About this time last year, optimistic trend forecasters predicted that the cork would burst from the bottle by summer. With vaccines in weapons, the food culture would vibrate in a robust economy. American menus would be full of innovation, propelled by waves of international travel, and a new generation of digital-native chefs would rewrite the rules.
Obviously, the prediction game can be a losing game. But what if things don’t go the way everyone expected? Trying to predict food trends is still fun and sometimes even accurate. (kudos to those professional forecasters who nailed the mainstream rise of quesabirria, soufflé pancakes, delivery restaurants, and CBD in recent years. And a special quote to those who saw early on that those wrinkles of veganism would turn into a plant-based tsunami.)
So what does it look like for 2022? Not good. The year kicks off with a wave of a highly contagious strain of Covid-19 that is only adding to economic uncertainty. Social justice concerns remain a top priority for many, as does the pressures of a rapidly changing climate. It all affects how food is grown, cooked and packaged.
But don’t despair. “Constraint leads to innovation,” said Anna Fabrega, a former Amazon executive who recently took over as chief executive at meal subscription service Freshly. She and other food industry leaders in the United States say 2022 will be another pragmatic year of rolling up your sleeves, shaped by the needs of people who work from home and the culinary astute but fickle Gen Z, whose members want to eat with sustainable ingredients and a strong cultural background story, prepared without exploitation and delivered in a CO2-neutral way – within 30 minutes.
With that in mind, here are some potential developments, big and small, that could shape how we eat in the new year, based on a review of dozens of trend reports and interviews with food company executives, global market researchers and others who make it. their company to scan the landscape for what the future holds.
Ingredient of the Year
Mushrooms have made it onto many prediction lists, in almost every form, from psilocybin mushrooms (part of the renewed interest in psychedelics) to chunky coin king oyster mushrooms as a replacement for scallops. The number of small-town mushroom-growing farms is expected to thrive and mushroom fiber is set to proliferate as an inexpensive, compostable medium for packaging.
Drink of the year
Even in the era of non-alcoholic cocktails, all those 80s drinks that you can barely remember (for obvious reasons) are making a comeback. Look for Blue Lagoons, Tequila Sunrises, Long Island iced teas, and amaretto pickles, reimagined with fresh juices, less sugar, and better spirits. “We all need things that are sweet, colorful and cheerful and playful, especially now,” said Andrew Freeman, president of AF & Co., the San Francisco consulting firm that has been publishing a popular food and hospitality trend report for 14 years. (A corollary of the cocktails: the rise of eco-spirits, made with ingredients from local farms or food waste, and packaged and shipped using climate-friendly methods.)
Meat grown in labs from animal cells is on track to gain federal approval by the end of 2022, and chicken will be one of the first products to become available. But recently, plant-based chicken from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat has hit supermarkets and restaurants, and the battle is on to determine which alternative will dominate the market. And in the real chicken world, a shortage of wings causes restaurants to try to persuade the masses to love a different cut of chicken. For example, the Wingstop chain has expanded its brand with Thighstop.
Seaweed to the rescue
Nostalgic childhood favorites from China (White Rabbit candies and haw flakes) and South Korea (the honeycomb treat ppopgi, also known as dalgona candies and Apollo straws) will find their way into American shopping carts and recipes for desserts and drinks. .
The third wave of coffee movement is built on Arabica, the world’s most popular coffee. But climate change threatens production and drives prices up, said Kara Nielsen, who tracks food and beverage trends for WGSN, a consumer forecasting and consulting firm. Enter robusta, the bitter, heavily caffeinated workhorse that is less expensive and easier to grow. It is the predominant bean grown in Vietnam, where coffee is made with a metal filter called a phin and sweetened with condensed milk and sometimes an egg yolk. A new style of Vietnamese coffee shop is popping up in many American cities, promising to bring the robusta with them.
The quality of edible spoons, chopsticks, plates, bowls and cups is increasing and the price is falling, which is the beginning of a full-fledged revolution in edible packaging, aimed at reducing disposable packaging and plastic waste.
Sugar and ‘Swice’
Mash-ups like “swicy” and “swalty” will join the slang mania that has earned us unfortunate nicknames like char coot and Cae sal (charcuterie and Caesar salad, that is). The new phraseology reflects an even broader embrace of flavor fusions that combine savory spice and warmth with sweetness. Nene, a South Korea-based fried chicken chain just starting to move to North America, has even called a sauce swicy. The flavor profile reflects what would happen if gochujang and ketchup had a baby.
Flavor of the Year
Yuzu has its fans, but the money is equal to hibiscus, adding its crimson hue and tart, earthy flavor to everything from cocktails and sodas to crudos and yogurt.
With Covid curtailing international travel in 2021, chefs in the United States explored regional American food. In 2022, regional dishes from India will receive a lot of attention, with a deep dive into dishes from Gujarat, Kerala, Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and the Awadh area.
Atmosphere of the year
With the supply chain in tatters and restaurant staff stretched almost to the breaking point, discerning shoppers and diners are running out, and patience is running out. A growing interest in the historical and cultural nature of food and its impact on the climate will only add to what forecasters (optimistically) say will be a new emphasis on kindness and understanding.
As Jennifer Zigler, the associate director of food and beverage at the research firm Mintel, put it, “We’ve all been through these stressful, anxious years, and there’s that willingness to have some empathy and understanding.”
A buffet with other snacks
In addition to the big trends, there is a long menu with smaller ones: the growing popularity of Koji bacon, the Chinese spirit baijiu and the noodle soup laksa. Jollof rice will appear on menus and in the frozen foods section. Seeds will enhance nuts as an alternative protein source, in products such as butters and ice cream. And find new interest in animal-free cheese, potato milk, moringa, Taiwanese breakfast dishes, high tea and olives.