Over the next year or so, you could be snacking on African street food, ordering a meal kit online, or enjoying avocado in your coffee. Those are some of the food developments to watch for in 2017.
Such new trends are identified in the food and beverage sector by companies like Technomic, NPD Group, Mintel and Baum and Whiteside and many others. They collect data from the industry and give insight into what we could be eating in the near future.
Technomic, for instance, has a database of over 200 top Canadian chain restaurants and hundreds of independent restaurants and food trucks that is used to make predictions, according to managing editor Aaron Jourden.
"We collect menus each quarter from these restaurants and chains and then we can break down by ingredient, flavour, dishes and preparation to look at many different categories of growth and what's trending up and what's trending down," Jourden said.
From many possible food trends that are emerging, here are some of the people, platforms and flavours that will make their mark beginning in 2017.
People and platforms
Millennnials visit restaurants more than any other demographic. Born in the early 1980s, this group will continue to boost restaurant traffic, according to NPD Group, but they've also cleared the way for "Gen Z," a cohort born in mid-1990s and early 2000s.
"Gen Z are just starting to enter the work force and their spending power is just starting to emerge," said Jourden. "It's a generation that foodservice companies will begin to pay a lot more attention to."
Gen Z has never known a time when there wasn't digital engagement – just check an Instagram account for millions of food and restaurant photos. Restaurants must know the language that they speak and be able to engage with them on the platforms that they use.
"But there are opportunities to introduce them to a more traditional experience with the restaurant as a quiet and relaxing place that's not as fast paced as the world has become digitally," notes Jourden.
Closely related, online food delivery and pick-up is booming, according to NPD. That can mean revenue to restaurants that include this platform in their business model. Granted, it's a small segment of traffic, but with an increase of 68 million orders since 2012 it's the fastest growing. Delivered "meals kits" like Chef'd, Blue Apron and Chefs [sic] Plate are expected to grow, too.
Veggies, Korean flavours, soup
Otherwise, look for Korean and Filipino foods as emerging cuisines, Jourden says. "Both have a lot of big, bold flavours, a lot of spicy and sour flavour notes."
Also, as health consciousness and costs increase, vegetarian and vegan options at restaurants will increase as centre-of-the-plate ingredients and as more than just salads: burgers, pizzas and burritos will have a vegetable focus.
Soups, stocks and broths will likely be more popular in the next couple of years. Dave Meli of The Healthy Butcher in Toronto and Kitchener predicts that beef soup will be a growing trend, given the interest in bone broth and healthy eating.
"If beef is going to make a major stand in restaurants, I would see it in the soup end of things," he says.
New coffee trends
Coffee will get a freshening up as well, according to Technomic. Cold-pressed coffee (cold filtered water, coarse-grind coffee and a long steeping time) has made its mark in a competitive field, something that is part of the menu at Kitchener's Smile Tiger Coffee, Settlement Coffee Co. of Waterloo, and Monigram Coffee Roasters in Cambridge.
"There's a cold-brew coffee rage that is happening right now," says Settlement co-owner Rob Theodosiou, adding that they also prepare a chai coffee in summer. Monigram has just started seasoning coffee in wine barrels before roasting.
While it traditionally ends a meal, coffee is pressing on into "premium extremes" of preparation like other ingredients and flavours that are gaining popularity, says Jourden. That could mean coffee with avocado, lemon and jellies, he says.
"It's a way to make a product stand out in a field that's been saturated at this point."