Commentary

Building Walls?! The Latest Food Trends Tell Us Otherwise

To continue building upon my food expertise and to help my clients generate timely news, at the beginning of every new year, I pay close attention to the latest food trends and enjoy watching them blossom onto the restaurant scene and into our homes.

I’ve witnessed the meteoric rise of the humble coconut to being celebrated as the trending food of 2015; and that of the nondescript cauliflower, which left the depths of the salad bar in 2016 to land on upscale menus, everyday side dishes and paleo pizzas. I relish in observing the evolution of cutting-edge food trends into mainstream products. Not only is the phenomenon itself intriguing; I also appreciate what the sheer acceptance of these trends says about American culture.

This brings me to some of the hottest food trends of 2017:

1. Spicy Foods Globally inspired sauces are kicking up the heat. People are embracing not just the domestic, Texas BBQ or Nashville Hot Chicken-style heat. They’re moving beyond Sriracha to more exotic, palate-expanding flavors, such as gochujang, harissa and piri piri. The better educated we become as a society, the more we demand authenticity in our food choices. The fact that we have a zest to explore foreign cuisines demonstrates an inherent goodness. Contrary to what’s happening in today’s politics, Americans have become more open-minded, which gives me great comfort in a time that’s very tumultuous.

2. Stem-to-Root Cooking There’s a newfound willingness to prevent waste and celebrate the complete vegetable in its pure, natural state — not just the pretty parts. The discerning cooks of today are far more frugal in their approach, which communicates an overall respect for the land, the farmers who nurture it, and what whole food represents. This shows we are decidedly focused on the right things … things that matter. We’re stretching to our resources to ensure the long-term health of our planet—a true recipe for success!

3. Advancements in Plant-based Foods Developments in food technology are changing the face/quality of our food, and making new options possible, from plant-based burgers that taste and bleed like real meat to Cheddar and Provolone slices that stretch and melt like real dairy cheese. People have been eating vegan for years but more folks now understand our depleting food sources, and want to embrace sustainable options.

4. The Return of Full-Fat Foods With top nutritionists now weighing in that sugar and processed foods (not fat) are perhaps the real cause of the obesity epidemic, there’s a growing appreciation for healthy fats, including coconut oils, nut butters, salmon and avocado, as well as the comeback of full-fat yogurts, whole milk and good ‘ole butter. This shows we’re focused on what’s real and natural, and not all the negatives. As a culture, we’re more forgiving and not as obsessed and self-absorbed as we might have been years ago. 

5. Convergence of Online and Offline Shopping In a world where convenience is king, online continues to reign. A recent survey by Prosper Insights and Analytics found that 1 out of every 10 millennials and Gen Xers bought groceries online in 2016, up 8.4% and 6.8% in previous years. However, it’s ironic that some online retailers are bringing the online experience back into stores. Take Amazon Go, the brick and mortar shop that empowers customers to grab what they find in-store while automatically deducting payment from their wallets! What to extract from this: Despite how busy we all get, people still crave human interactions.

Perhaps I hunger for a silver lining—to find positivity in a time of flux for our country. But if the trends mean something, we can take comfort in knowing there is inherent goodness and acceptance brewing in our kitchens, regardless of the philosophies and practices of the chef in charge.

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