Back-to-basics -- meaning a focus on buying quality, basic ingredients and building a menu from there -- leads the Food Channel's list of top food trends for 2010.
This version of back-to-basics "isn't about retro, or comfort food, or even cost -- it's about determining the essentials and stocking your pantry accordingly," say the channel's food gurus.
In fact, in addition to more of the eating-at-home trend, they predict a shift away from convenience foods and toward real, from-scratch cooking, "now that we have more time than money, and more food knowledge and concerns."
When people do go out to eat, they'll be experimenting more than ever. Restaurant concepts are in flux as people redefine what going "out" to eat means, they note. New formats/concepts that are likely to do well include gastropubs, fusion dining, "shareables" and communal tables, and those built around "fresh" and do-it-yourself themes.
Grocery stores will continue to see growth in private label and a revival of emphasis on the in-store butcher, as well as upgraded delis and fresh take-out sections, say the trend-watchers. Bulk buys will continue, but frequent -- even daily -- purchases of fresh meal ingredients will become more common as a means of making meals special and minimizing waste. Using social media, apps and online sources to get real-time tips on where the best grocery deals are and to score coupons will become more prevalent.
* Redefining "ethnic" ("American, The New Ethnic"). American food is made up of a growing number of ethnic staples and favorites. We're also adding individual dashes of creativity as we share these favorites and learn to cook them at home.
* Food vetting. Food sourcing issues ranging from Fair Trade to organics to mercury-free fish will continue to grow in importance.
* Mainstreaming sustainability. Growing numbers of Americans will continue to adopt sustainable practices out of a desire to make a difference, including eating locally sourced, seasonal foods and buying products with sustainable/biodegradable packaging. Food manufacturers will continue to expand sustainable operational and packaging practices.
* Food with benefits. "Functional" foods with added nutrients or health/beauty benefits claims will continue to proliferate, as will gluten- and allergy-free foods. Nutritional labeling will get sorted out.
* The "new" foodie. Today's foodies are less obsessed with snob appeal and more interested in fun experimentation, such as combining exotic or expensive ingredients with everyday items like hamburgers or mac and cheese.
* Bartering for consumables. With community-supported agriculture (CSA's) as well as farmers' markets and roadside stands in vogue, the next step is using our new online communication capabilities to make connections (even with strangers) for swaps that include food. These analysts predict more trading of skills/time for food, and vice versa ("think a box of tomatoes in exchange for babysitting"), as well as more homemade food as gifts.
* Personalizing and individual portions to express individuality. The parallel trend to collectives and communal eating is individualism, reflected both in practices like making cheese at home and in the growing number of individual-size foods (cupcakes, pizzas, etc.). Individual portions also enable cooks and restaurants to let people choose their own ingredients and express their personalities. Chains such as Flat Top Grill, where customers can choose their own ingredients for items served at every meal, will grow in popularity.