Compilation of 2016 Food Trends: A Collection of Culinary Predictions

We’re nearing the end of the year and the bulk of the 2016 food trend predictions have been released.  Like I’ve done for the last several years, I have attempted to summarize the major trend reports.  Below you’ll find links so you can read the original trend predictions from a variety of sources.

Real, less processed and “clean” will continue to be major themes — with even more food companies and restaurant chains making commitments to remove anything artificial and introduce better-for-you options.  Big issues that will get even bigger: food waste, modernizing the supply chain, GMOs,  and sustainability.  Home meal kits and food delivery will become mainstream.  All of this fueled by the growing food + technology connection.  Food halls , foodservice in retail outlets, vegetable-forward menus and chef-centric fast casual restaurants will also be hot trends in 2016.

Here’s a summary of the major trends:


Swavory foods (combination of sweet and savory), sour and bitter, sour + salt, Middle Eastern (za’atar, sumac, shawarma spices), falafel, search for the next Sriracha (harissa, peri peri, gochujang, sambal, ghost pepper), Japanese 7 spice, smoked spices, turmeric, tea across all categories as a flavor, African flavors

Food Preparation/Techniques

Burned, smoked, charred, slow-cooked, pickled, fermented, fire roasted, sous vide


Filipino, Hawaiian, Caribbean sea cuisine, advanced Asian, authentic Mexican, reinvented Jewish food, African, Cuban



Cauliflower (roasted, as a steak, turned into rice and pizza crusts), seaweed, algae, burnt vegetables, root-to-stalk cooking, pickled vegetables, umami vegetables (mushrooms, nori, tomatoes), vegetable purees for cooking, drinkable soups (especially gazpacho), vegetables as main course, vegetable noodles, purslane, cucumbers, root vegetables, kimchi, “ugly” vegetables


New ancient grains (millet, teff, farro, freekeh), small scale milling, globalized ramen, black/forbidden rice, non-wheat noodles, pumped up porridge, cheesy bread


Savory yogurt, smoothie bowls, acai bowls, labneh, yogurt drinks, house-made cheese in restaurants


Plant-based, pulses (beans, peas and lentils), poke (cubed raw fish), fried chicken Nashville hot chicken, slow-cooked (short ribs, tanginess), large meat platters in restaurants (whole roasts, whole chickens, piles of ribs), artisan butchery, meatballs, sausages, meat pies, farmed oysters, lobster rolls


hummus, flavored popcorns, jerky, pretzels, sprouted seeds


Extreme indulgences, stuffed cookies, mini/bite-sized desserts, smoked desserts, intensified desserts (umami-flavored, whey, malt and miso paste), fermented pastry, eclairs, ice cream sandwiches, shortbread, liquor-themed desserts, savory desserts


Switchels (vinegar drinks), bubbly (champagnes and proseccos to campari and soda aperitifs and sparkling teas), Cachaca (Brazil’s national spirit), microbe-based cocktails (fermented drinks), classic cocktails (Negroni, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned), inhalable/breathable cocktails, sophisticated non-alcoholic drinks, craft sodas, cider, house-brewed beers, artisan spirits, specialty teas, new fangled coffees (nitro tap to dry hopped), coconut water in many forms (e.g. fortified with protein), waters (birch, maple), probiotic drinks beyond yogurt, kombucha

Sources for 2016 trends:


Sterling-Rice Group

National Restaurant Association

StarChefs International Chefs Congress

Specialty Food Association

Baum + Whiteman

Andrew Freeman & Co

McCormick 2015 Flavor Forecast (#client)

Phil Lempert

The Food People

The Future 100 J. Walter Thompson Intelligence

Geoff Williams, Forbes

Matt Preston


Images: Harissa by Saalena Bamjee, Fuji seaweed salad by Ken Hawkins, Ahi poke by Wally Gobetz, Oreo stuffed cookies by Melvin Cacho, Negroni by Mariobonifacio

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