with a story about the farmer and his/her practices, a description of the land the food is grown in/on and the promise that no genetically modified organisms were utilized.

Heritage cuisine:
Many chefs are going back to their roots offering reinvented dishes from traditional “old country” recipes while also preserving their cultural heritage. Jewish comfort food is seeing a resurgence, African flavors are hot, ethnic cuisine and Middle Eastern dishes are all the rage. Concomitantly, spice blends and sauces particularly from Africa and Korea will be everywhere includingBerberé, a spicy Ethiopian mix, Korean BBQ sauces and warm spice blends like Baharat.

High speed deliveries:blue apron
No longer limited to late night pizza or Chinese food, high speed food delivery services will continue to expand, particularly in metropolitan areas, offering healthy meals that one can easily prepare at home. Dinner in a box companies such as Blue Apron, Hellofresh and Plated amongst others, provide weekly meals complete with recipes and all of the ingredients needed to make a sumptuous dinner. Chefs and/or in-house culinary teams create many of the menu items, source the product and tailor the meals to accommodate a variety of diets and culinary abilities.

In other predictions for the year, it appears that oatmeal will cauliflower colorsbecome a new favorite as well as cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Farro, amaranth and millet will be added to the ancient grains trend.  Savory ice cream and yogurt will be more main stream as will savory snacks including unusual popcorn combinations, crazy hummus varieties and funky flavored chips.

On the way out in 2016 is sugar and artificial sweeteners, kale, the gluten-free (weight loss) diet fad, flatbreads, coconut water, underutilized fish and low cal entrees. Pasta will also be out of favor being replaced with spiraled veggies and other low-carb/nutrient-dense options. Alternative flours, high fiber legumes and fermented foods will continue to rise in the marketplace as will kimchi, koji (rice inoculated with koji mold) and house-made ice cream.  Artisan soft drinkbutcheries, artisan soft drinks and artisan pickles will also be popular while Japanese and Korean snacks will dominate the snack section in grocery stores. And the one that can’t be explained is the apparent resurgence of the fried chicken! Gulp!

Looks like it will be a good year for the health-conscious, environmentally mindful consumer and an exciting one for foodies everywhere.

Happy 2016.