As something consumed every day, multiple times per day, it might be easy for food to become a boring necessity. Thankfully, it’s an ever-evolving and exciting industry, with chefs and product developers keeping consumers on their toes with new creations and innovations. As 2016 draws near, it’s time to explore what will be trending on grocery store shelves and menus across the country. It’s not exactly out with the old and in with the new, as some 2015 trends are still going strong and carrying into the new year.
- Local sourcing for restaurants was identified as the top trend for 2016 among chefs. Virtually no menu item is off limits, as chefs are looking for local produce, meats, seafood, beer, wine and spirits. The closer the better, as “hyper-local sourcing” took the No. 4 spot all on its own.
- Packaged greens and ready-to-eat salads will be readily available, especially with portion sizes for one. Convenience continues to be a key factor in consumer choices, and it has found its way to vegetables even beyond the grocery store salad bar. Top a new variety with your favorite oil-based dressing for enhanced nutrient and phytochemical absorption.
- Natural, minimally processed foods and ingredients will be featured on more menus, as chefs agree with consumers that less is more when it comes to processing and preservatives.
- Protein has staying power, and for trends in 2016, it’s in the form of plant-based sources such as beans, lentils and nuts. Attractive as excellent sources of protein and other nutrients at a lower cost than animal products, the recent emphasis on sustainability in the nutrition world gives these legumes and company another reason to be in the culinary spotlight.
- Protein has even more staying power, finding its way as an ingredient in beyond just energy bars and shakes to baked goods, cereals, juices, energy shots and other snacks. High consumer demand has led to innovation in high-protein products, with the claims “added,” “high in” and “source of” protein making the top 15 list for product launch claims in 2015. And there are no signs of it slowing down.
- Seeds see traction. Touted as a source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, seeds are sprouting up everywhere. Nutrition bars, cereals, granola and the above mentioned salad kits are all fair game venues for pumpkin, chia, sunflower, flax and a host of other seeds.
For even more information on what’s ahead for restaurants specifically, the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast takes a deeper dive into what chefs identify as the top 20 menu trends for 2016. It’s looking to be a good year!