Food and Drink Trends – What’s In Store for 2016?

“You could put the 20,000 refugees at the Macedonian border somewhere near Glasgow and nobody would notice – and the food would get better”

-Yanis Varoufakis in The Telegraph


Late last year I went to the Food Bloggers’ Connect conference and listened to Indy Neogy, Co-Founder and Chief Trend Scanner at KILN talk about food and drink.

As the year drew to a close I also read:

  • Margaret Atwood’s predictions in The Economist’s World in 2016
  • market research consultancy Mintel’s report; Global Food and Drink Trends 2016
  • Pinterest’s forecasts
  • herb and spice purveyor McCormick’s Flavor Forecast
  • the projections from international food and restaurant consultants, Baum + Whiteman
  • … and UK journalists: Katy Salter in The Daily Telegraph, Fay Schopen in The Guardian, Shane Watson in The Times, and Frankie McCoy in The London Evening Standard 


What did they foretell for our food and drink future?

Which foods will be ‘in’ and which cuisines will be flavour of the year?


Indy Neogy suggested that demographics would drive some of the most significant trends, and the other reports and journalists echoed this with different examples:

1. Living Alone

food and drink trends 2016
We’ll be eating on our own

Neogy said that the growing number of people living alone would result in a demand for more take aways and convenience foods, with Baum + Whiteman predicting that more of us will be ordering ‘dinners in a box’ – ready measured ingredients complete with instructions, or we’ll want to go out for dinner on our own – restaurants will have to find ways of economically welcoming lone diners – sushi bars have successfully already cracked this conundrum.


2. Ageing Population

food and drink trends 2016
It’ll be anything artisan….

As the population ages the yearning for nostalgia will intensify. This was an aspect also identified by Claudia Roden, another speaker at the FBC conference, but the need to connect food and drink with stories was also identified by Mintel and Pinterest who gave links to jelly recipes. We’ll be looking at Victorian vegetables such as salsify, or recipes such as Victorian maldram.

The aging population was also part of the push behind the growing demand away from mass produced food (Mintel said anything ‘Artificial’ would become Public Enemy No 1). Richard Cope, a senior trends consultant at Mintel says that both consumers and brands will favour purer and more natural products in response to fears surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. People will be moving towards more  individually produced artisan food…. whether charcuterie, or marmalade.  Consumers will increasingly rely on stamps of quality – whether EU/government ones (DOPS) or privately organised (eg Great Taste).

food and drink trends 2016
There’ll be a resurgence of interest in classic cookbooks written by grandes dames of cuisine such as Claudia Roden

Baum + Whiteman says even food chains will be phasing out artificial flavourings while Pinterest predicts that individuals will turn to making their own natural infusions – of booze of one kind or another (see bergamot vodka, horseradish vodka), of oils, of vinegars (see raspberry vinegar), and of cordials (see elderflower cordial).

This nostalgia is also leading to a resurgence of ’60s (see classic ’60s dinner menu) and ’70s food – tournedos Rossini, Black Forest Gâteau, or Chicken Kiev. And I predict it will also lead to reprints of classic cookbooks by rigourously intellectual authors such as Boulestin, David, Grigson, Luard, Smith, and Roden.

Interestingly, not one forecaster considered the impact of the massive influx of immigrants from the middle east, in particular, Syria.

Claudia Roden’s first book, Middle Eastern Cookery, was written in the wake of the Suez crisis, when those arriving in Europe from Egypt were nostalgic for the tastes of their homeland. This opened a whole new world of flavours and tastes for the rest of us. Saucy Dressings predicts the emergence of a Syrian celebrity chef, and specialist middle eastern ingredients becoming more widely available.


3. Obesity

Neogy’s third demographic influence suggested that we’d be tackling obesity by focusing on health. But it won’t just be health – we’ll become more aware that ‘we are what we eat’ – from the point of view of both beauty as well as wellbeing. We’ll know that fat isn’t always as bad for us as we’ve been led to believe, but we’ll also be reaching for our spiralisers and moving away from carbohydrates in favour of vegetables.

When your hairdresser describes trying (unsucessfully) to make cauliflower pizza (yes – the dough made of cauliflower) you know McCoy’s prediction for ‘interesting things with cauliflower’ has already become a reality.

We’ll come to accept that dairy-free and gluten-free food is here to stay,

We’ll be seeking out ‘super-foods’ which could be:


a) Fermented food and probiotics

Live yoghurt, kimchee and pickles for example. Or drinking vinegar (shrub). And kombucha, a kind of fermented tea…. disgusting.


b) Alternative protein sources

food and drink trends 2016
And after quinoa….? Freekeh… and maybe the odd insect….

The UN has named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family). The bean with the highest protein content is the lupini – 26g per cup.

So there’ll be life after quinoa – ancient grains pulses and such as job’s tears, spelt, cranberry beans, black beluga lentils, amaranth, beans, lentils, chickpeas and freekeh. See Ghillie James’ Amazing Grains or Jenny Chandler’s Pulse for ideas – both are definitive books on their subject.

This trend derives from an anti-gluten feeling – people are aware that their distant ancestors may not have been able to digest wheat. A development of this marches with the new designer drugs – we may be looking at designer diets based on our family histories. We will start to look, as they already do in Mexico, at insects.

‘Alternative’ – vegetarian… celiac…. may become mainstream.


c) From four legs to two legs

Frankie McCoy writes that this means, not so much chicken, as duck, goose, partridge and quail.



Then there are other non-demographic trends, for example:

4. Technology


food and drink predictions for 2016
There’ll be some wacky innocations in culinary techniques

a) culinary techniques

This could be technological innovations in culinary techniques – sous vide for example


b) internet shopping and the innovative FoodZube app

…or it could be the continued use of the internet for shopping – Mintel cites the continuing movement ‘from carts to clicks’, while Baum and Whiteman predicts “Consumers will have access to the world’s largest (virtual) drive-thru window without ever leaving home”.

What would happen to the domestic supermarket industry if – or when – Amazon enters? In the UK, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s acquisitive boss, is already circling beleaguered Ocado.

And pioneering app FoodZube will launch designer, individually-tailored weekly menus, touch-of-the-button ordering and customer-specified delivery times for families and singletons.  Individuals can easily replace monotonous fast food with healthy home cooking; parents and children can have easily produced, relationship-improving meals together; and food waste is reduced (see trend 5 below) because the app recognises leftovers and produces recipes for those as well.


c) automation and 3D printers

Baum + Whiteman predicts 3D printers as well as more automation in the fast food industry. This will cut down the risk of infection.


d) bowls

Shane Watson, writing in The Times, predicts that we’ll begin to eat everything out of bowls, “the classic bowl-friendly ingredients – nothing too chewy, nothing too bulky – and the bowl is the key part of the experience…. it’s all bowls. Small bowls. You read it here first”.  In fact we already are – not such a good trend, this. Last year 40% of crockery sales in the UK were bowls, with plates making up just 9%. This trend is due to people under 30 who prefer to eat their meals on the sofa – smartphone in one hand bowl in the other.

See the Saucy Dressings pinterest board, bulbous bowls, for some inspiration on this front.


5. Environmental concerns – waste reduction and the changing face of farming


a) sustainable, ethical crops

Margaret Atwood says we’ll increasingly be keen on crops which require less water and fewer pesticides and chemicals. The UN has singled out pigeon peas as a key crop – they’re good for soil fertility, and reach a higher price than cereal crops so they can help improve the lot of poor rural farmers in developing countries.


b) waste reduction

Mintel too highlights issues of sustainability, while Pinterest talks about reducing waste, and suggests we chop leftover herbs and freeze them in olive oil….  Blogs such as Love Food, Hate Waste will become by-words. Baum + Whiteman talks of root to stalk cooking. Services (see FoodZube above) will reduce food waste. Rose Prince’s The New English Kitchen, How to Make Your Food Go Further will become the new food bible. For Saucy Dressings’ leftovers category follow this link.


c) better conditions for staff in the hospitality industry

Baum + Whiteman says consumers will be looking at restaurants’ policies on sustainability…. and ethics – how they treat their staff. It won’t just be altruistic. The Chipotle chain’s recent woes were caused, according to The International New York Times by sick employees ignoring policies prohibiting them from coming into work. There will be a rethink on the meagre salaries and the practice of tipping in the hospitality industry.


d) urban farming

We’ll be encouraging urban farming – city dairies, and underground micro herb nurseries. In London there is already Growing Underground – growing micro herbs underground in Clapham; and La Latteria – an artisanal dairy making fresh fiordilatte, burrata, ricotta, or buffalo mozzarella – look out for next month’s guest specialist contributor, Simona di Vietri, of La Latteria.

Elsewhere vertical farms will help overcome the threat of world starvation  – see Betsy Isaacson’s Newsweek article, To Feed Humankind we Need the Farms of the Future Today.


e) locally sourced food and drink

And the focus on serving fresh, locally sourced food will continue.


6. Tying in our other senses

Mintel says that we’ll be looking for visually more exciting food – both in terms of colour and shape, but I can also see a continuation of the interest in synaesthesia – incorporating music, scents, and tactile experiences.


lavender.... a touch of nostalgia
lavender…. a touch of nostalgia


The ‘in’ foods will be:

  • Harissa (Indy Neogy)
  • Avocado oil (Pinterest)
  • Savoury French toast (Pinterest)  – this is an example of the move Baum + Whiteman notes of sweet moving to savoury
  • Milkweed (Margaret Atwood)
  • Hempseed (Margaret Atwood)
  • Purslane (Margaret Atwood)
  • Matcha (McCormick)
  • Sambal sauce (McCormick)
  • Turmeric (McCormick and Baum + Whiteman’s ‘spice of the year’)
  • Chia seeds (McCormick)
  • Lavender
  • Paella (Baum + Whiteman)
  • Falafel (Baum + Whiteman)
  • Kombucha (Baum + Whiteman)
  • Seaweed added to popcorn (Baum + Whiteman), or in fact, to anything (Schopen and Salter)
  • Hot spice mixes such as the Ethiopian berbere or Korean gochugaru
  • Cashews (Salter)
  • Dried rose petals (Salter)


The ‘in’ cuisines will be:

  • Peruvian (already there)
  • South African (Indy Neogy “so far untouched, watch this space”)
  • Malaysia (McCormick)
  • Philippines (McCormick and Baum + Whiteman)
  • Mexican fusions (McCoy)
  • Brazilian (Salter)
  • Sri Lankan (Salter)




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