There are many, both official and anecdotal, predictions made regarding food and drink trends but the best of them is the Mintel report, Global Food and Drink Trends 2018. So this year I’ve looked at the five trends identified in the report and added in observations from others, listed at the bottom of this post, as well as myself.
We’ve seen what happened at Volkswagen, and much has been written about post-truth. Four out of five Canadian adults do not trust the health claims made on packaging. Nearly half Chinese aged 20-49 consider food safety to be one of the three most important criteria when choosing where to buy. Now consumers really want to know exactly what it is that they are putting inside their bodies. They are looking, as scientist Jenny Plumb, of The Quadram Institute, explains, to the labeling to enable them to make healthier choices.
And consumers don’t just want to know about the healthiness of the product, they are also concerned with ethics and the environment. Mintel reports that environmentally friendly packaging and both animal and human welfare claims in newly launches food products rose to 22% last year, in comparison to 1% ten years ago. Innova Market Insights reports that brand introductions that feature ethical claims on their packages have increased sevenfold since 2010. In particular, support for farmers is growing.
Whole Foods (recently bought by Amazon) reports that there is an increasing emphasis on cracking down on waste.
“I’ll scrape mould off my pesto rather than add to the shocking food waste mountain….These dates are designed to protect supermarkets from lawsuits rather than preserve our lives”
writes Laura Weir in The Evening Standard.
We’ll be stopping cutting off the ends of vegetables like carrots the company says (see John Stolarczyk’s carrot top pesto). Menus will be planned to use all parts of an ingredient. Increasingly, people are looking for ways of using up leftovers; and they want to know which recipes can be frozen.
Waitrose reports that more of us are taking home doggy bags and says that 71% of Britons feel ashamed about wasting food. So we’ll be supporting charitable foodbanks like The Trussell Trust. Couples will be getting their weddings catered by waste-reducing pop-ups such as REfUSE.
Recycling remains important, with Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, Greggs, McDonalds, Nestlé, Pret à Manger and Starbucks to recycling polyethylene-lined paper cups.
“About a third of edible food is wasted globally, and the FAO found that 6.7% of global greenhouse gases comes from food waste.”
-Olga Syraya, in a letter to Scientific American
Dislike of waste is not just an ethical thing. As British consumers tighten their belts against inflation, they are becoming more thrifty. Waitrose is currently extending its Little Less than Perfect range, and sales of their Forgotten Cuts of meat have also soared – we’re talking brisket, pork shanks and pigs’ trotters. People would like more information about what they can freeze, and ideas for what to do with leftovers. For many good ideas buy the Bread is Gold cookbook, a compilation by more than sixty chefs which is full of ideas of what to do with scraps, from meatballs to bread pudding.
And, according to the BBC, we’ll be trying to source much more locally – using foods grown within walking distance, with some restaurants opting to grow their own ingredients on site. Think Matej in Nataša Tomažič’s on-site herb garden; or Harrison Barraclough’s home-grown chocolate mint; or the impressive potager at The Pig on The Beach. As Daniel Neman, writing in St Louis Post-Dispatch comments, “Instead of wanting Southern food, we now look to Nashville Hot, or Carolina Sweet.”
Trust comes more easily to some nationalities. 70% of Italians, and 66% of French would trust a company simply because it manufactures within their own country.
Both Whole Foods and Jenny Plumb say the devil is in the detail, with Whole Foods recommending examining Fair Trade Certifications and GMO information carefully; and Jenny Plumb pointing out that, due to the tolerances, the packet of crisps which seems to have lower fat, may actually contain more than a competitive product.
“Due to tolerances, the packet of crisps which seems to have lower fat, may actually contain more than a competitive product.”
Stressed, hectic lives are leading consumers to consider healthy eating an essential, not a luxury.
This is an on-going trend, noted by Mintel in the 2017 trends as well. In the 2018 report the analysts write:
“The frantic pace of modern life, constant connectivity, pervasive distrust, and contentious tones in politics and the media have caused many consumers to look for ways to escape negativity in their lives”.
Our strategy for dealing with this is to hunker down and focus inwards. We’ve started to look after ourselves more in terms of our health – nearly half Australians consider that controlling stress is an important factor in overall health.
But we’re also starting to care for ourselves more in terms of giving ourselves treats, which could be culinary, or simply some time off. Resulting trends are:
- An increased focus on foods that are healthy – a continued move away from meat and toward more protein-rich plant-based food (see trend 5, food production and technology, below) which includes, of course, all the leading suspects – quinoa, lentils etc. Buy the cookbook, The New Vegetarian by Alice Hart, for a good set of ideas.
- According to Elyssa Goodman, writing on the J P Morgan Chase site, “Research shows gut health is directly linked to overall brain function, including improved mental health and a decrease in diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s and the food industry is taking notice”. She thinks the interest in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha as well as cultured foods such as yoghurt with probiotics. Saucy Dressings sees also an interest in the fermented milk drink, kefir as well as in pickles. The BBC agrees, and adds prebiotics such as onions, garlic and other alliums to the list.
- Increased popularity of healthy treats to satisfy cravings – fat-laden crisps are on the way out. Now we’re scoffing jicama, parsnip, and Brussels sprouts crisps; or the protein-heavy beef jerky.
- However, we need to begin to practice what we preach in the UK – the country where nearly half of all ready meals in Europe were consumed last year according to The Daily Mail (!). In the UK we ate twice as many ready meals as the French and six times the number consumed by the Spanish.
- Another symptom of insecurity, of care of the self, will be the popularity of comfort foods (the most watched video on the Waitrose YouTube channel was Heston’s bacon sandwich) and foods with family heritage (My Mother’s Scrambled Eggs).
- There’s an increasing focus on natural foods which calm, or aid sleep. Infusions of camomile, lavender, lemon balm and turmeric (which overtook cinnamon in 2017 as Waitrose’ top-selling spice) are examples; or a hot drink of honey and apple cider…. Tea will gain an ascendancy over coffee according to the BBC which also predicts proliferating tea bars and demand for specialist teas, or tailored blends. (Read what tea sommelier, Domini Hogg, has to say on the subject, here). Whole Foods’ (reported in The Independent) sees flower-informed beverages such as ‘lavender lattes, hibiscus teas, elderflower cocktails, and rose-flavoured everything becoming the trend. It’s named elderflower as the new ‘Most Valuable Petal’.
- On the other hand we’ll be a bit more careful about our alcohol intake. Mintel predicts more Mocktail drinkers, while mixologist Brian Van Flandern, in an interview with Food & Wine, predicts weaker cocktails based on wine and champagne.
- Proper mealtimes (this is a Saucy Dressings prediction). More people will combine the pleasure of food with the company of friends and the time off necessary to enjoy both. People will make an occasion of it…they’ll splurge on beautiful plates, napkins, glasses….. But, according to Waitrose, it’ll all be easier. Instead of lots of intricate courses, there’ll be large, impressive, made-ahead statement plates, “it’s more about creating the entire evening than finessing the individual elements on the plates. Ambiance takes precedence over the menu.” So think vitello tonnato, or get inspiration from Sabrina Ghayour’s, Feasts which contains lots of ideas for easy-but-exotic middle-eastern spreads. To spend more time with guests and less time in the kitchen consumers are looking for time-saving tips.
- Again, in the spirit of self-care, we’ll be trying to optimise every meal – that means (another Saucy Dressings prediction) that we’ll be paying more attention to what we pair our food with – whether that be other food; or with wine, beer, cocktails, mocktails….or any other kind of drink.
- On the other hand, meals are becoming less defined. ‘Couples Brunch’ is one of the most popular courses at Waitrose Cookery School. ‘Brinner’ – eating cereal, or bacon and eggs for dinner is increasingly popular. Fourth meals – a snack before bed after an early supper, or an energy-boosting salad mid-afternoon before a session at the gym – are becoming commonplace.
- Suzy Badaracco, president of the food trend forecasting think tank, Culinary Tides, says that communal dining tables are due for a comeback. Quoted on the J P Morgan Chase website she says “you’re going out with friends because you don’t trust anyone, or maybe you don’t want to be alone. You go out but you’re still kind of hopeful, so you sit at a communal dining table with your best friend and are fine with meeting new people. The people who are feeling a lot of fear also sit at the communal dining table because they think it’s hilarious to meet new people. Of course, you can hopefully commiserate depending on who’s sitting at the table with you”.How grim. I think I’d rather dine solo – and in the UK that seems increasingly likely. The latest WaitroseFood and Drink report reveals that “eight in ten people believe that eating alone is more socially acceptable than it was five years ago, with close to a third of Britons having done so in the last month. A third of these had done it in the last week, confirming that the taboo of the table for one is on the way out.” Is it just demographics or connected to the fact that solo diners are more mindful? Rochelle Venables, Editor of The Good Food Guide, opines, “It’s about self-care. Why not take yourself out for dinner?”
- Another Saucy Dressings’ prediction is that interest in food (celebrity chefs, TV shows, cook books) will continue to grow, as will, to a lesser extent, actually doing some cooking. To find out more about the connection between cooking and uncertainty, go to The Curious and Curative Power of an Interest in Food.
Interest in food will lead to more food tourism.
Texture and mouth-feel will become important
Last year’s Mintel predictions identified that people would be ‘eating with their eyes’ ie the colour and shape of food would be important. This year the prediction is that:
“Encounters that appeal to multiple senses can provide consumers with escapes from the routine and stress of their lives, opportunities to make memories, or generate ‘like-worthy’ social media posts.”
- Saucy Dressings predicts that hacking the senses (see To Hack, or Not to Hack as well as Sonic Seasonings) will move from the surreal to the mainstream, it will become an integral part of every successful chef’s training.Companies, such as Chloé Morris’s Edible Stories, will flourish as their clients strive to make something a bit more out of their celebrations.
In particular the accent will be on texture (which includes sound):
- Chewy and crispy (popping candy, Ritz crackers, crispy seaweed) ingredients will be of special interest. Whole Foods reports that “new extrusion methods have paved the way for popped cassava chips, puffed pasta bow ties, seaweed fava chips and puffed rice clusters”.
- Carbonation (naturally occurring or caused by fermentation) and ‘fruit bits’ may be added to drinks.
- Food manufacturers will be exploring contrasting coatings and fillings.
- The ‘tingle’ produced from Sichuan pepper for example, or from chillies, or the Ethiopian spice blend, Berbere, will remain in the spotlight; to say nothing of a nine volt jolt from an electric flower. Consider the butter-roasted barley flakes and leeks featured in Gill Meller’s Gather, the crisp, buttery barley flakes add texture to what would have classically have been a simple leek vinaigrette. Or, another thought, Ravinder Bhogal, chef-patron of Jikoni, who has developed a sort of pointu scotch egg, a dish she describes as “a sort of bonny love child of a very British thing and Chinese prawn toast”. The outside, the crust, she describes, is not just made of breadcrumbs but spicy Thai prawn crackers which are blitzed and when you deep fry the eggs,
“they sort of puff up, and go really crisp in contrast to the runny egg centre…I think it’s that textural thing”.
- Another Saucy Dressings’ prediction – we’ll be keener than ever on crunchy crystalline vintage cheeses – Gruyère, Tomme, Gouda, Red Fox
- and mixed-textured salad leaves such as punterelle
- And texture will be important not just for the food, but for the utensils we use. Think textured sporks and taster tweezers; or spoons made from different woods to flavour different sauces; or simply fingers – Waitrose reports the popularity of finger food increased by 27% last year among 18-24 year olds.
- As well as the packaging – Phil Lempert, writing in Forbes, says “Autonomous Sensory Median Response (ASMR) has created a new food media world where acoustic sounds like the slurping, chewing, whispering….and crinkling of packaging trigger a euphoria, a tingling down the back of our necks.”
Food and drink provision will be tailored to the individual
Rob Collins, Managing Director of Waitrose, says that “Today’s shoppers have more control than ever over when they shop, what they buy, and how they consume it”.
The Mintel researchers predict a ‘new era of personalisation is dawning due to the expansion of on-line and mobile food shopping’. The building blocks for this new era have already been firmly cemented in place. Phil Lempert, writing in Forbes, states that “the year 2017 goes down in history as the most important ever in grocery”. He says that grocery is now ‘cool’ and attracting impressive talent. In the US, over the past 20 months, he tells us, no less than 17 CEOs of big food companies have stepped down.
“The future of supermarkets looks likely to be an experiential retail space – immersive hubs where shopping is only one of the activities on offer” according to Waitrose who point to wine bars and supper clubs as already taking space on supermarket sites.
Voice-enabled ordering such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Alexa are a real attraction to over a third of UK food shoppers. Horrendously, we’ll also be yakking away to our kitchen sink – Kohler has just announced the introduction of a kitchen sink that will give you exactly the amount of water you ask for…
Check-outs may become a thing of the past.
Amazon has acquired Whole Foods Market, and Google and Walmart have partnered up and these two giants are now competing, according to the BBC, with “a clutch of smaller outfits [such as Hello Fresh] who specialise in delivering recipe kits to home” – this means we can expect a deluge of personalised suggestions, aimed at helping us save time and reduce waste, unless we redouble our grip on our Adblocker. This is an emerging trend which is set to become even bigger.
The frequency of our buying is changing – 65% of Britain’s (according to Waitrose) visit a supermarket more than once a day (one of the five top reasons being to reduce waste). The days of the Big Weekly Shop are over.
“the year 2017 goes down in history as the most important ever in grocery”
Food production and purchasing will become more informed by technology and science
- Synthetically grown meat
Stem cell cultures will become important techniques in food production thanks to investors with serious muscle (we’re talking Unilever, Cargill….Bill Gates, Richard Branson). Their money is making laboratory-grown meat and animal-free dairy commercially viable.
Memphis Meat, for example, produces meat without having to grow an entire animal. It has so far produced beef, chicken and duck from animal cells. Impossible Foods is developing a meatless burger that bleeds (the ‘blood’ is actually the plant-based ingredient ‘heme’). See below both a YouTube video explaining the science behind this, and follow this link for a tasting test by avid meat eater, Jeremy Clarkson – the jury is still out…. See the YouTube clip at the bottom of this post for more on the science behind all this.
In any case, the Spanish are leading the way as potential consumers, with over a quarter of them saying that that idea of lab-grown meat actually appeals to them.
Of course this synthetic food chimes well with the concern for the environment (see Trend 1 above) – Impossible Foods which produces plant-based meat says it uses 95% less land, 74% less water and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions.
Savings on water could prove to be one of the most important of these savings as water becomes a scarce resource.
Another advantage of synthetic food is that it can be produced to standard, ‘perfect’ sizes.
- Much more efficient farming methods – vertical and urban
In the US farmers are using sensors, imaging and real-time data analytics to improve efficiency and reduce waste according to an article in Scientific American. Seed producers, say the authors Geoffrey Ling and Blake Bextine, are using technology to improve plant ‘phenotyping’ – to produce seed varieties that thrive in specific soil and weather conditions. Eventually these crops can be developed to be more nutritious.
In Germany perch swim in tanks on rooftops and the ammonia they excrete is used to fertilise tomatoes growing in a greenhouse above.
In 2020 a multiuse building is due to open Linkoping with 16 stories of farms and offices on a ratio of 3:1.
And in London, micro greens are being grown underground in an old World War II bunker.
And you don’t have to be a farmer to harvest in the city. Buy The Edible City: A Year of Wild Food by John Rensten for more urban foraging ideas.
- 3D printing
3D printing will revolutionise the restaurant trade, creating a more tactile food experience (see Trend 3, above) as well as being more efficient and less wasteful (see Trend 1, above).
See the clip below for a view of what we can expect:
Some additional predictions from other sources about which national cuisines will be under the spotlight:
- Whole Foods’ says Middle Eastern cuisines will become the latest thing, with a particular emphasis on Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese dishes such as shakshuka. Middle Eastern ingredients such as pomegranate, aubergine, cucumber, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam, and dried fruits will also be on the ascendant. Cardamom and cumin will be sprinkled generously, and spice mixes such as harissa paste and za’atar will be to chefs’ hands.
- Elyssa Goodman says there will be an interest in dishes from the north and south poles, especially those from Scandinavia.
- There are numerous predictions in favour of the Hawaiian poke bowl, “it’s the next generation of sushi, but easier to eat” says chef Dakota Weiss in People.
- Waitrose predicts the rise of tapas-style Indian street food – smoked, grilled or seared delicacies. At the haut cuisine end of things, see also what chef-patron Vineet Bhatia has to say on authentic Indian food. For more ideas on this buy Meera Sodha’s Made in India.
- Jackfruit will be hailed as the miracle solution to the world’s food shortages
Sources for this post:
BBC Food Trends 2018
On the science behind synthetic meat production: