2014 Food Trends by Tom’s Foodie Blog
Cupcakes and Ramen Burgers are out, Mediterranean Cuisine evolves and local food persists. Tom’s Foodie Blog’s “2014 Food Trends – Restaurant Edition” is based on industry analysts, thought leaders, trend setting organizations and most importantly my own personal observations. 2014 should be a good year for food lovers. Here are my top 10 food trends and some runners up.
#1 Local and Traceable Food
Local – “Local is not a buzzword. Seasonal is not a gimmick. Buy, cook & eat as though your community depends on it, because it does”, Tweet from Carlos Salgado, Chef/Owner Taco Maria.
Sourcing ingredients from local farms is perhaps one biggest restaurant trend that I see for 2014 and beyond. Local food was a major trend is 2012 and 2013, expect this trend to become more hip with major chain restaurants attempting to wash their image with their “Local” farm partnerships.
There is also a growing trend of hyper-local sourcing of ingredients. Restaurants are growing their own produce either on an onsite garden and mini-farms. For example, The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim has a full blown ranch where they grow their own produce. Other restaurants are arriving at the crack of dawn to local farmer’s markets to get the best selections from local farmers whom they trust.
Traceable – Traceable means knowing where you food comes from. “Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group, said in a statement.
Diners are starting to ask where their food was grown; think of the over-exagerated segment from Portlandia. This trend was noted by the major food trend analysts including Baum and White, National Restaurant Association, and Sterling-Rice Group. You can see the traceability trend play out when the farm is labeled on the menu, with labels like ‘ Snake River Farms Korbutu Pork.”
My #2 trend is sustainability. This trend was also noted by Baum and Whiteman, Sterling-Rice, National Restaurant Association. There is a major focus on food producers to prove that they are not harming the environment through the cultivation of food. In this trend, factory farms and mega-corporations are the bad guys and local and family farms are hip.
Expect to see a strong effort from major brands to prove that are not causing harm to the environment either from farm run-off, plastics, water /energy conservation and of course carbon footprint. Look at the recent “food with integrity” campaign from Chipotle , as an example of restaurants attempting to stay ahead of public demands http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/fwi/fwi.aspx. Sustainable themed restaurants might be the next trendy concept. For example, the sustainable seafood restaurant, Slapfish, recently went multi-national with this concept
#3 Asian Flavors Evolve in Main Stream Restaurants
According to the Baum and Whitman 2014 trend report , the saturation of what used to be “exotic” Asian flavors like Kimchee and Fish sauce are now main stream. What you will see next is flavors that 1st and 2nd generation Asian immigrant families have been eating in the States for years.
For example, Baum and Whiteman cited the Korean sauce, “gochujang … a sweet-spicy Korean amalgam of fermented hot chili paste and soy.” This is the same stuff you might have tasted in a bimbimbap bowl. Although now you might find this sauce in a hamburger, aioli and bbq ribs.You might also see Japanese seven-spice seasoning on your next basket of chicken wings, yes please!
#4 Eastern Mediterranean Refugee Flavors
Mediterranean food influence lives on, but it is moving past Spain. 2014 will start to see influence some from eastern and southern Mediterranean impacted by war and civil unrest. For example, Iraq war, Arab spring and Syrian civil war are been driving refugees into Europe and the United states.
Libya, Syrian, Iraq, Iranian and Egyptian refugees will bring their family recipes and take up jobs at restaurants, start their own restaurants or grow enclaves in American cities. The result is exciting flavors entering main stream restaurant culture. “Keep an eye out for Zaatar, Shakshuka, Muhammara, shiska and freekeh” (Baum and Whiteman, 2014). I personally see Shakshuka featured at a restaurants with a progressive menu.
#5 Salads and Greens are Big Money
According to analysis by Baum and Whiteman 2014 trend report, vegetables and salads are big money as the vegetarian and health market is starting to go mainstream and entering the quick service sector. “More than one factor propels this profound market change: the gluten-rejecters, Paleo people, diabetics, weight challenged, vegetarians, vegans … and two decades of hectoring by nutritionists, food Nazis, and perhaps the first lady.” – Baum and Whiteman. http://baumwhiteman.com/2014TrendForecast.pdf
You can see this trend in major cities with restaurants like Tender Greens, Sweet Greens, Veggie Grill opening multiple locations. There is a untapped demand for folks looking for plant based or at least vegetable heavy meals. According to Epicurious.com, roughly 12 percent of women under 35 don’t eat meat. http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/bestof/toplists/foodtrendsvegetarianismbecomesacceptednorm. There is big money to be made in the healthy lifestyle sector.
#6 Food Truck Maturity and Decline
Now that the food truck culture is mainstream and no longer considered fringe eating. The best food trucks are leaving the road and opening restaurants. We also are seeing an influx of low quality food trucks with nice body wraps and low quality food trying to pass themselves off as gourmet food trucks. The result is a quick decline in major markets where the hype cycle recently took hold.
Research by Epicurious and published by Huffington Post points out that the food truck trend is coming to smaller towns . With the success of shows like The Great Food Truck Race and Eat St., there is now an unmet demand in smaller towns who have never experience the food truck hype. With a low barrier to entry and high unemployment, don’t be surprised when you see low-quality gourmet food trucks hit middle-America and suburbs. I expect to see only see only the strong food trucks, like Koji and The Tasting Spoon, survive to the end of 2015.
#7 Off-Cuts, Off-Animals are hip & cool.
Several years ago dishes like quail, ox tail , pigeons and goat were taboo, but are now cool to try. Epicurious.com cites shows like Man Verus Food and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizare Foods as an influence to making these dishes cool. I personally give credit to vanguard Chefs credit for slowly introducing these ingredients to the general population. Expect to see items like lamb’s neck and chicken feet on standard menus. One of the trends I predicted last year, whole pigs head, took hold in a couple vanguard restaurants. For example, Haven Collective, offered pig head tacos and pig “Head Cheese.” The table is set for the pig head to be the next must try adventure food.
According to Supermarket news, “Foodies(sic)… filling their plates instead with exotic proteins they know aren’t factory farmed: Goat, rabbit and even pigeon meat raised by small-scale producers will give us choices we can feel good about and a new palette of flavors for experimenting in the kitchen.” Restaurants like The Animal in Downtown Los Angeles is offering off-cuts and off-animals dishes. They have at least a one month long wait list for weekend reservations.
#8 Once Scary Seafood swims up-stream onto menus.
The over-riding trend in seafood will be local, traceable and sustainable, per my top three trends. Although, I expect to see restaurants experiment and captivate their diners with fish that is not yet mainstream or previously out of style.
- Octopus –The single seafood item that I have seen take off in 2013 and destined to grow is octopus. I have seen almost every trendy restaurant add octopus to their menu, steamed, sous vided, grilled even chicken-fried octopus was spotted last week. In my opinion, the growth of octopus in the American market has its roots in the Mediterranean trend that hit big in 2013 and the normalization of the mollusk through sushi restaurants.
- Salty Fish – “The no-no of Caesar salads has become respectable … people are ordering anchovies … especially Spanish salt-packed ones called bocquerones, and even fresh ones. You’ll find them on Nicoise salads and fresh mozzarella, or tossed with breadcrumbs atop pasta. They’re ordering fresh sardines, too … warm ones. Herring hasn’t hit the big-time but Americans are beginning to give mackerel … another oily fish”, (Baum and Whiteman, 2014).
- Tilapia and Salmon are soo passe – According to the National Retaurant Association Whats Hot 2014 Survey, you can expect to see more fish like branzino and barramundi. I expect these new hip fish to edge out the played out tilapia on restaurant menus. Artic Char could give Salmon a run for it’s money. Baum and Whiteman see a different fish swimming ahead, specifically pikefish, octopus (see my prediction above) and trout.
- Fish Collars moves from sushi restaurants to main stream –Eatocracy
#9 Gluten Free gets profitable
A universal trend among restaurant analysts is that Gluten-Free is now mainstream at restaurants, and profitable. You can visit a restaurant without seeing a Gluten-Free legend on the bottom of the menu.
According to National Restaurant Association Whats Hot 2014 Survey, Gluten-Free and non-wheat pasta are on the top 10 of their survey. Chain restaurants like P.F. Chang’s, CPK and Dunkin’ Donuts are offering menu items to attract these consumers. The popularity of the Paleo diet is complimentary with the Gluten-Free diet trend, I see a natural evolution on restaurant menus to capture these “veto-vote” diners.
#10 Tasting Menus
Small plates and prix fixe small plate menus have been quickly emerging quickly in 2013, with higher-end restaurants leading the charge. With tasting menus, diners receive 4-10 small portions, enough for several bites and wanting more. Typically they are Chef’s choice, no modifications or substitutions. A perfect example of what this tasting menu looks like is Benu in San Francisco, which recently earned it’s second Michelin Star, http://www.benusf.com/menu/tasting.pdf
The thing I like about tasting dishes is that it leaves you wondering what it would have been like with a full plate of the food. Sometimes intrigue is better then getting lucky. At an underground level, Wolvesmouth http://wolvesmouth.com/home, the popular pop-up restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles has helped make this trend cool. I expect to see this trend take off and embraced by more restaurants in 2014.
Other Notable Trends, Gourmet Food Halls are In
“Cookie-cutter mall food courts serving repetitive same-old chain food are on the downslide. The upscale food halls feature both artisan food purveyors and made to order restaurant stalls are coming in strong. In New York, the 50,000 sq. ft. Eataly is so successful it raised all rents nearby buildings” (Baum and Whiteman).
Look at the OC Mix in Costa Mesa as an example http://shoptheocmix.com/stores/dine/ and a sister version rumored to open in Mission Viejo. The Packard Building in Anaheim will soon follow in 2014 http://anaheimpackingdistrict.com/packard-building. I predict Downtown Santa Ana will evolve to become a city block sized food district, with small craft food vendors taking over shoe shops and barber shops.
Ready to eat bar snacks out of a jar
I have seen this trend start up at several venues in the past couple months. Essentially pre-made cold items are sealed up in a manson jar, ready to serve at the bar. The logic goes, less waiting equals more profits. Expect items like soft breads, cheese and olives, hummus, and other fancy bread spreads. I have seen this trend at C4 deli in Downtown Santa Ana and during the preview of the new Californian Restaurant in Huntington Beach – Source- Tom’s Foodie Blog
Made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream
This trend has already started to sprout in 2013 in several metropolitan areas. In Orange County, Creamistry http://creamistry.com/experienced several hour lines when they opened. When the spring comes around, expect even more imitators to pop up around the United States. – Source Baum and White and Tom’s Foodie Blog
“2014 Trend Forecast” Baum and Whiteman – http://baumwhiteman.com/2014TrendForecast.pdf
“R.I.P. Cupcakes: The 6 Most Exciting Food Trends for 2014”. http://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/229839
“Food Channel Reveals 2014 Top 10 Food Trends” Food Chanel. http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/12/food-channel-reveals-2014-top-10-food-trends.aspx
“1o Food Trends to Watch” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/epicurious/10-food-trends-to-watch_b_4304553.html
“Chefs Predict culinary trends 2014” National Restaurant Association. http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/Research/What-s-Hot
“Cutting-Edge Food Trends 2014” Sterling and Rice. http://www.srg.com/2014FoodTrends
“Analyst Predict Top Trends” Supermarket News. http://supermarketnews.com/
Tom Holmberg, Tom’s Foodie Blog. www.tomsfoodieblog.com