2018 Food Trends – Part 4: Global Influences

From around the world to under the sea, new flavors, textures, and cuisines are influencing the culinary scene. With more people travelling to far and exotic places, world cuisine has become more popular, and is influencing flavor profiles and menu offerings across the country. In this edition of our Food Trends series, we look at the influence of globalization, multi-culturalism and the spirit of adventure that is predicted to hit the food scene in 2018.


Fare from the Far East: Asian influences continue to be a growing trend in fine dining, food trucks and everything in between. Breaking onto the scene is Burmese cuisine, a fusion of Chinese, Laotian, Indian and Thai flavors, which appeals to a variety of different palates and is forecast to flourish in the year ahead. Staples include already-trendy chickpeas and fermented tea leaves, often served centerplate as a salad. Additionally, shan tofu, a meat substitute made from chickpea flour and turmeric is a mainstay hailing from the northeast of Myanmar.

Often overshadowed by other Asian cuisines, Google searches for Filipino food have doubled since 2012. As American palates have become more sophisticated and attuned to the complex flavors and bitter or sour notes of Filipino cuisine, we can expect to see more dishes like lumpia, sisig, longganisa, and kare-kare. Chefs and tastemakers are taking to this cuisine that infuses Asian and Latin flavors, to create awareness and appreciation of Filipino culinary arts.

Upscale Korean restaurants are the next big thing, incorporating fermented food, umami, and lots of spice into complex dishes. A broth-less version of ramen, mazemen is a noodle dish topped with traditional or unconventional flavors, including bacon and eggs; chili oil and tahini; or pork.

Indian food goes cool and hot: Indian offerings will move beyond the standard curry towards fast-casual street food, with options like tandoori chicken poutine, spicy lamb burritos and chicken masala pizza. Curries that aren’t as spicy but more sour and savory make trendy Indian cuisine more approachable. On the other end of the spectrum, South Indian fare, which is the spiciest in the region and relies heavily on rice and lentils is also gaining traction. Examples include plates of dosa, vadas (fried snacks) and idlis (savory breakfast cakes).

North African influence: Spices and flavors from Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria will take center stage. Think aromatic tagines, couscous and dishes layered with fragrant spices such as berbere, ras el hanout and harissa.

Mexican and South American profiles heat up the market: Over the past five years, the market for spicy foods has grown tremendously, fueled by adventurous Millennials seeking new and exotic flavors. Chili pepper consumption grew 5% annually between 2011-2016. Interest in “super-hot” peppers has grown as some people took on “pepper challenges.” Less spicy chili peppers such as jalapeños also gained more mainstream appeal. As young people acquired a spicier taste, they used chilis more in cooking and shared their recipe ideas online, further exposing people to the spicy trend.

Middle Eastern fare finds depth and dimension: As noted in Part 2 of our trend series, foods like hummus, pita, and falafel were easy entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional differences, and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Syrian, and Lebanese influences rising to the top.

Hispanic cheese climbs the charts: Hispanic-style cheese on the menu has been growing in the last four years. Since 2013, cotija — firm, crumbly and salty — has increased in retail volume sales by 6.4%. Queso quesadilla is the melty cheese that can make quesadillas extra creamy and delicious; sales have increased by 11.8% since 2013. And other Hispanic-style cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco are also becoming more popular.

Meatballs make a move: Much more than a spaghetti sidekick, the modern meatball reinvention is a spinoff of the hyper-creative and consumer-welcomed alternative burger trend. And they’ve truly gone global, with recipes from Italy to Sweden to Japan (chicken-based tsukune), India (lentil idli), the Mediterranean rim (falafel), Calabria (Nduja salumi) and France (pork rillette) showing up on breads and pizzas, in sandwiches, and as umami flavoring in sauces. Made of beef, pork, pork fat, lamb, bison, duck, turkey, and even plant proteins such as lentils, meatballs are definitely trending, most notably in fine dining restaurants.

Unusual items from the ocean: Culinary leaders will use the untapped resources of the ocean to introduce new foods and species to consumers. For nutrition and sustainability, there’s algae: it’s easy to grow and already being used by several cutting-edge manufacturers in milk, vegan eggs, ice cream, salad dressing, baking mixes, cookies and more. Or, think seafood as a snack: shrimp in grits in the morning, fish tacos in the evening and popcorn shrimp in between…the daypart opportunities are endless. According to Datassential’s recent Seafood Keynote Report, 88% of consumers report snacking on items like popcorn shrimp, sushi, and calamari. And watch for preserved seafood items such as salt cod, sardines and other canned seafood and preserved fish to hit menus and grocery store shelves to the tune of nearly $37 billion by 2021.

Food fusion: Combining two or more different cuisines into a truly one-of-a-kind culinary treat is on the rise. With creative and ingenious combinations springing up, it’s no surprise local cafes have picked up on this phenomenon in the past year. Hawaiian foods, for example, are ideal for fusion, and especially primed for cities with complex cultural influences. From cronuts to the delectable waffogato (ice-cream waffle soaked in espresso), these gastronomic creations are set to delight foodies everywhere.

New cuisines mean new opportunities for fresh produce sales. Help your shoppers enjoy the flavors of the world by providing them with recipe ideas and merchandising together the products found in those recipes. Feature a different cuisine once a month to create excitement and enhance the shopping experience. These are just few thought-starters to help you leverage today’s trends. Need help getting started? We’re happy to brainstorm more ideas and help you execute them on-menu and in-store. Let’s talk about how we can work together to take advantage of these trends to inspire and delight consumers and grow your business.


Sources:  Ranker: Food Trends That Will Be A Thing in 2018; Unilever Food Solutions: 2018 Food Trend Predictions; ITS Food Trends Forecast for 2017-2018; Kim Pearson: 8 Healthy Food Trends for 2018; Les Dames d’Escoffier Predicts Top 10 Food Trends for 2018; Sterling-Rice Group: Top Food & Beverage Trends Shaping Your Meals in 2018; Buzztime: 8 Top 2018 Food Trends to Rock Your Restaurant; Baum+Whiteman: Top 7 Food & Beverage Trends for 2018; Packaged Facts: 2018 Culinary Trends Cook Up New Spins on Familiar Foods; Packaged Facts: Food Forecast 2018-Ten Food Trends to Watch; The Produce News: Trends Driving Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Sales; Specialty Food Association: What’s Hot in Food for 2018; Supermarket News: 10 Food Trends for 2018; THP: Haute Vegan & South Indian Fare Highlight 2018 Food Trends; TrendingTop5: Top 5 Latest Food Trends 2018; T-Nut Lifestyle: 5 Healthy Food Trends to Expect in 2018; The Art of Healthy Living: Healthy Food Trends 2018; Flavor Trends: 2018 & Beyond-Tech & Macro Trends Changing Flavor; United Fresh Produce: Fresh Insights for Foodservice


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