Like presidential campaigning, trend forecasting starts earlier every year. “What’s next” lists will pour in during the weeks ahead, but first out of the gate are the culinary trends compiled by Sterling-Rice Group, a consumer insights firm in Boulder, Colo. Here’s what SRG predicts will impact menus and eating habits in 2017—and how you can capitalize on these trends.
1. Chocolate for breakfast
Wake + cake = brain power, says SRG. A recent study from Syracuse University finds that a daily dose of chocolate improves cognitive abilities, including abstract reasoning and memory. And there’s further scientific evidence supporting the idea to eat dessert first. Research from Tel Aviv University reveals eating dessert after breakfast can help people lose weight.
Takeaway: Add some chocolate to your breakfast menu. Chocolate chip scones, chocolate muffins, chocolate-filled croissants, chocolate biscotti and other pastries all can be done in mini sizes. Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago does mini chocolate babkas for a breakfast treat.
2. Vegan butchery
Move over, seitan and other old-school soybean meat alternatives—a new breed of plant-based butcher shops is emerging. Concepts such as The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis and YamChops in Toronto display vegan replicas of steak, sausage, chicken and meatballs artfully crafted from chickpeas, corn, mushrooms and legumes as a way to convince carnivores to become more veg-centric.
Takeaway: Move away from commercially produced soy proteins by experimenting with vegan butchery in your own kitchen, then menu an item as a special for a Meatless Monday promotion.
3. Waste no more
The movement toward zero-waste kitchens will intensify in 2017, SRG predicts. Many operators already are practicing stem-to-skin vegetable and fruit prep and cross-utilizing meat trim in soups and stews. But now chefs and cooks are rethinking what they throw into the compost bin, repurposing waste like cauliflower ends into a rice substitute and juice pulp into burgers.
Takeaway: Pickling is one technique that adapts well to odds and ends of fresh produce. But in step with the increase in snacking, consider dehydrating scraps into housemade jerky and fruit leather.
4. The year of the goat
The U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in putting goat on the plate—63% of the global population eats goat, but it appears on very few menus stateside. Foodservice operators have lots of motivation for menuing the meat. Goat adapts well to spicy and sour preparations, the meat can fit kosher and halal restrictions and the animal is sustainable to raise.
Takeaway: Think about subbing braised goat meat for pork or beef in ramen, lasagna, tacos, Southern barbecue, Indian curries and other ethnic and regional dishes.
5. Snacks from the sea
With dayparts blurring, snacking continues to surge. Protein-rich snacks are particularly in demand, finds SRG, and their forecast includes the rise of sardines. The interest in Basque cuisine and Portugal as a culinary destination may be fueling the trend, but the silvery fish appeal in other ways. Sardines are convenient to menu right out of the can, they’re a good source of omega-3s and protein, and they offer the quality of umami.
Takeaway: Sardines adapt well to Spanish-style tapas and other global snack applications. For starters, try them as a topping for bruschetta or crostini, as a filling for mini fish tacos or as a substitute for tuna or salmon in sushi rolls.
6. Cooking to connect
Today’s consumers want to go beyond communal tables and farm dinners to connect over food. The recent launch of Umi Kitchen, which connects eaters with home cooks, and smartphone apps such as EatWith are spurring this trend. “Sharing is caring” will strengthen its impact on dining in 2017.
Takeaway: Restaurants and other foodservice operators can jump on this trend with events such as themed pop-ups and Sunday dinner clubs, in which regular and guest chefs prepare meals on off nights and interact with guests through demos or storytelling.