Image courtesy of Umami Mart
The Specialty Food Association's Trendspotter Panel consists of experts from the retail, foodservice, strategic marketing, and culinary education worlds. Its purpose is to name the hot trends in food and the panel recently named its trends for 2018.

Experts such as Ken Blanchette from FreshDirect, Jonathan Deutsch from Drexel University, Kara Nielsen from CCD Innovation, Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez from Midnight Market, Alison Tozzi Liu from the James Beard Foundation, and Elly Truesdell from Whole Foods Market have found that macro trends like sustainability and health are converging in the 2018 trends.

“The Panel is predicting more algae and other plant-based proteins and products meant to reduce food waste, as well as growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called 'goth' foods. But, while a lot of these trends speak to health and better-for-you choices, consumers' demand for deeper flavor exploration is still strong, as evidenced by the interest in Filipino and regional Middle Eastern foods,” says Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association.

Here are the panel’s top ten predictions for 2018:

  • Plant-based foods – Meat alternatives such as algae will become more prominent in the coming year.
  • Upcycled products – Products made of ingredients and scraps that would have otherwise been discarded will hold bigger appeal. One example of this is snack bars made from spent grain from the beermaking process. 
  • Filipino cuisine – The foods of the Philippines have not yet captured a broad U.S. audience, but that’s changing. Filipino dishes contain many complex flavors and bitter or sour notes.
  • Goth food – An alternative to bright-colored foods such as those used in the rainbow/unicorn trend, these foods are colored with activated charcoal. Its gaining traction for its supposed detoxifying effects and its adaptability to many different products.
  • Alt-Sweet – Alternative sweeteners look to have a lower glycemic impact and fewer added-sugar calories. One such option is syrup made from dates, sorghum, and yacon and sun root.
  • Product labeling 2.0 – Transparency on labeling will be key in 2018.
  • Root to stem – This type of cooking uses the entire fruit or vegetable to minimize waste.
  • Cannabis cuisine – Marijuana -enhanced foods and beverages will increase in states where recreational use is legal.
  • A (deeper) feast from the Middle East - Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian, and Lebanese influences will be more visible on menus.
  • The rise of traditional bread – Bakers are using local grains, milling the day before baking, and incorporating long proofing times in order to elevate production processes.