With nearly three decades of educational programs on traditional diets and wholesome ingredients under our belt, we’ve witnessed a number of delicious trends develop over the years. The wide adoption of olive oil, hummus, Greek yogurt, and whole grain products are just a few examples. Today, we’re pleased to share what we see on the horizon for 2018, highlighting four macro-trends and giving specific examples of each of these trends in action.

Vegetable-Curious Eating

Vegetarians and yogis might still lead the market on tofu in the US, but today’s omnivorous consumers are becoming increasingly “vegetable curious,” opting for some plant-based meals even when they don’t consider themselves vegetarian. Similarly, Americans are rejecting rigid diets, opting instead for “lifestyles” in which a healthy balance of animal foods and plant foods can happily coexist.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Jackfruit: When cooked, this tropical fruit takes on a meaty texture and mouthfeel, akin to pulled pork. Look for it in tacos or barbeque dishes.
  • Ancient grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds anchoring meals: These fiber- and protein-filled ingredients pack a nutrient punch, meaning that plant-based dishes can be just as satiating as their meaty counterparts. Given that many diners flock to plant-forward meals for reasons of sustainability and food quality, these whole food ingredients are especially appealing.
  • Heirloom varieties: When it comes to vegetables, fruits, and even grains, diners don’t just expect the unexpected; they demand it. Using a lesser-known strain of wheat berries or a heritage breed of squash adds value and allure to a plate, reflecting a feeling of abundance, even sans animal products.

Unearthing the “New” Global Cuisines

In tumultuous times, people tend to retreat from modern, convenience-driven food habits and instead seek comfort in tradition and humble, historical cuisines. What’s more, the popularity of travel and social media make it easier for consumers to dive deeper into cultural food traditions that they might not have otherwise discovered.

Keep an eye out for:

  • African heritage cuisine: While Southern cooking traces many of its roots back to Africa, continental African cuisine is still a relative newcomer to the broader American foodscape. With passionate chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Twitty bringing these previously unsung dishes to light, the momentum for African heritage foods, like teff, millet, or berbere, continues to gain traction.
  • More Mediterranean: Once again crowned as the healthiest way to eat, Mediterranean cuisine continues to attract diners for its bold flavors, nutrition perks, and overall lifestyle. Greek food has had a renaissance the past few years, but move eastward along the Mediterranean, and there are a number of foods just waiting to be discovered. Now that hummus and falafel are household names, get ready to add shakshuka, tahini, and za’atar to your repertoire.

Local Grains

Farm-to-table cuisine moves beyond the produce sector, as chefs and diners seek out heirloom varieties of whole grains from local farms. The past few years have seen a surge in interest in local grain economies from farmers, millers, bakers, and maltsters across the country. Now that the infrastructure for these local products is growing, supply will be ready to meet demand.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Rye, oats, and buckwheat: Though wheat is certainly the most ubiquitous grain, expect rye, oats, and buckwheat to blaze the trail for other whole grains. Many farmers are already using these grains as cover crops, so it’s a natural transition for growers looking to get into the local grains game.
  • Heritage wheat varieties: In the past it was easy to think of “flour” as synonymous with modern wheat, but today’s farmers, bakers, and consumers are turning to older varieties like einkorn, emmer, spelt, and khorasan for their subtle flavors and buttery textures.
  • Domestic quinoa: Though its exoticism was no doubt part of its initial allure, quinoa is making strides in the local food movement as companies continue to invest in American-grown varieties, which are becoming increasingly available.
  • Fresh milling: Have you ever ground your own coffee at the grocery store? Many whole grain baking enthusiasts are advocating a similar approach for flour, to ensure only the freshest, sweetest flavors. Others are bringing the mill right into their own kitchens for irresistibly fragrant flour that’s milled just in time to bake.

Cooking is Cool

The growing interest in clean-label, minimally-processed foods means that more and more customers are finding themselves with raw ingredients that require some elbow grease. Meal kit delivery companies have nudged a large swath of consumers to dust the cobwebs off their cookware and start getting comfortable in the kitchen, and this year we expect to see the training wheels start to come off as the community of home cooks continues to grow.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Meal kits galore: Despite facing a highly saturated market, meal kit delivery companies have shown remarkable market penetration, awakening a love of cooking in even the unlikeliest of customers.
  • Product reformulations: When customers light a fire under their feet, the market can move much quicker than legislation when it comes to public health. Unnecessary sugar, salt, and additives are increasingly getting reduced or replaced in products as companies continue to reformulate.

Kelly Toups, Director of Nutrition 

Add a Comment