As I fester on the sofa on the first Sunday of 2018, one week into Veganuary and two days into the first cheat of Veganuary, I’m reflecting on some of the food trends we were graced with in 2017. Some of them we know will stick with us this year and beyond, and some we’ll be pleased to leave behind. Unicorn lattes should surely be one of them.
But just as much as we all use the turn of a new year to attempt to personally better ourselves, the food industry works the same way and never fails to bring us something new and exciting. And just the same way new year’s resolutions work, either these will stick and change the way we’re engaging with food, or they’ll be gone before we’ve even finished packing up the baubles.
Here are some of the things I think we’ll be seeing on our tables or round our mouths this year:
Dry January, February, March, April…..
If you’re managing to stick to dry January, you also might find yourself staying dry for a bit longer than a month as the drink industry is becoming increasingly more accommodating for those looking to cut back on their booze. Choosing not to have a drink is no longer just a consequence of being the designated driver, rather we’re all starting to pay a bit more attention to our health. Dry bars are cropping up in unexpected places and alcohol-free spirits are the next to take centre stage, Seedlip being the best yet. The pathetic trio of mocktails found at the back of a bar menu is now much more a misconception than reality, and subsequently choosing to give your liver a bit of a break no longer means boring. Soft drinks are also stretching into new territories, be it using wonky fruit as ingredients (Dash) or using a different process in the making (Ugly), both have added some excitement into the soft drink industry that has probably been a long time coming.
I know I’ve already admitted to cheating but I’m a week into Veganuary along with a supposed 80,000 others this year in the UK alone. Sounds a bit dishonest coming from someone who had a sausage and egg naan in her mouth 10 minutes ago (thanks Dishoom), but choosing to go vegan has never actually been easier. Restaurants are offering a range of vegan options and supermarkets are stamping products left right and centre with the infamous green V. In fact, Tesco have just this week launched a range of Vegan products under the brand, Wicked Kitchen, exclusively created alongside the well-renowned chef Derek Sarno. We can listen to Tesco but we can also listen to Leonardo Dicaprio who has invested in Beyond Meat, the company priding themselves on making their ‘bleeding vegan burger’. And it’s these businesses that are likely to win over the next 12 months as veganism is up 350% from 10 years ago. Every day, research is unveiling more about the dangers of eating too much animal protein be it for personal health or sustainability reasons. And whilst research is telling us one thing, we’re continuing to discover more plant based sources of protein which mean we don’t necessarily have to turn to a chicken breast to get our fix.
Fermentation for Gut Health
We’ve been pickling food since the 1800’s but nowadays its becoming more popular than ever as people are waking up to the benefits of fermented food. As we come out of a decade so reliant on over-processed, convenient food, we enter another where we’re starting to pay more attention to our internal health and in particular how we can improve the health of our gut and aid digestion. Kimchi is now more of a household name than ever before and this year, look out for something called kefir whose probiotic benefits could be worth investing in. The benefits of fermentation are in fact two fold, we’re doing our digestive health a favour but we’re also doing our bit for food waste, pickling our cabbages just before they go out of date means we don’t have to throw them out either.
Location Location Location
We’ve all felt that little pang of pride when we wonder to our local food market and pick up something that has been grown down the road or produced in our next door neighbours kitchen but the demand for locality is now seeping into the mass market and it’s not uncommon to find local produce and meat in your closest big retailer. Historically, the big supermarkets would prove to be tough competition for local producers, but nowadays retailers are waking up to the reality and are giving a platform for such small manufacturers and farmers alike to get their product into the hands of those who want it. Restaurants too are putting time and effort into switching up a changing menu based on produce that is ready to be picked from their own gardens. Local food not only means you’re supporting those businesses closest to home, but it reduces your carbon footprint if you’re not buying food that’s travelled the length of the country and it likely means its fresher too. I’ll give it a bit more time however before my Grandpa’s sloe gin is stocked in Tesco.
Rolled Ice Cream
Christmas hasn’t really been behind us for long enough yet to start thinking about summer, but that’s okay because rolled ice cream is one that we’re getting fully stuck into before we’ve even see the first bit of sun. Thailand has been rolling ice cream for years and thanks to our very own Pan ‘n’ Ice, we can now get the sweet treat whenever we want over here in the UK. Pan ‘n’ Ice are in fact showing Thailand a thing or two and are taking it to the next level, letting us have free reign over what we get rolled into our ice cream and then topping it with anything from Crème Eggs to mince pies and even Pringles if we fancied it… Also, if you’re a bit of an Instagram fiend like me, you’ll find the whole phenomenon of rolling ice cream into neat little bundles unbelievably therapeutic to watch too. Just spend 5 minutes on @pan_n_ice and you’ll probably find yourself in a state not too far from hypnosis.
Indian Street Food
In terms of cuisines and specific flavours, Indian street food is set to lead the way this year. As a country famous for it’s bold flavours, we’ll be seeing many of our favourite delicacies smoked, grilled or seared and packed full of traditional spices. But in 2018 we will start to take it one step further, combining Indian flavours with our beloved burgers and tempting tacos to create the delicious hybrids synonymous with this street food trend. Street food markets will of course be the first port of call to get your hands on these new foods but restaurants will be serving it up too and if you’re a confident cook, look to @hugdecook for some inspo.
Instagram Friends and Foes
If you’re consulting in the restaurant industry, firmly on the checklist of things to advise now includes creating at least one Instagram-friendly dish. Palm Vaults is guilty of doing so, adding a touch of beetroot powder and more recently a sprinkle of glitter to their flat whites to give it that picture perfect pink colour. It’s also no coincidence that edible flowers (that actually taste of sweet F.A.) have seen sales quadruple over the past 3 years. Social media has established itself as the cheapest and most powerful means of marketing your restaurant and so eateries are investing a lot of time into accommodating for snap-happy customers. Dirty Bones in Kensington now provides guests with ‘Instagram optimisation kits’ made up of tripods, lenses and phone chargers to enable us to capture something that will get likes to at least double figures, as its these likes that will allegedly translate into more customers. But meanwhile, as we watch some restaurants encourage guests to use their iPhones as much as their forks, we also see a wave of restaurants actively banning customers from taking their phones out of their pockets. Chiltern Firehouse ban you from taking photos, encouraging you to socialise the real way while dining out and even though the food might be fit for the Queen, there are a lot of restaurants out there that would rather you enjoy the taste instead of the overthinking the filter.
Happy new year!
Pictures are not my own.