Forecasting food’s future is analogous to predicting election results: you know you’re going to get something, but you’re not necessarily sure what you’ll end up with. America’s collective palate is in flux, and depending upon whom you survey, your future plate may well dish up delicacies as diverse as those once reserved for science-fiction fantasies and third world urchins. Here is a foretaste of a few of the breakout trends people can expect to find on their menus in 2015.
Yes, that is a Bug in Your Food
Try making the leap from “Mom, what are these green things in my soup?” to “Mom, this candy bar has bugs in it!” in a single generation. It’s not something one would have imagined, but it’s happening all over as more people discover edible insects as a source of protein. When one considers that Chapul Cricket Energy Bars (non-GMO, of course), as well as bacon and cheese flavored Crick-ettes are currently available from Amazon, it’s pretty obvious that the leap has been made.
According to Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, an Oakland, CA cricket farmer, “Consumers are really, really excited about insects as food. People are ready, right now, to try insects as an ingredient in products, especially those that have a health and environmental story to tell.”
Printing Your Meal
While it may take time to find just the right spin to sell bugs to the nation as a whole, at the other end of the spectrum is a rocket poised for takeoff: 3-D food. Lest you imagine 3-D food as simply an entertaining anomaly, consider that the first “digital” kitchen hawking a “3-D printed food experience” is slated to open this year in Los Angeles.
Furthermore, last month the Culinary Institute of America, in association with 3D Systems, announced the creation of the nation’s first 3-D cooking course. It is designed to provide “the culinary community with a unique opportunity to explore and experience the open-ended possibilities of fusing 3-D food printing with traditional culinary arts,” said Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems.
When one considers the sheer entertainment factor in watching dinner emerge from a printer in conjunction with numerous reports that 3-D food is actually quite tasty, it’s easy to imagine the very real possibility of a 3-D dining experience coming soon to a location near you.
millennials spent more than $90 billion on food services alone in 2014
Catering to Millennials
Gracing the middle range of what’s hot in food forecasts for the year is a great deal of what one might expect—with some surprising twists. For starters, when it comes to dining out, the wants of the instant gratification driven millennial generation rule. According to AF&Co.’s Food Trends Index, The Pleasure Principle, millennials are the food and hospitality industry’s most sought-after demographic. This is easy to understand: millennials spent more than $90 billion on food services alone in 2014. In addition to their insistence upon instant gratification where their food (and everything else) is concerned, is their desire for both participation and education in all things food.
The challenge facing the restaurant industry in 2015 is to discover how to cater to this generation’s culinary tastes while simultaneously attracting and retaining other demographics. Millennials are far more likely than preceding generations to experiment with food from different cultures. They were reared on diversity and are more comfortable with embracing different cultures and new foods than their predecessors. Where their food is concerned, authenticity and integrity are revered above almost everything else.
Fair Trade Food
Millennials are an adventurous sort when it comes to trying new foods. They’re foodies, and proud of it. They’re also socially responsible diners who are willing to pay for the knowledge that no person was harmed in the creation of their meal. Concepts like Fair Trade, eco-friendly, sustainable harvesting and locally sourced resonate with them – loudly. As does nutrition. They want their posterity to inherit an earth in better shape than the one they found, and with all that work ahead of them, they know they will need to eat their proverbial Wheaties—organic, of course. Predictions based on currently accelerating millennial food fashions suggest the remainder of 2015 will continue to serve up a plethora of healthful options: fermented food and drink such as kefir, kombucha tea, kimchi and poi, gluten-free alternatives to traditional, wheat-based staples, and also, a number of variations on the twin themes of paleo and plant-based diets.
Perhaps the millennials are onto something, after all. As Michael Pollan succinctly points out in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, eating is an ecological as well as political act. For generations, people have bandied about the old “eat to live vs live to eat” debate, but just maybe, the current ruling palate has got it right. For, to quote Michael Pollan,
“To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction.”