I was on Twitter the other day, and a food writer was ranting about being asked about food trend predictions. As is Twitter’s way, others joined in, and so the hashtag #soup was brought forth – as featured on Eater London.
I can understand their frustration – food and drink are joys to be savoured, and we should all be free to enjoy the huge variance and innovations as they come without being told what is cool and what is not.
But from a commercial point of view, it doesn’t quite work like that. In another life when I was a buyer, my go to question for the producers that I worked with was always ‘So what’s new?’. And now, as a producer myself, I have to constantly review my offering because in today’s world, if I’m not offering it, there’s always someone else who is.
I’ve got a business to run and responsibilities to my staff to maintain and grow sales so that I can literally ensure that there’s money to keep the lights on. As such, I can never stand still, but on the flip side, I don’t want to.
I LOVE food trends. The discovery of new ideas, new flavours and ways to enjoy what can be such a simple luxury is one of many reasons why I’m in this industry.
So, having not done one for the year just gone, here are my thoughts on what might be coming up on the horizon. These are by no means gospel, just some ideas that I’ve had sloshing around.
Not so much a food trend, but more a direct result of environmental factors. Having just had a long hot summer with very little rain, this has impacted on growing seasons and made the availability of things such as root vegetables, onions and shallots limited and more expensive. What this means in real terms, is that as things become more difficult to get hold of, or more expensive, chefs and producers may end up looking at ways to use less of them or seek out more readily available alternatives.
Longterm, the biggest issue the food industry is going to face is water – or rather a lack of it. Not only do crops and farmed animals need this to grow, but a significant amount of water is put in foodstuff as an ingredient, not to mention in food processing.
While not an overnight thing, I think you’re going to see restaurants making more use of ‘grey water’ and self collected water from roofs, while large scale desalination plants may spring up as a way to service demand.
The New Protein.
An adult woman needs approximately 53g of protein per day, and a man 66g. With more and more consumers trying to reduce their meat consumption because of their concerns on environmental impact, you are going to see more and more alternatives.
We already have the Impossible Burger using Pea Protein, San Francisco-based Memphis Meats is developing cell-based meats in its laboratories and Just Inc, which is also based in San Francisco, has developed its own “plant-based cocktail” serum to grow cell-based products for not only meat but seafood as well.
It’s going to be a slow step change, but cricket flour is probably going to be used more widely (probably the only way eating insects are going to become a thing in the West), but also a range of sea vegetables and even potentially duckweed.
OK, I’ve just coined the phrase, but it’s a catch all to round up the growing interest in fast food from the Far East. While there’s nothing wrong with burgers, those looking for that crispy, (potentially) deep fried fix can look to Japan for things like Katsu sando (a sandwich featuring a deep fried pork or chicken escalope) and Okonomiyaki (a crispy savoury pancake); Vietnam for bánh khọt (a mini rice pancake) and Cha gio (Southern Vietnamese spring roll), Malaysia for Curry Puffs and China for Jian Bing (a fried pancake).
Feel good food.
This actually has a two applications – foods you eat to make you feel good because they’ve got added benefits, such as high in antioxidants, collagen rich and foods to enhance your gut health (yes I’m looking at you fermentation), but also foods and establishments that you’re buying into because they’re doing good. Examples include Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise supporting and developing women and Edinburgh Food Social, which aims to make local food more accessible in Scotland and to give people the skills to cook using seasonal ingredients.
Make room for Mushrooms.
Being naturally rich in umami, mushrooms are popular with vegans for replicating that rich meaty flavour. With mushrooms being packed full of vital nutrients such as vitamin B, potassium and iron, these humble fungi are now being hailed as the new super-food. Apart from Shiitake, Enoki, and the traditional button and chestnut mushrooms, look out for newer varieties such as Lion’s Mane, Maitake and Forest Nameko.
Waste not want not.
We’ve already had nose to tail and root to stem dining in an effort to reduce food waste, and initiatives are underway to ban plastic straws and reduce excess packaging, but we’re going to see even more innovation, such as wrappers grown from Kombucha, packaging made from seaweed and disposables made from millet.
You say potato..
I say Cassava, Jicama, Taro, Ube – basically new substitutes and additions to snacks, to avoid the use of the higher carb traditional potato.
While we’re still having a love affair with sweet, bitter, as popularised by Negroni cocktails, Kale and sprouts is currently having its moment. Next year, look for sour flavours as popularised in Filipino, Hunan, and Persian cuisine.
Butter me up.
To quote from one of my duvet day films, ‘You can never have too much butter’. In the US, traditional Asian Ghee is having a moment. Obviously, they can’t just contend with the traditional canned East End ghee that my mum’s Pakistani neighbours used to use. No, instead they’re going for organic and gourmet. Brands such as Lee’s Ghee and Farmtrue Ghee have jumped on the Ayurvedic bandwagon. But in the UK, we’ve got cultured butter, such as Butter Vikings, while Ireland is doing amazing flavoured butters from Abernethy Butter.
Vegan Junk Food.
As the number of vegans in the UK continues to grow, the stereotype of sandal wearing, lentil eaters is well and truly over. The modern vegan wants to enjoy all the variety of conventional cuisine, just without the meat. Fast food is a modern vice that they don’t want to be without, and it’s not just burgers, but Doner Kebabs, Pizza and Mexican (to name a few).
However it’s not just out, but also at home – which is why I’ve designed four new sauces for Vegans to use. Available in stores from January.