Who decided that kale was a thing five years ago and what’s up with ramen everything exploding into restaurants all over the country? Food trends are real and picking what comes next is a multi-billion dollar game of chance, data, and intuition.
One of the best influencers is Cathy Nash Holley, the publisher/editor of Flavor & the Menu magazine, and yes she nailed kale as a coming trend. She talked yesterday at the Chef Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst about coming food trends for the next five years.
Three Macro Food Trends
Macro trends will trickle down to the home cook through a variety of paths as the food industry plans everything from frozen dinners to cookbooks to restaurant themes. Here are some ideas to watch for:
People want to know the origins of their food. They want to know the farm location, if there are chemicals/preservatives that were used, and the food preparation details. Restaurants are responding by providing this information and making announcements to diners mostly about removing additives the public doesn’t want. Holley says,
Consumers are getting a little more honest with themselves and the way they approach food.
Transparency also applies to customers engaging at a higher level with restaurants to create their meals. Think of a ramen bowl, prepared in front of a diner while they choose the ingredients.
The sense of community is weaving more and more into our food. One way is via food halls, such as the venerable Quincy Marketplace in Boston, coming back into style. Several are in development around the U.S. according to Holley.
But we need to layer in the digital connection. Long lambasted for keeping us separate, social media and blogs are a fantastic way to pull together communities of like-minded eaters. Instagrams of food trucks, Facebook groups of Sunday brunchers, and meetups at farmers markets all contribute to a sense of connection.
In another tangent of this trend, random restaurant tables often replace a family’s dining room. The food industry is responding to improve that experience through menu planning, customer service training, and restaurant design.
Holley began her macro trend discussion with this statistic:
73 percent of consumers choose what they want to eat over where they want to eat.
Guilty of this myself, I choose Italian vs. Chinese vs. “healthy” and then decide where I’m going to go for dinner. Holley said, “Millennials are less brand loyal than any previous generation. Experiential consumers are craving the experience as much as they’re craving the food. That plays into the setting, the service, the style, the packaging, and the presentation.”
In my opinion, brands and particularly restaurants can see a bump in customers from bringing community and craveability together. Think about the restaurant with the incredible Instagram feed, or the cookbook author with the active Facebook page, or the food manufacturer that actively promotes recipe contests. Add transparency through the internet along with discussion about sourced ingredients and you can see these trends coming together beautifully. The brands that understand this and unify these ideas will be the most successful.
We’re at the Chef Culinary Conference all week, and we’ll be reporting back lots of stories including a roundup of several specific food trends (think flavored butters or pickling). You can follow our Instagram feed for the latest snapshots.