According to the Culinary Trend Mapping Report, a bi-monthly journal from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), this year’s overall food and restaurant themes included Back to the Basics, Artisan Upgrades, Healthful Eating and Regional and Global Flavor Adventure. Using CCD’s signature five–stage Trend Mapping® technique, where Stage 1 represents the emerging trend phase in fine dining or regional restaurants, while Stage 5 represents full “trickle down” to mainstream grocery stores and quickservice restaurants, these were the top 10 food trends pinpointed for 2010:
1. Gourmet-On-The-Go (Stage 1): Street food was on fire this year, made by cooks and chefs of all stripes. One notable subset was fine-dining chefs serving upgraded street food either in restaurants or from refurbished carts and taco trucks, while foodie entrepreneurs made specialized, high-quality cuisine available on the go.
2. “Fine Fast” Sandwich Shops (Stage 1): These gourmet sandwich shops took the art of sandwich-making seriously. They were often helmed by fine-dining chefs and featured high-quality, artisan and locally sourced ingredients, as well as a wide range of housemade condiments and toppings.
3. Boutique Booze (Stage 2): Boutique booze was all the rage in 2010, from bars that specialize in a single type of liquor to festivals that celebrate spirits made by independent producers. Local liquor outlets have benefitted from newly flexible blue laws and the legalization of liquor tastings in stores and at factories, as well as the growing consumer enthusiasm for all things handmade and artisan.
4. Condiments, Preserved Foods & Heirloom Produce (Stage 2): A rising number of passionate people took food back to its roots, literally. They grew produce from heirloom seeds, revived the art of home canning and made condiments and preserved products of all kinds. This resulted in new thriving DIY communities as this new wave of artisans found outlets for their products at craft and farmers markets, online and at specialty retail stores.
5. Parisian Macarons (Stage 2): This delicious and multi-hued Parisian pastry, composed of two ground-almond meringue cookies bound with buttercream, ganache or jam filling, is like a couture Oreo—light and tasty, satisfying, and adaptable to variations. Perhaps trying to take on the supremacy of the cupcake, macarons were found this year in a wealth of high-end bakeries and gourmet-food retailers—and became a staple of food photography.
6. Bahn Mi & Bao (Stage 2): Bao (a Taiwanese pork-based sandwich, served on a white flour bun) and banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich featuring grilled meat or pâté served on French bread) perfectly marry the novel with the familiar, appealing to consumers who love sandwiches but are searching for flavor adventure. Both bao and banh mi made waves in 2010 in urban centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, as well on the street from a myriad of street food trucks and carts.
7. Butchery (Stage 3): Butchers stole the headlines this year, acting as unexpected emissaries of the heritage meat and artisan trends that came together to renew popular demand for handcut meat. With the upsurge in production and consumption of high-quality meat, young and aspiring foodies flocked to butchery demonstrations, ready to get their hands bloody (literally) to feel closer to the sources of their food.
8. Agave Nectar (Stage 3): Agave nectar became the much-talked-about sweetener in 2010, stealing a bit of stevia’s thunder. No wonder: it fits well with consumer desires for a plant-based sweetener, its low glycemic index maintains blood sugar levels, and because it is sweeter than sugar, consumers can use less of it. A syrup that can be easily added to products ranging from beverages to baked goods to sauces to confections, agave nectar has demonstrated its versatility in the 300+ agave-bearing products already on the market and available in retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
9. Eggs All Day (Stage 4): More than ever, the egg is being placed front and center as a food that is inexpensive, healthful (protein-rich or low-fat if only egg whites), and adaptable, whether for a sandwich or wrap, to accompany a salad, on a pizza, mixed with pasta…and the list goes on. Though reinventing the egg might seem like reinventing the wheel, many Stage 4 women’s magazines have innovated on breakfast’s most basic food to generate new ideas for home chefs.
10. Better Burgers (Stage 5): Building better burgers became a nationwide obsession in 2010, whether it meant adding exotic toppings, using grass-fed and locally sourced beef, or finding the perfect bun. Many fine dining restaurants have added dressed up versions on their menus while chain restaurants responded to customer demand for better quality meat by using Angus and Kobe-style American Wagyu beef for their burgers.
As these culinary trends show, Americans continue on their determined but multi-pronged quest for new eating experiences and meal-time solutions that mesh with their values and more sophisticated tastes.