On reading the food trend forecasts issued by the most accredited research institutes, it would seem that in gastronomy – as in fashion – there are some common denominators and that each analysis contains one or two unexpected and original trends on the verge of being amazing.
Green power: the year of jackfruit, chlorophyll & Co.
No matter whether it is "power to the plants" or "veggie power," everyone agrees: 2017 will be a "greener" year than ever before. Mintel and Baum+Whiteman believe the new year will not only usher in the greatest ever devotion to the plant world, but will also give animal proteins the shove.
In fact, according to food forecaster Michael Whiteman, "veggies have become sexy. This love story has not blossomed overnight, on the contrary. It is a trend that has been gathering momentum in the last decade.” Another sign that this trend is now deeply rooted is the fact that the Asian jackfruit – also known as jakfruit, jak or jackand included in our 2017 “crazes” piece – which has been hovering in the background for some time, is now enjoying its full share of the limelight, not only because it is versatile and delicious, but also because its particular texture and taste make it a fantastic meat substitute (when cooked with the right ingredients).
Trend observers from Market Watch, for instance, have even gone so far as to crown it the unchallenged champion of animal protein substitutes. Unbelievably big (according to an article published by National Geographic it can even weigh over 45 kg!), it can act as a meat substitute when cooked unripe, while it is sweet and delicious eaten raw in fruit salads and desserts when fully ripened.
Further confirmation that the green tsunami is growing unstoppable is seen in further research. According to The Fiscal Times, the rise of "veggies" is reflected in the restaurant menus, which are gradually increasing their vegetarian and vegan offerings, and likewise on social networks: on the Pinterest platform, for example, searches focused on and around "veggie comfort food" rose by an astounding 336% in 2016 alone.
By the way, on the subject of kale: this ingredient seems to be slipping from the top of the charts after a glorious performance in previous years. Algae are now stealing the scene. "Kale is on its way out," explains Michael Whiteman, "Why? Boredom has set in and maybe we were not so keen on it after all. Take algae, they could provide a solution that is not only creative but nutritional as well, since they offer various health benefits."
Fusion ... the great comeback
"Nikkei" (Japanese and Peruvian fusion), hummus, falafel and shawarma, tons of Korean cuisine if bowls enjoy the success predicted of them – food in 2017 will be truly global, though one might wonder whether the best performers will be bibimbap, ceviche or poke?
There will also be plenty of sandwiches and rolls in an infinite number of variants (Vietnamese bánh mì, Mexican tortas and cemitas, cubanos...), along with “global” burritos or lobster rolls. We could go on forever with this list of variants doused in all possible and imaginable sauces.
If you thought fusion had disappeared for good in the nineties, think again. "It fell into disgrace because most people tended to make fun of it by calling it 'confusion cuisine'. And yet, it had and continues to have a lot to say for itself, especially because today’s consumers are constantly on the look-out for something new and unexpected to give that extra something to their traditional dishes,” explains Whiteman.
He adds "today it would be more correct to use the term 'world cuisine' rather than 'fusion,' because this is a trend which, in all fairness, is far from being authentically ethnic. The rules are in fact non-rules and this is the philosophy guiding many chefs who invent increasingly creative ways of combining ingredients from different geographical areas and cultures. So consumers are aware of being presented with something totally new."
Restaurants minus tables. And dining tables minus restaurants. Plus kits and drones. Researchers (comprising Baum+Whiteman, The Fiscal Times and Sterling-Rice Group) agree: in the wake of the '"uber-ization" of home deliveries (Amazon, Postmets, Google and Uber itself...), 2017 will be the year of virtual restaurants at all levels.
Silicon Valley is sold on the idea and is backing the e-food business with mind-blowing financial investments. In brief, restaurants as we have always known and loved them, will not disappear but will certainly be enhanced by new formats, whether via app or not: from restaurants without tables and vice versa (fully fitted professional kitchens or simply chefs working from home who prepare and deliver meals directly to your home or office) to home restaurants (in brief the AirBnb of the restaurant business), from Cook+Connect (a way to cook, connect and socialise) to kits (for replicating starred dishes at home) and drones, backed by prominent players in the US (Google-Chipotle), New Zealand (Domino's Pizza) and the UK (Amazon).
"We are convinced that, on a global level, the trend for home delivery will continue to grow exponentially: London-based Deliveroo for instance has recently opened a branch in Singapore," Whiteman goes on to say. "We can also expect the fast-casual restaurant business to perform brilliantly [with all the intrinsic pros and cons, as detailed in the Baum+Whiteman report – editor’s note] along with technology, comprising 3D food printing".
And what’s for "dessert"? Everything... with a bit of everything
Have you already dived heart and soul into a freakshake? The milkshake beyond our wildest dreams will be a bestseller, according to many research institutes. Born in Australia, the trend that has taken the UK by storm before landing in the USA, goes far beyond the milk and ice-cream concoction we are so familiar with, because the standard milkshake is enriched with “toppings”.
In the meantime, even ice-cream is jumping on the bandwagon: at London’s Milk Train in Covent Garden the latest interpretation of mashcream (forgive the term) consists of an ice-cream cone wrapped in a cloud of candy floss. Baum+Whiteman believes this idea will go viral and convert us all, especially if the underlying principle of the idea is respected: the purpose of the candy floss is to counterbalance the bitter taste of alternative ice-cream flavours such as Japanese green tea (matcha or its smoked version, hojicha).
This brings us to another buzz phrase for 2017: "healthy eating." In fact, it will be the year of alternative ice-cream and ice-lolly flavours such as avocado, gazpacho, sweet pepper, sweet potato, sweet corn, beetroot and caprino cheese ... Research firms (and this time they are flanked by Sensory Effects) believe Thai-style ice-cream is another soaring trend.
What’s so special about it? Forget the cone and embrace the idea of a tub in which the ice-cream is reduced to a fine frozen layer. Basically, the ice-cream maker spreads a liquid substance in the flavour of your choice onto a frozen plate (-23°C) and, with the expert use of a spatula, turns it into a fine workable layer similar to a crepe, which is used to form rolls for arranging vertically in the tub. Sauces or syrups, fruit, chopped hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, coconut, hundreds and thousands, etc. are the toppings you can choose from … Will it be a food fad?
According to Forbes and Paste Monthly it will: already popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines, also as street food, it has crossed the ocean and rapidly seduced the North American continent from Montreal to Los Angeles, via Boston, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Who’s betting that Europe will be no exception?