Consumers are seeking to rediscover traditional cooking methods and explore global cuisines.

BOULDER, COLO. — Consumers next year may be eating chocolate at breakfast, sardines with lunch and goat for dinner, according to a new list of culinary trend predictions by Sterling-Rice Group.

With nutrition, sustainability and authenticity top of mind, consumers are seeking to rediscover traditional cooking methods and explore global cuisines, and restaurants and packaged food companies are taking note, said Liz Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group.

Elizabeth Moskow, Sterling-Rice Group
Liz Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group

“Simply put, engaging with food is a conduit to engaging with the world,” she said.

To compile the trends, the group identifies shifts in the consumer landscape. Not all trends hit the mainstream, but key drivers suggest changes in consumer behaviors and need states that restaurant operators and food manufacturers may leverage in product development.

“We look at what’s happening in the economy, what’s happening in the digital space, what’s happening in the greater world, and then come up with what we call culinary shifts, anything from sustainability to food as medicine,” Ms. Moskow told Food Business News. “The more touchpoints a trend has, the more ability to ‘go viral,’ the way that we see it as trending in the real world and not on-line.”

Read on for 10 cutting-edge culinary trends for 2017.


Wake and cake

Recent studies linking dark chocolate consumption to positive health benefits may encourage more consumers to indulge in the a.m.

“There was a study that recently came out from Syracuse University re-touting the benefits of dark chocolate, specifically on cognitive function — abstract reasoning, memory, focus,” Ms. Moskow said. “The thought was eating chocolate prepares you more for your workday, so what better day part to incorporate dark chocolate into your meal than breakfast?”

These findings follow research from Tel Aviv University suggesting eating dessert at breakfast supports weight loss.

“Combining those two studies and the likeability of having dessert for breakfast, we predict that breakfast might start seeing brunch amuse-bouche chocolate cakes or brunch and breakfast restaurants incorporating a robust dessert menu,” Ms. Moskow said.


Dosha dining

The remarkable rise of turmeric as a trending ingredient in recent years has become a gateway to American exploration of Ayurveda.

“Indians believe in the concept of dosha, which is another word for your body’s set constitution,” Ms. Moskow said. “Turmeric has really been picking up steam and trending over the past couple years… People have widely accepted turmeric is this magic food. And that’s really the holy grail of Ayurveda; for every dosha, turmeric is a good balancing additive for food.

“The reason we’re predicting people will start eating more towards their dosha is that we’re sort of riding this wave of yoga and Indian street food and bringing that mainstream, and once people realize turmeric is enhancing their lifestyle and preventing disease and helping with inflammation, people are going to start to look into Ayurveda more and see what foods they should avoid and what foods might be good for their constitution.”


Plant butchery

Chickpeas, corn, legumes and fungi are standing in for steaks in an emerging crop of butcher shops with products designed to appeal to vegans and carnivores alike.

“Plant butchery really focuses in on the fact that meat eaters are exploring plant-based options,” Ms. Moskow said “There are actually places popping up, consumer facing retail shops, that are catering to this plant-based-curious group of people, people who don’t want to eliminate meat from their diet but might want to eat it less often.”

At Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, for example, customers may order meatless barbecue ribs, pepperoni and teriyaki jerky that resemble their counterpart cuts in taste and texture.

“They make chop meat and infuse it with beet juice so it looks almost like a bloody consistency,” Ms. Moskow said. “So it gets the salivary glands going in meat eaters because they see it’s juicy and bloody and they can grab onto it a little more than, say, a garden burger patty that they look at and go, ‘Oh. I’d much rather have a hamburger.’”


Food waste frenzy

Consumers and companies alike are creatively reducing food waste by repurposing typically tossed-out stems, skins and rinds.

“This is driven by millennials’ desire to make the earth a better place,” Ms. Moskow said. “They’re finding ways to repurpose and use things that would ordinarily be discarded. For example, watermelon rinds being made into pickles, or making cauliflower rice using the stem, something that ordinarily would end up in the garbage.”

A company called Forager Project has identified a use for the wasted pulp from production of cold-pressed juices — by manufacturing organic tortilla chips containing the nutritious byproduct.


Snackin’ sardines

Sardines have gotten a bad rap, but present-day trends support a move to the protein-rich fish.

“With sardines, you think of this outdated looking package, something that your grandfather would eat, but what’s happening now is we’re seeing a couple brands out of Portugal putting a modern spin on sardines,” Ms. Moskow said. “You can imagine how cute a sardine can could be if branded properly, and they’re doing that… They also are putting in the can interesting flavors, smoked varieties, and these really plump, unctuous looking pieces of fish as opposed to the skinny thing, where you saw the bone and it didn’t look appealing and was really smelly.”

In restaurants, the rise of toast’s popularity presents an opportunity to offer sardines as a topper.

“Sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein, high in umami flavor, all things that are trending,” Ms. Moskow said.


Noodle on this

Offering authentic taste and showmanship, hand-pulled noodles are hot in big-city Chinese restaurants.

“It hasn’t moved yet into mainstream restaurants, but we think it will,” Ms. Moskow said. “It touches on this fresh preparation method, showmanship, this authentic, artisanal craft way of eating focusing on technique, and also it’s sort of the next noodle, the way I see it.

“Because it’s such a technique, it’s almost like sushi making used to be. We see some of the higher end restaurants are going to bring experts of noodle pulling in for special dinners and learn from them and then incorporate it into the menu.”

Restaurants featuring the trend include The Handpulled Noodle and Xian Foods in New York, and Kam Hong Garden in Los Angeles.


Mocktail mixology

Mocktails are getting a modern makeover, with such offerings featuring fresh-pressed juices, flavored teas, sipping vinegars and muddled herbs and spices.

“People watch mixologists muddle herbs, and it feels like a special treat rather than ordering a ginger ale or club soda,” Ms. Moskow said. “And so we feel restaurants are going to start offering more robust menus — not just one or two little things on the side of their drink menu…

“It’s sort of like the next incarnation of soda. People don’t want to view it as soda, but as a cocktail. It’s like an adult Shirley Temple.”


‘Goat’ get it

Belly up to goat, potentially the next hot protein to hit plates in the United States.

“Goat has much less fat than most other forms of meat, including chicken, it’s high in protein, 63% of the world already consumes goat, and with the rise in goat’s milk products, we think people may be willing to take the leap at this point,” Ms. Moskow said. “Also, the bone broth craze is really sweeping the nation, and what people are seeking is the collagen in the bone broth, which is said to have magical properties for your joints and your brain and your gut, but goat actually has the highest level of interstitial collagen.”

Goat must be properly prepared to gain popularity with mainstream diners, she noted. The Girl and the Goat in Chicago serves up goat empanadas with miso-blue cheese aioli and a squash-apple slaw, while Tail Up Goat in Washington makes lasagna with goat, kale, anchovy and salsa verde.

“It tastes like fresh lamb but with a different texture, more beefy,” Ms. Moskow said. “It lends well to sour and spicy preparations because it’s a solid meat with a strong flavor.”


Cook and connect

Likened to businesses like Uber and Airbnb, a new app and web site called EatWith connects home cooks with hungry strangers.

“This is really all about people craving interaction in an increasingly disconnected world,” Ms. Moskow said. “Food to me has always been a way to bring people together… (The concept of EatWith) is definitely a more personalized version of a food hall, a more one-on-one experience where you can meet the person in their home when they cook you dinner.”

Another aspect of the trend is fleet-farming, a movement allowing aspiring gardeners to farm another’s lawn in exchange for a cut of the produce sales.

“It’s a way to bring people together through the desire to create their own local agriculture,” she said.


Migratory meals

Refugee populations are planting culinary flags in their new home countries, inspiring unique fusions of flavor and heritage.

“Where we’re seeing this now the most is in war-torn Middle East, with Afghanis, Syrians, Persians all fleeing the area and their food culture trickling down and out,” Ms. Moskow said. “What we think is really going to start to happen is this Middle Eastern fusion cuisine led by Persian influences, with pomegranate, sour cherries, sumac, fenugreek, orange blossom… and then combining the base of that with more traditional Afghani cuisine. Not just hummus and kabob, but these more delicate flavors.”