Calgary·Year in Food Review

Julie Van Rosendaal's top food trends of 2018

CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal talks about the year in food trends.

What needs to stay and what needs to go away in 2019

Friends share a healthy vegetarian meal of pasta, bulgur and vegetable tart. Plant-based eating is still gaining momentum, even among those who don't necessarily commit to veganism full-time. (Shutterstock)

When we think of trends, often what comes to mind are those dishes that see short bursts of popularity, driven by Instagram or Pinterest: charcoal soft serve, the unicorn frappuccino, oozing egg yolks, pizzas covered with hot Cheetos, smoothie bowls and burgers you can barely fit your hands around, let alone your mouth.

But often it's a matter of popular culture evolving in a particular direction, as we're seeing with a huge shift toward reduced waste and plant-based eating.

Apples, avocados and other plant based fruit and vegetables, all of which figure to trend upward in 2019, line the produce shelves at Colemans grocery store in St. John's. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Trends at home

For home cooks, there doesn't seem to be a big gadget of the season like we saw with the Instant Pot last year. Plant-based eating is still gaining momentum, even among those who don't necessarily commit to veganism full-time.

Vegan and plant-based cookbooks continue to outsell most others, and there are so many more resources online and in stores and cookbooks than there ever was — we have access to unlimited recipes and how-to cooking videos, as well as online Master Classes — we can all learn from Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay.

We now have access to unlimited recipes and how-to cooking videos, as well as online Master Classes from the likes of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

And of course delivered meal kits have grown into a $120-million industry in Canada. With Uber Eats going nationwide this year and Skip the Dishes gaining momentum, convenience has become key for companies marketing to home cooks.

Skip the Dishes offers delivery for 600 restaurants in Manitoba alone and fills millions of orders a month from their Winnipeg headquarters. (Skip the Dishes)

Role of social media

Food is visual, making social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram huge drivers of food trends, which move much faster than they used to. Restaurants are starting to consider Instagramability when they come up with menu items and even interior decor — eateries are adding their logo to walls, plates and other areas they know will be photographed.

Often you'll see a textured wall in a well-lit place beside the counter for customers wanting to take pictures of their pain au chocolat or soft serve to share with their friends. Restaurants know that with social media, we are all influencers, and photo-worthy food means free marketing.

Instagram, Pinterest and even Facebook are also making a big difference for home cooks and people who follow specific diets whether by choice or necessity, providing access to a worldwide community of home cooks and chefs who share recipes and techniques, which is particularly helpful for people cooking vegan, paleo or gluten free.

Tasty-style, top-down videos that demonstrate a recipe in 2 1/2 minutes are helping people learn cooking basics along with special skills like how to decorate a cake or top a pie.

One of myriad ways eggs are served at OEB in Calgary. Adding an egg to it makes food highly Instagrammable, which van Rosendaal says is the primary marketing source for many restauranteurs (Courtesy Teale Orban, OEB Calgary)

Are people cooking less?

If you look at the popularity of cooking shows, websites, food-based social media feeds and cookbooks, people should be cooking more — but we also live in the age of Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes, as well as delivered meal kits you assemble yourself.

We have access to so many fantastic prepared take-out meals, and grocery stores are scrambling to get in on that market with their own meal kits, prepared foods and other conveniences.

It could be that people are technically cooking from scratch less—and more as a hobby, perhaps on the weekends, than out of necessity every night of the week.

Cannabis edibles such as cookies, brownies and candies figure to be an emerging food trend in 2019 (Eric Wooliscroft/CBC)

Trends to watch for in 2019

Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats are definitely impacting the restaurant industry... kitchens are busier keeping up with takeout orders on top of their regular dining rooms, and commissary kitchens are opening up "ghost" restaurants that prepare food exclusively for delivery drivers, with no dining room.

We're seeing more vegetarian and vegan options. Earls rolled out a vegan menu this year, and A&W can barely keep up with demand for the Beyond Burger. 

Spruce tips are a popular food trend heading into 2019 (Julie van Rosendaal)

We're also continuing to see an increase in fast-casual eateries, less high-end fine dining, and food halls that offer several options under one roof—an affordable way for chefs to collaborate and expand to another location without the financial commitment of a full bricks and mortar location.

We're seeing a reduction in food waste in restaurants as well as at home - chefs are taking a root to stem and nose to tail approach, and using less single-use packaging, sourcing better paper straws and edible packaging for takeout options.

And now that restaurants are starting to understand the marketing power of Instagram, we'll likely continue to see viral foods pop up throughout the year, hoping to be the next Unicorn Frapuccino.

In terms of flavours, we're seeing a lot of earthy flavours, cocktails and dishes infused with cedar, pine and spruce, and more attention to fats—fancy butters, and lard is making a comeback. So-called "fat bombs" are the latest form of energy ball, made up mostly of fat, rather than the traditional dried fruit and grains.

It's safe to say cooking with cannabis will become more of a thing in 2019, and of course chefs are experimenting w edibles leading up to legalization of edibles in the coming year.

Coconut flavoured ice cream infused with black, activated charcoal is a trend that must go away in 2019, says van Rosendaal (PNE)

Trends that need to go away

Charcoal ice cream may have hit its saturation point, rainbow foods, extreme milkshakes with piles of cookies and candy on top — basically anything that has been orchestrated for Instagram.

Although if Instagram continues to be an effective (and free) marketing tool, we can look forward to a constant stream of new extreme foods in our feeds.

People seem to be tiring of food served on boards or other vehicles other than plates, of trendy ingredients like bacon, cauliflower and kale, and dessert hummus (yes, that was apparently a thing).

Brussels sprouts seem to be holding their popularity — that is, people don't seem to be tiring of them — and my hope again this year is that kohlrabi will be next in line.

With files from The Homestretch


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.


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