It’s that time of year between Christmas Day and New Year, where we sit and fester in a land made of turkey sandwiches, cheese, alcohol and more cheese, and we spend a bit of time thinking about the year ahead, wondering when we’re next going to have this long off work, deciding what New Years’ Eve party will be the most fun and making a mental note of our New Year’s resolutions that this time we will definitely stick to. For me, I’ve festered and done all of the above and I’ve also had a think about what food trends the year could bring. The outcome is my 2017 forecast and there’s not a block of brie in sight (thank God):
Waste Not Want Not
Food waste is already top of the agenda for all retailers in the UK and going into 2017, any food manufacturer or outlet ought to consider themselves foolish if they shy away from the topic. In the UK, we’re guilty of throwing away 7 million tonnes of food a year, regrettably over half of which is edible. Behind the scenes of supermarket shelves, do-good brands are starting to take it upon themselves to bring this number down and 2017 will see us take this food waste argument to the next level. Utilising leftovers is one thing and a true understanding of the credibility of date codes is another, but now we’re starting to recognise a use for the bi-products of foods that would previously be falsely deemed inedible. Mello are roasting watermelon seeds and marketing them as a tasty and healthy snack, Toast Ale are brewing beer from surplus bread and The Forager Project are using wasted pulp from cold-pressed juices to create our beloved tortilla chips. Rewind five years and we wouldn’t be seen to eat an apple if it was three minutes out of date, now we’re one step away from rummaging through bins and crafting a banquet and it’ll be interesting to see what new brands come to the surface in the year ahead, testing out limits.
Vegetables Take Centre Stage
Products that grow out the ground are replacing those that roam on all fours and gone are the days of a meat, a carb and two veg at every mealtime. We’re starting to celebrate vegetables rather than turn our nose up to them and with the produce aisle offering way more than just a sack of potatoes and a bag of carrots, we’re coming round to the fact that vegetables too can offer versatility and intense flavour. The convincingness of the health argument, coupled with heightened concerns over land use and depleted resources, means that plant based alternatives are on the rise. Most of 2016’s beloved dishes championed classic veg such as aubergine and butternut squash, but 2017 is set to go one step further. Lab-grown meat is here (but high costs have prevented it from trickling into the mainstream) and now we can sit and await the opening of plant-based butchers here in the UK, learning best practice from the likes of The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis. Food is only half of it and soft drinks will be plant-based too (that doesn’t mean orange juice). Evian Fruits and Plants will be quenching our thirst and we’ll be adding Seedlip (the alcohol-free spirit) to our tonic in a bid to be healthier throughout the whole year, not just in Dry January.
Spicy food has become increasingly popular and as were starting to see now, chilli is not just applied to food in order to add a blanket heat, rather our taste buds are tuning into the world of different flavours that different chillies can bring. We’re beginning to discover new varieties in countries we’d never expect to find them and we’re combining chillies to create new flavours altogether. Some chillies are now being added to sweet foods and in the following year, we’ll even find it in drinks too. 2017 will see us become familiar with the likes of Korea’s sweet and savoury Gochujang and South America’s Aji Amarillo and whether we’re faint hearted or not, we’ll all become a bit more familiar with the fierce flavours the little peppers can bring.
Every single one of us are thinking about what we eat in a bid to be healthier or to follow a certain diet. But that being said, every single one of us are also allowing ourselves to have a ‘cheat day’ and treat ourselves once a week. Whether it’s calorie counting, upping our gram-age of protein or eliminating sugar, the other end of the spectrum is just simply over-indulgence in any shape or form. This started in 2016 with freakshakes and extreme burgers where we could push our bodies to the limits and make up for our good behaviour with a week’s worth of sugar allowance in a single milkshake, and I believe 2017 will be a step up on this. With lifestyles becoming even healthier and cheat day even more worth it, the only chance of survival as a business is if you are to offer something highly-nutritious or something highly-indulgent. If an offering falls somewhere in the middle, it’s likely to be left untouched in this dichotomy of dining we’re becoming accustomed to.
In this new tech-infused world, modern day society has taken to drip feeding us with new and exciting concepts that are set to be good for the mind, body and soul. We’ve practiced yoga, we’ve downloaded Headspace and we’ve picked up an old habit and started colouring in, but now its food’s turn. Without really realising we’ve been introduced to more foods that are best served in a bowl. This isn’t cereal, soup or leftover curry, this is acai, Hawaii’s poke and Buddha bowls to name a few. It’s a way of combining vibrant and exciting new flavours that offer a nutritious on-the-go solution and better yet, are “good for the soul”. The act of holding a bowl provides a certain degree of comfort which can be associated with Buddhism and meditation and obviously where a healthy mind leads, Gwyneth Paltrow will follow, with her website claiming “Everything tastes better in a bowl”. So apparently 2017 will see us all eating like pet cats in a bid to look after the health of not just our bodies but also our minds – it’s convenient, its comforting and better yet it’s Instagram-friendly.
The act of eating bugs is called entomophagy, and in 2017 we’re all going to be at it. You’re probably reading this and turning your nose up to the idea but fast forward a year and you’ll probably be sat in the same place but having swapped out the Walkers for a bag of Creepy Crawlers. You won’t have also dyed your hair green, put on a witches hat and be casting spells at insufferable neighbours, rather you’ll have come round to the idea that bugs are good for you. An exceptionally high protein content, zero fat and a guilt-free conscious that comes hand-in-hand with eating something that demands minimal resources in comparison to traditional agriculture, are just some of the things that will sway us into choosing a bag of BBQ locusts or sweet-chilli mealworms. The restaurant chain, Wahaca, already updated their menus back in 2014, frying chapulines with shallots, garlic and cheese in a bid start preventing the imminent food crisis and Laithwhites have previously created the world’s first insect and wine matching guide, but the year ahead will have us all paying a bit more attention. Whether we’ll be eating them whole or grinding them down and using the powder in production, there will be a bug infestation nationwide and for those of you ready to tuck in, its Sago Worms with Shiraz and Tarantulas with Chardonnay.
Are We Sweet Enough?
The notorious sugar tax has dipped its toes in Britain’s economy and we have come face to face with a tax on sugary drinks. We’ve unfortunately reached a point where the expansion of our waistlines and associated illnesses can only be halted by the heavy hand of fiscal intervention and the tax is therefore destined to encourage manufacturers to reduce their sugar content and society to consume less of the sweet stuff. The impact is inconclusive at present, but it’s still very clear that sugar is the enemy of today and with all of us going into the new year with one eye on sugar content and another on our wallets, we are likely to see producers and retailers following suit with a shift away from sugary foods and towards alternatives that aren’t so sweet. Soft drinks is just stage one, and stage two, three or even four might come soon in the new year and in anticipation of this, we will see a whole host of new foods that offer a healthy solution to that sweet craving and attempt to loop-the-law with natural sweeteners and clever campaigns.
If you’ve been scrolling through Facebook or have ordered something from ASOS in the last 6 months you’ll be remotely familiar with Hello Fresh, advertising their way into consumers’ radars as swiftly as they can. You might also be familiar with the more niche companies offering the same service but for vegans (Purple Carrot), gluten-free diets (Persian Gourmet) or those opting to shop solely organic (Abel & Cole). As consumers, we’ve learnt that ready meals aren’t all what they’re cracked up to be and we’re all finding the small sign of foodie in us that wants to get closer to the action. At the same time, we’re mostly kitchen-amateurs-come-tight-arses and don’t want to waste our money on ingredients we may never use again. So, queue meal kits with complete ingredients and comprehensive instructions, sent straight to your front door or as Tesco are now offering, straight in your basket. The industry as a whole is expected to rise to $5bn over the next 10 years and with subscription models making it easy for customers and healthy for business’ balance sheets, we’re most likely to have meal kits knocking on our doors a lot more in 2017.
Happy new year! C x
Pictures are not my own.