Look for the new year to bring presentation and flavor trends that could include plating designed for phone snapshots and marijuana-laced coffees and syrups (where legal).
The Technomic food research and consulting firm has released these “Ten trends that may be transformative in 2015,” based on research including consumer and operator surveys and site visits, plus information from its Digital Resource Library and MenuMonitor database:
Lights! Camera! Action!—Dining is no longer just a personal experience, but a staged event that imparts bragging rights. Plating and lighting are increasingly designed with phone snapshots and social-media sharing in mind. Customers collaborate to put on the show; menus, marketing, even charitable efforts are crowdsourced.
Getting small-minded.—Small is in: Diners demand petite plates and flexible portions; units are smaller with shrunken, laser-focused menus, multi-use equipment and expanded hours to leverage fixed costs; labor pressures mean leaner staffing and more technology (though a backlash is brewing, as many diners seek to unplug and be waited on).
Foodservice everywhere.—Alternative forms of foodservice are swallowing bigger shares of the market—from retailers’ ever-more-sophisticated onsite restaurants to fresh-food-and-drink vending to enterprises that deliver ingredients to your door. Meanwhile, in the restaurant world, fast casual shakes out, segment lines blur further, pop-ups proliferate and demand for tech-enabled delivery heats up.
Signature beverages.—Cocktails may come in kegs; classics like the Negroni ride the retro wave but get competition from new wine, beer and cider cocktails; flavorful and flavored whiskeys trend up, along with spiced rums and liqueurs. Operators are increasingly differentiating themselves with non-alcohol drinks, too—from handcrafted or small-batch sodas to pressed juices to health-halo teas.
There’s something about Asia.—Asian foods have been trending for years, but the world’s biggest and fastest-moving continent always delivers something new. In 2015, look for the breakout of Korean, mainstreaming of Vietnamese and upscaling of spicy ramen noodles, the quintessential Asian street food.
Bitter is the new bold.—Look for darker coffees, deeper chocolates, next-gen cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and collard greens, hoppy beers and cocktails with the bite of bitters.
Do-it-yourself health.—More consumers care about healthy eating—but what does that mean to them? Menus increasingly display pick-and-choose options for everyone from gluten-free eaters to vegans to paleo-diet partisans; offerings are switched out as nutrition fads and fashions come and go.
Going micro-local.—The stay-close-to-home spirit heightens interest in everything from house-purified water to regional seafood to locally manufactured products like beers and liquors. Even as the supply chain consolidates, specialty and citywide distributors gain share. An “anti-chain” ethos prompts chains and multiconcept operators to debut quasi-independent restaurants fine-tuned to local market demands.
Up with people.—The meaning of corporate social responsibility evolves as consumer concerns shift to the human factor. Diners care that restaurants deal fairly with their employees and offer opportunities for advancement. Others in the food chain also gain visibility, as farmworker and Fair Trade movements win victories.
Channeling Generation Z.—The challenge of appealing to all ages intensifies as younger diners step up demands for speedy high-tech service, heightened experiences, louder music and kinetic visuals—and a new teen cohort of digital natives begins to make its voice heard.
In another trends report, the Sterling-Rice Group identified its top ten culinary trends that will stand out on restaurant menus, expand onto grocery shelves, and attract consumer attention across the U.S. in 2015.
Next year, the Boulder, Colo.-based advertising agency said, consumers’ food preferences will be driven by a continued interest in global cuisines, balanced nutrition, community connections, and a desire for adventurous eating experiences. These culinary trends will continue to expand and grow in 2015, Sterling-Rice predicted, as they move from the cutting edge into our popular foodscape:
Advanced Asian—From Filipino food to a new generation of Thai, not one but a host of more complex and true-to-region Asian foods will dominate in 2015.
Matcha Madness—The never-ending quest for wellness and energy will lead many to Japanese matcha, a nutrient powerhouse green tea now hitting the market in convenient formats like lattes, sodas, and ready-to-drink cans.
Cannabis Cuisine—Edible marijuana moves far beyond cliched pot brownies. In states where it’s legal, look for new, sophisticated options, from gluten-free baked goods and confections to bottled cold-brewed coffee and flavored syrups.
Hop-Free Suds—Channeling their medieval predecessors, craft brewers are making unhopped beers with herbs, spices, and bitter plants, yielding unique and intriguing flavors instead of hoppy bitterness.
Incendiary Charcoal—Look for more excitement around Asian styles of super-hot burning charcoal as well as charcoal coloring and enhancing breads, crackers, and even cosmetics.
The Local Grain Network—Products made from freshly milled flour are making their way to consumers thanks to the growing network of farmers, bakers, and chefs committed to local grain production.
Coconut Sugar Sweetness—Boasting a lower glycemic index than white sugar makes coconut sugar popular among consumers—from natural food fans to sweets-loving Paleos to Southeast Asian food lovers—looking for better-for-you foods.
Farm-to-Table Kosher—With keeping kosher on the rise, kosher food businesses address consumer demand to eat in more sustainable, conscious, and cultural ways.
The Hunger Games, Restaurant Edition—Dining concept incubators create lively experiences where curious diners test experimental eateries and vote with their forks in revolving pop-up settings or hip dining parks.
The Ugly Fruit & Vegetable Movement—Misshapen and funny-looking produce will no longer get picked over, as food resourcefulness and efforts to combat hunger come into sharper focus.