The New Year is looking a lot like the old one—at least according to the National Restaurant Association 2014 Culinary Forecast, which is once again packed with local and sustainable themed trends. Six of the top 10 trends, including the first three, are all about local sourcing and sustainability and eight of the top 10 made the list last year, many in almost the same spots. Non-wheat noodles and pasta (No. 8) and farm/estate branded items (No. 10) were the new additions, while new cuts of meat (now 14th) and whole-grain items in kids’ meals (12th) fell slightly.
We can’t fault the NRA for what may seem like a ho-hum list. Unlike many of the other forecasts for 2014, the NRA doesn’t just spot and predict trends. It surveyed almost 1,300 professional chefs this fall and asked them to rate 258 items as a “hot trend,” “perennial favorite” or “yesterday’s news.” The end results are exhaustive—and hugely informative—lists of what is hot in numerous categories (appetizers, starches/sides, main dishes, desserts, breakfast/brunch, kids, produce, ethnic cuisine and flavors, alcohol, technology and more).
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Environmental sustainability
4. Healthful kids' meals
5. Gluten-free cuisine
6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
7. Children's nutrition
8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Farm/estate branded items
“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior v.p. of the NRA’s research and knowledge group. “True trends—as opposed to temporary fads—show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”
1. Micro-distilled/artisan spirits
2. Locally produced beer/wine/spirits
3. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
4. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
5. Regional signature cocktails
The current food trend with the most staying power? Environmental sustainability was the answer from most chefs when asked what would still be hot 10 years from now, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free.
“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” says Thomas Macrina, ACF’s national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry, and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”
The five trends gaining the most ground? Nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine. The top tech trend? Tablet computers used as menus. All that and more are available in the full report.