Food trends are, like many things, difficult to predict with any real accuracy, but there is some method to the madness. Looking at the evolution of the culinary industry over the last several decades, it’s clear that certain individuals or organizations continue to lead the charge into the future of food fads.
Whether these trends are purposefully pushed in certain markets or occur by viral happenstance, we can often look to these sources for a glimpse into what types of food may trend next.
Social Media Influencers
For any TikTok users out there, you’ve probably heard about the infamous baked “feta pasta” trend that allegedly led to several major US retailers completely selling out of the soft white cheese. Such is the power of social media influencers!
With the rising popularity of food bloggers, vloggers and other influencers, access to easily-digestible content (pun intended) has simplified the way people share unique recipes, launching them into the viral stratosphere. With a quick video or a pretty-enough picture, even common foods can turn into the latest trend in a moment, then are gone in a flash.
Industry Trend Publications
Similar to how fashion magazines may push the latest seasonal trends for jackets or shoes, there are plenty of industry publications involved in the realm of food trends.
Some publications, like Flavor & The Menu, focus on data-driven reporting of up-and-coming trends. Others attempt to push foods into becoming trendy or predict trends based on any number of qualifiers. In any case, the beautiful imagery and increasing accessibility of these types of publications makes them a great source for trending foods.
Food Boards, Councils & Committees
Have you ever heard of the Blueberry Council, the California Walnut Board or the National Dairy Council? These are just a few of the many local, state, regional and national food-specific organizations trying to increase the popularity of their dedicated product with the general population.
Frequently organizations like these will engage with chefs at all stages of their careers, challenging them to find new and creative ways to use their product. Pushing the chefs outside of their comfort zone helps facilitate culinary innovation, which in some cases can lead to a new food trend in the broader culinary world.
Other Food Trend Influences
What goes around comes around
Just as butterfly hair clips and bomber jackets are coming back into fashion, some food trends follow a more cyclical pattern of popularity. One of the clearest examples of this is the beloved pumpkin spice latte—or PSL, for those in-the-know—that Starbucks releases like clockwork every year when the leaves first begin to turn.
Some recurring trends have longer cycles. Frequently foods that found popularity decades ago fall out of favor only to be repopularized at a later time, in some cases repeatedly. For example, the grapefruit diet first became popular in the 1930s, experiencing a resurgence in the 1940s, 1970s, and even into the 2000s.
What’s happening in the world?
In general, geopolitical happenings and world events help to bring the dishes and flavors of new and interesting places to areas they may not have come to otherwise. A great example of this is the various bouts of culinary innovation due to migrant movement, like the spike in Mediterranean food’s popularity during the Gulf War.
But people moving from one place to another isn’t the only spark that leads to the proverbial flame. How can we forget the rampant popularity of sourdough bread starters in early to mid-2020? Even as COVID-19-related restrictions began to ebb later in 2020 and into 2021, other trends arose, including increased outdoor seating for restaurants, the resurgence of food trucks, rampant use of mobile delivery and curbside pickup, and “social districts” in areas densely populated with food establishments.
Up-and-coming food hubs
Remember those food industry publications we mentioned before? In general, they have to get their information from somewhere, and more often than not it involves a lot of legwork, traveling to up-and-coming food-forward cities around the country. While Chicago, LA, Miami and NYC are a few major food hubs, other cities are beginning to make names for themselves. In addition to the larger cities, trend-watchers also keep an eye on cities like Nashville, Austin, Portland, Denver, and more.
Listening Through the Grapevine
While there’s no way to predict upcoming food trends with 100% accuracy, the team at Creative Dining Services works hard to keep our fingers on the pulse of culinary trends, bringing value and variety to our clients and their diners. From Garlic Lemon Halal Chicken Noodles to Rustic Cheese Neapolitan Flatbreads, our expert culinarians strive to provide our clients with cutting-edge menus for every palate.