Setting the Table for 2016 – Experts Predict the Flavors and Trends That Will Shape the Culinary World This Year

Locally sourced meat and produce will continue to be in high demand.

Locally sourced meat and produce will continue to be in high demand.

By Sara Perez Webber

Now that the new year is upon us, it’s a good time to take a look at what experts think we have in store for us in 2016. According to the various trend reports we’ve assembled here, prepare for a hot-and-spicy year, with lots of veggies and much less waste, and a greater inclusion of global cuisine even while customers clamor for local sourcing.

McCormick Flavor Forecast (see website for recipes)
McCormick & Company’s annual Flavor Forecast identifies the “top trends and ingredients driving the future of flavor,” according to the company. It’s created by a global team of experts, including chefs, culinary professionals and trend-trackers. “Innovation is crucial for menu differentiation, and our Flavor Forecast helps foodservice professionals stay steps ahead of the current trends in the industry,” says Megan Ford, vice president of branded food service, McCormick & Company.

The top trends identified by the McCormick Flavor Forecast and their corresponding flavors include:

Trend: Heat + Tang

Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents to elevate the eating experience.

Flavors: Peruvian chiles like rocoto, ají amarillo and ají panca paired with lime; sambal sauce made with chiles, rice vinegar and garlic

Trend: Tropical Asian

The vibrant cuisine and distinctive flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines draw attention from adventurous palates seeking bold new tastes.

Flavors: Pinoy BBQ, a popular Filipino street food, flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper and banana ketchup; rendang curry, a Malaysian spice paste, which delivers a mild heat made from chiles, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric

Trend: Blends with Benefits

Flavorful herbs and spices add everyday versatility to good-for-you ingredients.

Flavors: Matcha’s slightly bitter notes balanced by ginger and citrus; chia seed paired with citrus, chile and garlic; turmeric blended with cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg; flaxseed combined with Mediterranean herbs

Trend: Alternative “Pulse” Proteins

Packed with protein and nutrients, pulses are elevated when paired with delicious ingredients.

Flavors: Pigeon peas, called toor dal when split, traditionally paired with cumin and coconut; cranberry beans, also called borlotti, perfectly enhanced with sage and Albariño wine; black beluga lentils, uniquely accented with peach and mustard

Trend: Ancestral Flavors

Modern dishes reconnect with native ingredients to celebrate food that tastes real, pure and satisfying.

Flavors: Ancient herbs like thyme, peppermint, parsley, lavender and rosemary are rediscovered; amaranth, an ancient grain of the Aztecs, brings a nutty, earthy flavor; mezcal, a smoky Mexican liquor made from the agave plant

Trend: Culinary-Infused Sips

Three classic culinary techniques provide new tastes and inspiration in the creation of the latest libations.

Flavors: Pickling combines tart with spice for zesty results; roasting adds richness with a distinctive browned flavor; brûléed ingredients provide depth with a caramelized sugar note


Top 10 Food Trends in Specialty Food for 2016
The editors of Specialty Food News, the daily newsletter from the Specialty Food Association, predicted the top trends in specialty food for the coming year. “Health and convenience come across loud and clear in 2016’s trend forecast,” says Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “Consumers gravitate toward simpler foods and beverages, often sustainable and local, and they respond to products and new store formats that make their lives easier. But, while they may want their food simpler, they don’t want it boring. There’s always room for indulgence and new taste adventures.” In addition to the 10 trends detailed here, the Specialty Food Association predicts moringa will be the next superfood; identifies broccoli leaves as “the new kale”; and names millet as the latest alternative grain.

1. Vegetables take root. Vegetables are getting new respect, and will crop up more in teas, yogurts and ice cream. Seaweed is set to soar.

2. Fresh florals. Flower power will be evident in chocolate, cheese, snack foods, carbonated water and an expanding variety of teas.

3. Food waste face-off. Food retailers, foodservice establishments and food makers will look for more creative solutions to combat food waste.

4. Local love. Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce will continue to attract attention from consumers who demand to know where their food comes from.

5. Fungi frenzy. The humble mushroom is now at the intersection of several trends—vegetables, umami and foraging.

6. Snack appeal. Snacks have new status as healthy options for meal replacements that appeal to solo diners, busy parents and even their kids.

7. Fat is back. Full-fat products once deemed forbidden are back in style, from milk to butter to red meat.

8. Convenient shifts. Food retailers large and small are testing new strategies to lure in consumers who are looking for the best in their food and willing to pay.

9. Supermarkets for super health. Expect more supermarkets touting themselves as wellness centers with dieticians on staff, blood sugar testing and nutrition classes.

10. The Latin kitchen. From bottled gazpacho to renewed relations with Cuba, Latin American cuisine is gaining fans from food halls to high-end eateries.


Peruvian chicken with chile sauces

Peruvian chicken with chile sauces

Andrew Freeman & Co. 2016 Trends Report
Boutique hospitality and restaurant consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. (AF&Co.) recently published “The Year of Multiple Personalities” report, a preview of the hottest trends and predictions that will be shaping the restaurant and hotel industries in 2016. The report finds that restaurateurs and hoteliers will have to flex their creative muscles even more than in years past in order to satisfy many audiences, taking on “multiple personalities” to please multiple types of people at multiple times.

“Guests are looking for more multi-faceted unique experiences, and sometimes those are conflicting,” says Andrew Freeman, president of AF&Co. “It wouldn’t be unlikely for a guest to want a vegetable-centric meal on a Monday and then want to have an over-the-top decadent brunch on that same Sunday.”

Following are 10 of the report’s food trends:

>> Go Veg or Go Home

Vegetables are the hero this year. They’ve become the center of the plate component, not simply a side dish. People want less animal protein and are requesting that veggies are ramped up to their fullest creative potential. Dedicated menus and menu items are an absolute must since guests are identifying themselves as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free more than ever.

>> Happy in Hawaii, Wish You Were Here

Hawaiian food is the latest regional “New American” food that’s getting its place in the spotlight.

>> Sliders Landslide, Where’s the Burger?

Sliders continue to lend themselves to more than just mini burgers these days, and due to their small size, they’re the perfect mini-bite indulgence to experiment with.

>> Fiery, Fiery Foods

Fiery, spicy foods are not only delicious, but supposedly really good for you, according to various news sources. From the obvious chile oil to the now-ubiquitous sriracha to the creatively inspired spicy maple syrup, American palates are embracing and relishing the heat. Now more than ever, desserts and beverages are enhanced with spice and heat.

>> Rock & (Lobster) Rolls

The ultimate comfort food/seafood sandwich is the lobster roll. Despite always appearing as a more premium-priced menu item, diners willingly pay the price for decadent, buttery lobster meat on a bun.

>> Discarded to Delicious

With higher food and labor costs impacting restaurateurs, there’s a growing need to figure out how to save money. Chefs are embracing and utilizing the bits and pieces of all sorts of ingredients that were previously discarded to create delicious new dishes.

>> You’re So Cuke

Cucumbers have become the “it” vegetable, prompting chefs to source more varieties that go way beyond the familiar English seedless varieties. Cucumbers are versatile because they add texture, coolness and freshness, and absorb flavoring easily (and they’re packed with fiber).

>> Under Compression

Compressed melon and root vegetables are becoming staples in both high-end and casual establishments, as modernist technique is further investigated and integrated.

>> My Brunch Is Bigger Than Your Brunch

Breakfast and brunch go full-throttle with decadence and indulgence.

>> Ice Cream Sandwich Mania

Ice cream sandwiches have been popping up on dessert menus from casual spots to fine
dining eateries.


What’s Hot in 2016 Culinary Forecast

From the National Restaurant Association
Each year, the National Restaurant Association surveys professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation on which food, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus in the year ahead. Nearly 1,600 chefs participated in the latest survey. The top 20 food trends in the 2016 Culinary Forecast are:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood

2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts

3. Locally grown produce

4. Hyper-local sourcing

5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food

6. Environmental sustainability

7. Healthful kids’ meals

8. New cuts of meat

9. Sustainable seafood

10. House-made/artisan ice cream

11. Ethnic condiments/spices

12. Authentic ethnic cuisine

13. Farm/estate branded items

14. Artisan butchery

15. Ancient grains

16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items

17. Fresh/house-made sausage

18. House-made/artisan pickles

19. Food waste reduction/management

20. Street food/food trucks


Technomic 2016 Food Trends
Food research and consulting firm Technomic identified the top trends it believes may prove transformational in 2016.Technomic’s consultants and experts base their annual predictions on site visits in trendsetting cities, plus interviews and surveys of operators and consumers, backed up by the company’s own qualitative data. Following are five of Technomic’s top trends:

1. The Sriracha effect. Having learned that Sriracha sauce can add instant ethnic cachet to something as straightforward as a sandwich, chefs are scouting the world for other assertive flavorings to employ in similar ways. Likely bets: ghost pepper from India; sambal from Southeast Asia; gochujang from Korea; and harissa, sumac and dukka from North Africa.

2. Elevating peasant fare. Just as meatballs and sausages are proliferating, multi-ethnic dumplings are also on the rise, from pierogis to bao buns.

3. Trash to treasure. Rising prices for proteins raise the profiles of under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and “trash” species of fish—but the “use it all” mindset has also moved beyond the center of the plate. How about a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer?

4. Burned. Smoke and fire are showing up everywhere on the menu: in charred or roasted vegetable sides; in desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings; in cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.

5. Bubbly. Effervescence makes light work of the trendiest beverages: Champagnes and Proseccos; Campari-and-soda aperitifs; adults-only “hard” soft drinks, including ginger ales and root beers; fruit-based artisanal sodas; and sparkling teas. l