We’re almost half-way through December which means we’re almost all the way through 2016 and what an eventful year it has been. We’ve exited the EU, we’ve elected a buffoon as president of the United States, we’ve found out that GBBO is losing Mary and 60% of us have miraculously just realised that we’re gluten-intolerant.
And as for the food industry in particular, it appears to be moving at a pace that we’re struggling to keep up with and 2016 (along with every other year), has seen new novel ingredients, concepts and fads come to the surface, capture the vast majority of consumers and spread like wildfire across Instagram. Lots of these will be here to stay and lots will die out and make way for the next batch but all are an illustration of the dynamism of the industry and our nation’s love affair with all things edible.
Here is my own little list of those that I believe have exploded this year. In other words, here is a piece of written commentary behind 12 months of my Instagram feed:
This is a trend that popped up quite a while before 2016 (wahey) but really entered the mainstream this year. Popcorn crept out of cinemas and jumped into a barrel of gourmet flavours on the back of the product being relatively nutritionally balanced in comparison to crisps and with an ability to sit well with all sorts of flavours, sweet, savoury or both. The average Brit now eats 5kg of popcorn a year and considering the stuff is as light as paper, that’s a lot of corn. Capitalising on our increased consumption away from the big screen, some brands have gone down the gourmet path (Joe & Seph’s and Portlebay) and some have taken the healthy route (Propercorn and Metcalfes) but one things for sure, there’s a whole load of players out there and if the wild and wacky flavours keep on coming and the calorie count stays low, I’m sure we’ll all remain interested.
2. Peanut Butter
I think the only households these days without a jar in the cupboard are those where one has allergies. And if it’s not peanut butter in its simplest form, then its Reeses Pieces, peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter cereal, peanut butter Oreos, peanut butter popcorn or peanut butter sachets that you can squirt directly into your mouth (I’m not kidding, thank you Pip and Nut for changing my life). Our dietary habits have changed in recent years and as we all became a little less interested in calorie content and a whole lot more interested in protein, a light bulb came on in the brains of old and new peanut butter brands and as they then begun to churn out clever marketing campaigns, we emptied our wallets for the stuff, leaving the industry worth an estimated $4billion by 2021. That’s nuts.
3. Chia Seeds
With more Omega-3 than salmon, more fibre than flax seeds and a complete source of protein in one serving there’s no wonder a dieter’s ears pricked up when chia seeds were discovered. It’s been proven that just a spoonful a day is enough to provide you with all the nutrients you need and better yet, they’re highly versatile too. Originally grown by the Aztecs for the leaves they produce, they disappeared for 500 years, then came back with a supermarket takeover and £30 per kg stamp to match. There’s obviously no denying that they’re good for you but the price tag is seldom more than a reflection on the affluent shopper who buys into most superfoods and those who probably need them to form the basis of a healthy diet are those that probably can’t afford them. I’m sure chia seeds will stick around and we’ll see them cropping up in more weird and wacky ways but suppliers such as The Chia Co. ought to consider lowering their prices if they plan on being as ‘life-changing’ as they market themselves to be.
Another Japanese craze has landed in the West and consumption is increasing by 30% every year, which means that even people outside of Gwyneth and her beautiful tribe are knocking back the stuff as shots. “Eurgh why is your coffee green” is said no more and the powder has become the cannabis of the health world with foodies claiming their hooked on the stuff and even shovelling it into brownies too (with the addition of sugar and butter a brownie probably isn’t the best way to get your matcha-high). The green tea powder offers the perfect combination of novelty and tradition and although the taste is one you’ve got to get used to, as with most superfoods, the more the ingredient appears in the mainstream, the more people will become familiar with it and eventually join the cult – blending it in smoothies, adding it to a brew and perhaps even snorting it at parties.
5. Gluten Free
6. Functional Health
Protein is everywhere. Not naturally everywhere, but definitely everywhere. Meat protein still remains the largest source, with non-meat protein rapidly catching up but powdered whey is now added to foods where you’d previously never have found the nutrient. Cereals, coffee, bread even. All kitchen staples are being fortified to include the stuff and some brands even deem it as essential in order to hold your position on supermarket shelves. But protein was just the start of functional health. As consumers are becoming more health-aware and nurturing a better understanding of what is essential to maintain a healthy diet they’re engaging with foods that can offer them more than just a meal and simultaneously facilitating the growth of said protein-rich products as well as those with added Omega-3, iron and vitamin D. Functional health is without a doubt one that will be sticking around but the key here is identifying what the next essential nutrient will be.
We’ve gradually fallen out of love with our beloved tea and head over heels for coffee. There are coffee shops on every street corner, Nespresso machines in every household, and a good piece of latte-art is now worth more than any Van Gogh. The irony is that as I write this I’m drinking my fourth coffee of the day and when I think back to the last tea I had, I think it was matcha. 2016 saw us reach record highs, drinking 55million cups a day and 80% of us visiting a coffee shop at least once a week. The coffee trajectories are steep and whilst our Italian barista continues to discover new coffee beans from the depths of Ethiopia or the stools of Vietnamese cats, we’ll keep on demanding the stuff in any way shape of form. Flat whites, macchiatos or even martinis, we’re in the middle of a love affair with caffeine and we’re not stopping anytime soon.
Pictures are not my own.