What was your favourite food trend from 2013? Did you even think there was such things as food trends? Family style dinners in restaurants, Korean flavouring in everything, mini desserts... They were all there in 2013.
More importantly, I'm sure you haven't forgotten the horse meat scandal which so rightly affected trust between the consumer and the food industry. The consequence of this was that consumer behaviour has influenced food trends for 2014.
Traditional Food Trend Predictors
Food trend predictors have tasted, tested, talked and attended show after show and conference after conference. Food trend predictors come from all sorts of background, be it an individual chef or an association of chefs, nutritionists, men and women in white coats in the food industry or journalists and bloggers with a great interest in food. It is they that have forecasted what we will be eating and how we will be eating in 2014 and beyond.
As with the fashion industry, food trends exhibit a pecking order of importance. Within the food industry, the professional 'foodie' creates the trends and much like the fashion designer they have an obsession with some area of cooking. A good example is the self taught chef and 'amateur' food scientist Heston Blumenthal whose bizarre experiments with food has been widely acclaimed. He now fills his restaurant with well-heeled early adopters who embrace new tastes, novel cuisine and anything food related as long as it is innovative, a new experience and expensive.
Other early adopters of food trends are those who seek out authentic backstreet ethnic eateries and are more likely to be well travelled and more often than not seriously committed 'trendy' home cooks.
The rest of us come on board when food trends have been digested and then regurgitated by the food industry. A real example is Mexican food. Originally it was prepared and cooked at home by well travelled foodies who search high and low for bona fide ingredients. Now it is identified by the food industry as a trend and hence ready made sauces, tortillas, salsas and guacamole are available for us the masses to enjoy.
What Will We Be Eating in 2014?
I've scoured the internet and read all manner of trend predictors. Based on this, I think 2014 is going to be different. Rather than foods from different countries taking centre stage or extreme cooking methods, we are scaling back, stripping the nonsense from cooking. It's the beginning of a new era of eating habits for us all, directly linked to recent food scandals, the state of our children's health and emerging technology services helping us to make better food choices.
1. Real Food, Locally Sourced
Consumers want real food i.e. food that has had little done to it except to make it edible (fresh, whole grains etc.) Consumers will want to know where ingredients are sourced especially meat and meat products. Traceability and locally and regionally sourced foods will become more important over the year for most households. Ready made meals will be less popular because consumers need to feel that they contributed some skill into preparing the daily dinner.
2. Children's Nutrition
Worrying information on the health issues associated with the food we eat and provide for our children is changing the way we think about food. Consumers are reading labels before they shop, some information is misleading and so clarification and further information on food labels will make food product choices quicker. Look out for health claims on labels, take time to trust products and take a holistic approach to nutrition.
3. Gluten Free / Alternative Grains
Wheat has received bad publicity in recent years, with the result that larger numbers of celiac and non celiac consumers are seeking wheat free products. Products in their raw state or within baked products will be more easily available on the high street including buckwheat, corn, flaxseed and chia seeds for example.
With consumers spending hours online, many are now becoming aware of the diversity of technological solutions created to help home cooks. From recipe sites like BBC Good Food, to grocery sites like mysupermarket.co.uk, to (shameless plug alert) Sian's Plan, a new site, making meal planning through to grocery shopping online easy and fun is a good option for busy parents. In 2014 technology will be used to create healthy eating as well as for social interaction, grocery shopping and game playing.
5. Brands That Care
Brands that support causes such as food poverty, third world children's health and workers' rights to environmental campaigns will win consumer support in 2014. Brands that have research backed claims (i.e. Flora Pro Active) will also win consumer support.
6. Other Food Trends
Other food trends include the continuation of the reduce and reuse food trend, growth in artisan brands due to increased trust, support for new recipes using vegetables, for example chocolate mousse made with avocados, increased steaming as a healthy method of cooking but using flavoured liquids such as wine or stock (flavouring vegetables while maintaining the nutritional value) and new support for healthy eating programmes such as the Mediterranean diet which very importantly contains all five food groups.
7. Top Ingredients
Simplicity, health properties and availability seem to be the order of the year with lemons, porridge, seaweed, tea infused desserts and cocktails and egg yolks expected to lead in 2014.
So there it is. I believe healthier eating will continue to trend in 2014. Anybody want to put any money on it?