Food & Dining trends for 2015

This is the time of year that the food industry releases surveys about dining trends and what consumers are interested in eating/drinking, whether at home or out. I always love to hear from the Specialty Food Association, which puts on the Fancy Food Show each summer (New York) and winter (San Francisco). A recent e-newsletter from them highlighted some of the current trends for specialty foods , the kinds of things that make foodie hearts go pitter-patter. I’ve added my own comments in italics. (Full information is here.)

Fresh Food Delivery Arrives Grocery delivery tests will give way to far improved services. Have you tried FreshDirect yet? What about the meal delivery services, like Plated, Blue Apron or Hello Fresh?

Embracing Alternative Proteins Cricket flour, and meat and cheese made from plants, will gain more fans. Loved some cashew cheese I tried.

Snack Bar Stampede Bolder flavors and ingredients mean a whole new image—and opportunity —for snack bars.

Asian Food Roots American consumers reach beyond Chinese, Japanese, and Thai to discover new regional foods, from Vietnamese to upscale ramen. And Burmese!

Tea’s Time Tea is getting the high-end treatment from ingredient upgrades to elegant cafe experiences. Princeton is a town of tea lovers, and has been for years.

Sweetener High More shoppers are swapping added sugars for alternative natural sweeteners, from stevia to reimaginings of honey and maple syrup.

Packaging Revolution Transparent labeling is a boon for business and sustainable packaging gives producers another badge of pride.

Culinary Cannabis Marijuana is the latest herb to grace baked goods and candies for that extra punch. It’s been years since I tried anything like that! And those brownies were not good.

Generation Z Raises its Voice Its elders (born in 1995) have reached the age of influence, and their purchasing power will only grow from here.

Super Bowls Superfood mania, on-the-go convenience, and healthful fast-casual dining make bowls the go-to vessel.

Bonus: Other Trends to Watch Small-batch, local yogurt; the next superfood contenders: kaniwa, baobab, soursop; the next kale: seaweed, cauliflower.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 1,300 chefs (members of the American Culinary Federation) on a list of over 230 items, asking them to rate them as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or a “perennial favorite.”

The results, a “What’s Hot in 2015” culinary forecast, include:

The top four hot trends are the same as last year: locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, environmental sustainability, and healthful kids’ menus. Last year’s fifth place trend — gluten-free items — fell to 16th place, replaced by natural ingredients/minimally processed food, which made its debut on the top 20 list. Food waste reduction/management, at ninth place; housemade/artisan ice cream, at 18th place; and artisan cheeses, at 20th place also made their first appearances in the top 20.”

And the restaurant and hospitality consulting group, Andrew Freeman & Co., based in San Francisco, has just released its eighth annual report on food, beverage and industry trends for 2015, “The Pleasure Principal“:

Beets are out, cauliflower is in, radishes are next.

Kale is out, cabbage salads and coleslaws are in, and banana blossom salad is next.

Chops are out, pork belly is hot, but fish collars are next.

Appletinis are out, 15-ingredient cocktails are popular, but basic old-fashioned drinks are about to make a comeback.

Tacos and therefore taco-concept restaurants are a big trend. Other trends include scrambled eggs (as opposed to poached), spicy flavors, cooking methods that add flavor without fat (rotisserie cooking and smoking, for instance), cured meat spreads (think nduja, a Calabrian specialty), artisanal candy, sour flavors, Spanish cuisine, soft serve, savory pancakes, patty melts, mini cocktails, flasks, gin (finally!), hard cider, and family-style dining.

And, although guests are looking for “instant gratification, education and participation in their food-and-beverage experiences,” some chefs are pushing back on constant special requests from diners, where they feel it will compromise the integrity of their original dish or intended experience.

The living wage debate continues. This is a big issue in the fast-food industry, and I was kind of shocked to see that Wendy’s offers a 99-cent chicken sandwich. That is, to me, a guilt-inducing bargain. One wonders about the quality of life of both the chicken and the staff.

Last, technological innovations for restaurant reservations, such as online pre-pay ticketing systems and flexible surge pricing, are growing. This hasn’t really come to our area yet, but is one of the top subjects in national dining coverage, affecting some of the nation’s most famous fine dining establishments. Read all about it on Eater.com.

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