2018 Food Trends Summarized


The food trends for 2018, as for any year, are a collection of the movements and tastes into which consumers are progressing and not a description of the foods that dominate. As we look where food is headed, keep looking at your local grocery store to see where in fact we are. Great strides have been made that are creating more healthy and more sustainable products, but we still eat mostly beef and chicken, 3 major grains, a handful of major vegetables, 3 types of fish, and a whole lot of packaged processed foods.

Nevertheless, the trends for 2018 move us closer and closer to the concept of "mindfulness" in procuring,cooking and eating (the #1 trend that  Phil Lempert identified in Forbes "10 Food Trends That will Shape 2018", Dec 13, 2018) which he defines as  “the quality or state of being conscious or aware” . This leads to greater focus on what is good for us as the eater, what is interesting to create in flavor, touch and other senses, and what is best for an environment that must feed more and more people. More plant-based and science-based (laboratory produced) foods, more interest in labeling and transparency, and the use of more exotic spices evolve from the "mindfulness" trend.

There are interesting other trends for specific foods that indicate a continued movement to drinkable meals, more emphasis of food presentation and its tactile qualities, and, yes, cannabis infusion. And Gordon Ramsey has added his list of the 3 trends that must go, in his opinion, in 2018. 

In Food Dive (Jan 23 2018), Cathy Siegner offer a very good list of the key trends emerging in 2018: 

1. Botanicals

Plants and flowers are springing up in food and beverage items as more consumers become interested in their potential healing properties. They include the leaves of the moringa oleifera tree, Indian ginseng, lavender, and curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.

Try it at home (according to Leslie Wu in Forbes, Dec 30, 2017): 

  • Add richness to dishes with coconut milk or texture with chickpeas. 
  • Consider using ingredients such as rinds or green tops to make pickled or pesto preparations 
  • Try pulling out the ricer to make a cauliflower carb substitute, or mash parsnips into a puree.
  • Experiment with uncommon herbs such as chervil, lovage, lemon balm or papalo, recommends the NRA.

2. Transparency

This trend began with the clean-label movement, driven by consumer demand for more product information, fewer artificial ingredients and more sustainable production and packaging. Recently, it has extended beyond labels to include product traceability as shoppers grow more interested in where their food comes from and how it was handled along the supply chain. 

3. Ethnic cuisine

Asian and Middle Eastern flavors have struck a chord with consumers who are seeking new and intriguing items beyond the well-known standbys such as sushi, tempura, hummus, tahini and yogurt. "It's a wonderful way to travel without having to leave the comfort of your home. It's only going to grow," according to Molly Siegler, Whole Foods' associate culinary and hospitality coordinator.

Try it at home (again accoring to Wu): 

Although hotpot may seem specialized in terms of equipment and ingredients, it makes for a relaxed and social atmosphere for entertaining. 

 4. Science-based foods

Food made from technology  — such as cell-cultured meat and highly realistic plant-based meat analogues — is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Plant-based meats account for 2.1% of sales in refrigerated and frozen meat products sold at retail. Cell-cultured meat also is gaining traction, and startups have begun to experiment with fish as well as beef and poultry. Science-based foods certainly can carry an "ick" factor, but the purported environmental and nutritional benefits of "clean meat" may prove enticing.

Options are a good thing (like sushi-grade "not-tuna" made from tomatoes or a "bleeding veggie burger!), but make your choices carefully. "There are some vegan "meat" and "diary" products that I think are great when natural, but often people see the word vegan and they think that means it's healthy – just because something is plant-based does not mean that it isn't processed," cautions Dr. Greuner. Stick with real plant based foods! Some veggie burgers, for example, are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, which is great, but are also very high in both fat and sodium, so it's not something you'll want to eat every day. (Readers Digest, Sharon Feiereisen, Jan. 2018)

5. Sustainability 

This trend has moved beyond merely producing food in an environmentally conscious ways and selling it in recyclable packaging. Consumers are taking a more active role in the battle against food waste, a mindset that is leading many shoppers to try and use all parts of a plant or animal, rather than cherry-picking some and throwing the rest away. Also called "root-to-stem" and "nose-to-tail" eating, this expanded type of sustainability is likely to appear equally in meat and produce departments. 

6. Indulgence foods

Comfort foods containing butter, lard and other fats and oils are back in style. Today's consumers seem more interested in reducing the amount of sugar and sodium they consume than about the amount of fat in their diet. It is noted there is growing recognition "that certain fat and oils can actually make positive health contributions."

7. Meal & Grocery Delivery

In the last couple years, we’ve witnessed the new phenomenon of meal kit delivery services. Kind of like an Ipsy bag… but for dinner? Or is it more like Postmates-ing uncooked food to your house every week? However you want to think of it, the cook-it-yourself box of meals delivery service trend is only going to get bigger — and more competitive — in 2018. Meaning it’s about to be incredibly affordable for none of us to set foot inside an overcrowded supermarket for the rest of the year. Bless. (The Everygirls, Jan 11, 2018, 7 Food trends that will be huge in 2018)

Other Trends

Hydrogen water - Dr. Cody Cook, the owner of HTWO brand, claims that more than 16 gold medalist athletes are using the stuff, which purportedly helps boost energy, provides antioxidants, and quickly removes lactic acid. (we always thought that was what the H in H20 was).

Pea Milk - No Nuts for those who have allergies and the like. More non-dairy milks are on their way.

Drinking Soups. Move over, green juice. Drinkable soups are tastier, heartier, just as convenient, and more filling. 

Golden Milk - Tumeric (curcumin) anti-inflammatory properties

Tahini  - Anything and everything made with Tahini.

Cannabis-infused foods 65% of American support legal marijuana.

Timut pepper - Spiky, zesty and suprisingly grapefruity - with a tingly residual heat on the palate.

Floral Flavors - lavender lattes, rose-flavored everything, bright pink hibiscus teas and elderflower cocktails are going to be a big hit, so get excited for recipes that bloom.

Tactile - According to Phil Lempert, the second most important food trend in 2018 after mindfulness is tactile food qualities. "If I had to point to one trend that I believe will have the biggest impact on our industry, it is tactile — the sense of touch. There is probably no profession more tactile than being a chef. Multi-sensory is the new secret weapon for food in products, their packaging and in-store. 3D printing will create more tactile food experiences and become a more efficient and less wasteful food production method." Until then, things like "Poke bowl restaurants... are popping up everywhere, offering a variety of colors and textures and challenging fast food and quick service restaurant formats."


What needs to go?

Finally, what three trends does Gordon Ramsay think must stop?

First, he is tired of culinary foams. He thinks they have run their coarse and now look more like pond scum on food than the great beginnings of culinary gastronomy.

Second, he believes Wagyu is too special to have every meatball at a restaurant made out of it. 

And finally, truffle oils are wildly over-used, Ramsay believes. They are used too often and in too high an amount. Truffle essence is a subtle flavor, he believes and must be used sparingly and for special occasions.


1 comment

  • I am happy to see transparency make this list. The more we know about what goes into our food, and how it’s made, the better choices we can make. The Clean Label movement shows no sign of slowing.

    Ofelia Hammond

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