While some of these foods or beverages might be seen as niche, says SRG culinary director Liz Moskow, the trends they reflect have broader traction, and are often interconnected.
As an example, pinsa – a style of pizza dough combining wheat, soy and rice with a lengthy fermentation that’s gaining traction among trendsetters in Brooklyn and Seattle – reflects growing interest in artisanal, craft, less processed, ‘slow’ food as well as growing enthusiasm for all things fermented and gut health in general.
Similarly, 'trendy' dishes such as shan tofu - a meat substitute made from chickpea flour and turmeric – reflect growing interest in Burmese cuisine, and plant-based proteins, plus ongoing enthusiasm for turmeric (which is now appearing in several functional beverages), a staple of Ayurvedic medicine, another trend now spanning multiple US food and beverage categories.
TREND 1: SPICED COFFEE
The chai latte (black tea infused with cinnamon, cloves, spices and milk) is now a staple at any self-respecting tea/coffee shop, says SRG, which is predicting that the herbs and spices trend will hit the coffee category next, perhaps via Mexican favorite Café de Olla: coffee infused with cinnamon, orange zest and sometimes cloves.
“In high-end coffee shops we’re also starting to see more white coffee, a Yemeni coffee made with a spice mix called Hawaij, which contains things like cloves, cardamom fennel and anise, so I expect it won’t be too long before we see this in the packaged coffee aisle as well," says Moskow.
Examples: Blake Lane in NYC (spiced iced coffee); Holy Grounds Coffee + Tea in Los Angeles (café de olla, iced café de olla); Back of the Yards Coffee in Chicago (café de olla, ojo rojo)
TREND 2: U.MAMI
While Americans might not be ready for a traditional fish-based Japanese breakfast, “Asian umami flavors have begun to take center stage on morning menus,” says Moscow, who highlights growing interest in jianbing, a traditional Chinese street food breakfast crepe brushed with hoisin and chili sauce, layered with egg, pickled veggies and herbs, and sometimes customized with sausage or bacon.
“Jianbing easily fits into existing consumer preferences for egg-based portable breakfast options and provides that perfect umami pow.”
Examples: THE FLYING PIG (New York, NY): Classic Jianbing or Specialty Hong Shao Rou with Pork Belly; MR. BING (New York, NY): Various jianbing options; JIANBING COMPANY (Brooklyn, NY): Create-Your-Own Jianbing
TREND 3: MORINGA
The fact that Kellogg recently invested in moringa-fueled brand Kuli Kuli suggests that the protein-laced leaf has mainstream potential, says Moscow: “Watch for moringa to become the next matcha latte or golden milk latte.”
The dried and pulverized leaves of the Moringa Oleifera plant, which grows in Africa, Asia, southern and central America and Hawaii, produce a rich green – but tart tasting - powder that is high in protein and calcium, unusual for a leaf, along with iron, potassium and vitamins.
While Moringa oleifera leaves have been used in traditional medicine in India and Africa for hundreds of years and are believed to have strong anti-inflammatory qualities, there are not many human intervention studies – yet, says SRG.
However, there is a growing number of studies looking at everything from effects on blood pressure and blood glucose to weight management, anti-microbial effects, cholesterol reduction, hepatoprotection, colon health and wound healing, with much of the work led by Dr Carrie Waterman at the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis, says Moskow.
Examples: Ruru Juice in San Francisco, CA (Moringa Bowl); The Moringa Tree Café in Elkhart, IN (Moringa Pesto Hummus); Kuli Kuli Foods
TREND 4: SLOW DOUGH
Rising interest in gut health and all things fermented is encouraging interest in “less processed, easier to digest foods” claims SRG.
“In 2018, we predict more frenzy for fermentation as artisan bakers and makers of pinsa—an ancient Roman style of pizza that uses a flour blend with longer fermentation periods to make the bread easier to digest—will spur a revolution in the way crusts are crafted.”
Examples: CAMILLO (Brooklyn, NY): Various pinsa options; PINSA LAB (Brooklyn, NY): Various pinsa options; GRAND CENTRAL BAKERY (Seattle, WA): Ferments loaves for at least 12 hours.
TREND 5: TRENDY TEA & THE CHICKPEA
“Burmese cuisine, a blend of Chinese, Laotian, Indian, and Thai flavors, has the staying power to appeal to a variety of different palates, and we predict it will be pushing front and center in 2018,” says SRG.
Examples: Fermented tea leaf salad, and shan tofu, a meat substitute made from chickpea flour and turmeric. Brands such as Burma Superstar.
TREND 6: OBJECTIFICATION OF FOOD
“The rise of instagram makes food even more about styling. From unicorn lattes to edible diamond-studded sundaes, food is becoming a medium for visual expression,” says SRG. “Starting next year the Culinary Institute of America will offer classes on taking food photos. Art installations and ‘foodzeums’ are tailoring food for visual consumption for the camera lens rather than the palate. We will continue to see visual food experiences created for the explicit purpose of providing a perfect photo opportunity.”
Examples: MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM (pop up exhibition – New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco); COLOR FACTORY (San Francisco) A visual experience designed for people to interact with Instagram
Boulder, Colorado-based Sterling Rice Group (SRG) is a branding, innovation and strategy consultancy that works with leading CPG players, chefs, restaurateurs, and food influencers to gather trend information.
The insights above were gleaned through conversations with SRG’s culinary council, a team of 175+ chefs, restaurateurs and foodies teamed with data from the Dataessential MenuTrends database.
Click HERE to read more about SRG’s work.