2015 Culinary Forecast

by Karen Weisberg
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Hard shell tacos
A new category influencer is tacos.

Millennials — and others who take to instant gratification—are joyously embracing up-and-coming food trends that savor the economic upturn. The pleasure principle, as it’s been dubbed by Andrew Freeman & Co., made it to the San Francisco, Calif.-based food service consultancy’s Food Trends Index as a top influencer of 2015 food and menu trends.

“Instant gratification, education and participation will be recurrent themes,” Freeman said. “The economic upturn in 2014, coupled with the desire to attract the millennial patron, a market estimated to be worth in excess of $90 billion to food service, has led to a surge of new concepts, personalized service and customized experiences geared towards satisfying this ‘demand’ generation.”

Based on Andrew Freeman and Co.’s research, the consultancy highlighted eight current menu items and menu trends, and an equal number waiting in the wings to take center stage on upcoming trend lists. These include cauliflower as a current trend (soon to be the radish); sea urchin (trout roe); cabbage salad (banana blossom salad); the 15 ingredient cocktail (Old Fashioned); Aleppo pepper (marash pepper); pork belly (chop); umami (sour); French (Spanish).

A category influencer identified by the consultancy is tacos. Freeman cites Alex Stupak’s new taco-centric concept in New York City, Empellón al Pastor; in addition, there’s James Beard award winner Sean Brock who recently opened Minero, a Mexican taqueria, in Charleston, SC.

Sausage, bacon, eggs and beans on toast
Scrambled eggs have moved beyond breakfast.

While scrambled eggs are coming on strong — and not just for breakfast anymore — note that toast was a hit at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco earlier in the year. Toast may be served with retro flair, with lots of butter and cinnamon/sugar or with a modern slant on artisan bread with local butter and salted avocado slices. Also keep in mind many millennial consumers often revert to comfort foods, like toast, well after their college dining halls years.

Hormel ham, egg and avocado on toast
Artisanal breads topped with fresh produce, eggs and premium meats represent a twist on toast.

Maeve Webster, senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry, pointed to another comfort food trend for millenials, hot and spicy foods, continuing, but reaching beyond sriracha.

“Look out for pepper flavors like harissa, aji´, gochujang, togarashi, and peri-peri; meanwhile, nut butters, stouts and savory jams will also impact menus,” she said.

“Asian” concepts are also trending, according to the market research firm Technomic.

“From my perspective, we will see more concepts specializing in lesser-known Asian cuisines, including Korean and Vietnamese,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president. He predicts millennials will welcome such new menu concepts and flavors.

“For the next wave of Asian chains to succeed, establishing authenticity is critical, but so is creating transparency,” he said. “Operators should explain their history and cuisine, making sure to point out ties to Asia as well as include information on sourcing and the quality of their ingredients.”

Asian concepts to watch, according to Jaime Calderone, Technomic Inc.’s product coordinator, include: Bibibop Asian Grill, a Columbus, Ohio, chain that specializes in build-your-own bibimbap-style bowls; Bibigo, a South Korean-based chain featuring traditional bibimbap and hot stone rice and noodle bowls; Bonmi, which offers customizable banh mi sandwiches, with locations primarily in universities; and Xi’an Famous Foods, a New York City chain known for its hand-ripped noodles and authentic Xi’an, China fare.

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