At the end of each year, the team at Datassential releases our list of the trends to watch in the upcoming year, leveraging our extensive data from services like Datassential’s MenuTrends, the industry’s most accurate and trusted menu database, and combining it with our expert insight and passion for food trends. Last year we covered everything from European cuisines like German and English to beverage trends, including craft sodas and mocktails. In the past we have tracked mini desserts (2014), sweet potato (2007), and adult grilled cheese (2011). And now we are proud to release our trends to watch in 2015 — and this year it helps to think big.
In the year ahead, major changes will continue to disrupt the entire food industry. Segment melding continues to blur the lines between traditional industry concepts, from fast casual, which combined the speed of fast food with options often found at casual or midscale concepts, to chef casual, where fine dining techniques and authentic flavors are showcased in more affordable and approachable ways. But now newer segments are forming, like casual fine, the result of a split in fine dining that has diverged into traditional upscale restaurants (white tablecloths, quiet dining rooms) and casual fine, which features a livelier, more social atmosphere (though with fine dining prices).
And fast casual is now evolving into Fast Casual 2.0, as independent fast casual restaurants and startup brands enter the space, forcing established chains to react. Menu items are more progressive, featuring ethnic flavors and ancient grains. The effects of segment melding are being felt throughout the entire industry, in every segment, and we expect to see more operators react to this new normal.
Dishes, flavors and cuisines to Watch
For many chefs, the focus has shifted from pleasing everyone with an all-encompassing menu to focusing on a single ingredient and executing it at a higher level than anyone else. Now menus are focused on a particular dish or region, conveying a strong identity — think restaurants focused on Texas BBQ, biscuits, ramen, and fried chicken, or a highly specific cuisine, like Sicilian or Asian street food. At the same time, many chef casual and casual fine chefs are cooking without constraints, creating cuisine-less restaurants that defy traditional definitions. Today’s modern, innovative chefs are expected to travel the world, incorporating all of the flavors and inspirations they discover into a menu that is uniquely their own. At The Cecil, in New York, for instance, the menu “traces the global migration of African-descendent people through the influence of African spices, textures, and cooking techniques on traditional American, Latin, and Asian dishes.”
In the year ahead we also expect chefs, manufacturers, and operators to continue to seek inspiration from around the world when it comes to flavors, hoping to create the next sriracha. Look out for peppery flavors like harissa, aji, gochujang, togarashi, and peri peri, while nut butters, stouts, and savory jams will also impact menus.
Future of food
Advances in technology are turning science fiction into reality on the modern table. Technology like 3D printers and chemical analysis are increasingly affordable and available to both manufacturers and consumers. 3D printer company Natural Machines plans to release a consumer-grade version of their Foodini food printer, which will accept pre-packaged capsules to create difficult or time consuming dishes or ingredients, like noodles or pizza dough. Consumer Physics raised $2.7 million from a Kickstarter campaign to develop SCIO, a consumer handheld molecular sensor that can analyze the make-up of anything that is scanned, including food, even determining nutritional content, ripeness, and sweetness levels. And companies like Soylent, which markets a meal/food replacement drink, and Hampton Creek, which spent two years developing plant-based eggless mayonnaise substitute Just Mayo, are using technology to cater to every dietary need and want. Meanwhile, IBM’s cognitive cooking system, Watson (of Jeopardy fame), analyzes flavor compounds to develop brand new recipes using both classic and surprising ingredient combinations.
What will 2015 bring for the food industry? Will we see the next Cronut or sriracha? This is a small taste of Datassential’s Ten Trends to Watch in 2015 — but you can read all ten in FoodBytes, our free monthly trendspotting newsletter.
Maeve Webster is the senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information on how these trends will impact your company, contact Webster at [email protected] or 312-655-0596.
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