10 Culinary Trends for 2016

Trend trackers begin to make their predictions for the coming year in October and they keep on coming through December.  Typically one of the first to burst onto the scene is from the Sterling-Rice Group, a culinary firm in Boulder, Colorado.  Kara Nielsen, culinary director for SRG, says 2016 will be defined by looking back.

“What’s new is often not new at all, but a rediscovered ingredient, drink, or dish that has been refashioned with contemporary palates in mind.  These palates are definitely expanding, turning to more savory compositions and new regional cuisines, while also gladly accepting familiar foods in delightful new formats.”

Here’s a look at what SRG predicts will be 10 food and beverage trends that will inspire packaged foods and foodservice menus in 2016.

1. Switching to Switchels


These drinkable vinegars have been brewing for a while, but maybe 2016 will be the year they break through. Known as haymakers in New England, switchels are typically made with apple cider vinegar, along with ginger and honey, maple syrup or molasses.  This colonial refresher is an example of something old that’s new again.  Nielsen told FoodNavigator-USA:

“While it’s still a niche opportunity right now, it taps into the trend of ‘rediscovering’ old recipes and food traditions and the trend of enjoying stronger, more vinegary flavor profiles that has helped to drive sales of products such as kombucha,”

Trend in action: CideRoad organic switchel, Up Mountain switchel, Fire Cider, Bragg organic apple cider vinegar drinks

2.  Hawaiian Cuisine


I certainly fell in love with Hawaiian cuisine during my visit two years ago — especially the Pig & the Lady.  From fast-casual to fine dining, traditional and ‘ono (delicious) island ingredients are showing up in a range of new dishes like poke bowls (raw seafood salads), musubi rice, and nori waros.  Even Spam might make a resurgence (in housemade forms). They love this canned meat in Hawaii.

Trend in action: Big Daddy’s Poke Shake in LA, Noreeth, NYC, Aina pop-up, San Francisco, Roy’s

3. Oysters to the Rescue


With sustainable seafood as important as ever, cultivated oysters are fueling an exciting resurgence of oyster bars. Expect the burgeoning Millennial taste for oysters to grow in 2016 and years to come.

Trend in action: Island Creek Oyster bar, Boston; The Ordinary, Charleston; The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle; Pearl, iPhone app

4. The Savory Side of Yogurt


Well, I couldn’t be happier about this one.  I love labneh, and it seems this Middle Eastern yogurt-cheese is poised to go mainstream.  Tapping into the desire for less sugar combined with the growing interest in Middle Eastern cuisine,  labneh is stepping into the spotlight.  I’ve enjoyed labneh in Lebanon, where it’s especially popular at breakfast (always savory, never sweet).  Labneh pairs well with olive oil, spices (like za’atar), seeds, olives and vegetables.

Trend in action: Sohha Savory Yogurt, White Moustache labneh, Karoun Dairies Labne

5. Coffee’s New Guises

nitro coffee

From coffee mocktails and sodas to dry-hopped coffee on nitro tap and coffee cherry brews, there’s no end to the creative coffee libations coming our way from inventive baristas and ready-to-drink beverage makers.

Trend in action:  Pixan, Slingshot Coffee, Corvus Hopped Coffee, Stumptown nitro

6. Swiggable Soups

tio gazpacho

Fancy bottled juices have been all the rage, but now expect soup to be the new cold-pressed juice.  No bowl is required to enjoy these chilled soups, which offer the convenience of juice with less sugar and more fiber.  Nielsen told FoodNavigator-USA:

As more of us are grazing throughout the day, and meals and snacks are blurring into one, consumers are increasingly looking for a meal/snack that is healthy and filling, but also convenient and swiggable soup certainly fits the bill. “It also taps into the trend towards more savory snacks…I expect to see some big brands following this trend closely and introducing their own products if it looks like it is taking off.”

Trend in action: Tio Gazpacho, Mucho Gazpacho, Splendid Spoon

7. Pumped-up Porridge


Something is going on with porridge.  Flavor & the Menu also cited porridge on its 2016 food trends list.  I’m keeping my eye out for this in Chicago.  Porridge is being made with an ever-widening selection of grains – rye, spelt, black rice and quinoa — topped with all sorts of savory ingredients like pork, mushrooms, smoked fish, eggs and vegetables.

Trend in action; 42 Grams in Chicago, Faro in Brooklyn, Porridge and Puffs pop-up in LA

8. Intensified Dessert

The Food Place

Look for desserts and sweet treats to get a flavor boost with the addition of savory ingredients, such as umami-rich miso paste, malt, corn-husk ash and dairy whey.

Trend in action: Miso caramels from Gearharts Fine Chocolates, Miso Cherry Ice Cream, Corn Husk Meringue

9. Pass the Platter


Chefs are prepared more family-style meals on large platters with centerpiece proteins — whole fish, roasts, whole chickens, big piles of ribs — and accompanying sides.

Trend in action: Mourad, San Francisco; King and Duke, Atlanta; Maketto, Washington, DCs

10. Mail-Order Meal Mania


SRG predicts that meal-kit delivery services will continue to explode in 2016 as the big players expand nationally and smaller start-ups tap niche cuisines and dietary trends.

Trend in action: Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Farm to Fir, PlateJoy, Cooking Simplified

Images: drinking vinegars by Suzi Edwards-Alexander,  oysters by Farrukh, nitro cold brew coffee by T.Tseng, chobani yogurt by Meng He, Hawaiian poke by Frank Farm, dessert by The Food Place.co.uk, pork porridge by Alpha, roast chicken by Alexa Clark, HelloFresh by Porcupiny on flickr


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