Look for desserts to be more experimental in 2019 and 2020 but other food groups to take fewer risks.

Those are among the predictions in a new report, “Shifting Sands: Trends Shaping the Food Industry in 2019,” from consultancy Culinary Tides Inc.

The report is a cross-analysis of 228 prediction lists for 2019 put forth by 170 industry experts.  In all, more than 1,700 individual predictions were evaluated.

Highlights of the report, with comments from Suzy Badaracco, Culinary Tides’ president, include: 

Grains, Fruits, & Vegetables Lose Risk-Taking Momentum

Grain trends have ties to consumer’s desire to explore regional and global cuisines.  The grains list had some playful twists with farro, kernza, sorghum, teff, global pasta, heirloom rice, and hemp.  The single, global, and ancient grains, and breads made from them continue to capture media attention and consumer interest as they have strong backing from clinical health research.  Tied to lower obesity rates, better heart health and cognitive function, improved blood glucose levels – grains regain their footing.  The most noteworthy fruits were global fruits indicating health, adventure and playfulness but none of them were wildly experimental – all were familiar and were featured in years past.  Jackfruit appeared along with mamey, varietal berries and citrus, tart cherry, persimmon, and hybrids like the pluot.  The vegetables remained humble with most being tied to health research, history, and familiarity.  There is no single posterchild this year but there are a few show offs including celtuce, mushrooms, roots such as parsnips, and cassava, sea greens and tiger nuts.  Overall, fruits and vegetables were less extreme but more approachable than in past years.

Plant and Animal Protein Continue to Diverge 
The proteins were also more approachable and less extreme but some outliers appeared.  Groups of items were mentioned for 2019 including jerky, offal, trash fish, underused meat cuts, and bone broth.  Seafood came more into focus with seacuterie, octopus, and tined seafood standing out.  The animal protein category is unfocused and has no clear posterchild.  It opens the category up for experimentation and creativity while maintaining it grounded back drop.  Nothing is off the table – anything can be made into jerky, sausage, and broth and bycatch fish can have many representatives.  Plant proteins were so extensive and beans continue to transition from best friend to leading lady.  They are linked to the desire for increased protein, rise in flexitarian, veggies taking center of plate, and other patterns.  Since beans are a neutral palate they can move between global cuisines and compete with grains and proteins in dishes.  Clinical research links beans to improved cognitive function, improved memory and focus, decreased risk for diabetes onset, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.  Beans are common in all of the top global cuisines active in the country right now including regional Mexican, South American, Middle Eastern and others.  Plant proteins can be divided into two families.  The Familiars include chickpeas, black beans, lentils, chia, and tofu.  The Experimentals include water lentils, hemp, adzuki beans, and seitan. 

Cuisines and Clusters Move Backwards to Post-Recession Position

Regional cuisines and Clusters translate to how and where a food fits on a plate – it gives food a home, history, and voice.  The regions mirror the travel and wine sections but are also tied economics.  Cuisines were global and ranged from Cuban, Israeli, Filipino, French, and Moroccan to US regional dishes.  Dishes followed suit but were split between African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, South American, and US.  Global comfort foods - exotic to us, but mainstream in their native country was the focus for all.  Clusters captured national and global comfort food and items that were popular during the recession and post recovery.  That the patterns are showing recent, recycled ideas is a sign of slipping away from confident behaviors.  Cluster items included global breakfast, regional BBQ, street food, invasivors, cultured and fermented items, flatbreads, peasant, and marine foods.

Desserts Replace Nostalgia with Experimentation

Desserts were experimental compared to other categories.  The desserts themselves were a mix of centered, calming personalities with a comfort petticoat and more unfamiliar, but global comfort players.  Comfort desserts return but are riding the line between historical/ regional and global classics.  French pastries return but are joined by Middle Eastern booza and Egyptian kanafeh.  Asian sweets – black sesame ice cream, pandan scented desserts, and Thai rolled ice cream joined the playground.  Ice cream is really taking center stage with extreme milkshakes, vegan ice cream, upscale soft serve, and frozen bars.  Naked cakes and regional pies are canvases for creativity while herbs, salt, vegetables, and alcohol act as their party dress.  Desserts are predicted to be more traditional and historic but with bolder flavors.

Preps & Seasonings Act as the Party Dress

Preparation also affects what foods can be offered and what will accompany it on the plate.  The most interesting thing about the cooking techniques offered is not what the list includes but what it leaves out, which is equally important.  Cooking methods are moving away from live fire and dry heat methods and now are toned down and mixed in with wet cooking methods.  Wet cooking methods are associated with troubled times as they are comforting.  What is predicted shows a turn towards comfort including pickled, foil packets, sheet pan suppers, and house made everything.  The underlying theme however, was “familiar on the palate”.  Interestingly, seasonings and sauces had a very large presence this year.  Spicy, woody, earthy, and savory replaced extreme flavors from last year.  The tones this year are more muted and rounder, not as extreme on the palate as demonstrated by tamarind, sumac, rosemary, pandan, and basil.  Alcohol, charcoal, house fermented hot sauces were among the more unusual entrants.  International spice blends were mentioned from Egypt, Ethiopia, Korea, the Philippines, Argentina, and elsewhere.  Whether it be XO sauce, Galangal, Bagoong, Zhug, Toum, Tajin or Gausacasa sauce, they are fun, flirty, and offer a strong sense of tradition, roots, and place on the plate.