2016 Food Trends

Originally Published: September 14, 2015
Last Updated: June 16, 2022

Global Food Forums has again compiled a list of top trend lists on food, beverage and nutritional product trends for 2016. Many list items directly related to our events, which are the Clean Label Conference, Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar, and Sweetener Systems Trends & Technologies Conference.

To date, we’ve included information from the following sources (and included the country of their headquarters). Thrillist (USA), Whole Foods (USA), Today’s Dietitian magazine (USA), Food Technology magazine (USA), McCormick & Company, Hartman Group (USA), Comax (USA), Innova Market Insights (Netherlands), Technomic (USA), National Restaurant Association (USA), , Mintel (UK and USA based) and FoodBev (UK). Click through to see the complete predictions.

Also see other Top Food Trends Lists

The Next Kale? The Foods You’re Going To Be Hearing About Constantly In 2016

Since the new year marks the time to get all “out with the old, in with the new” about everything, it’s time to figure out what the next quinoa will be. By Alexandra Duron at The Thirillist (Posted January 4, 2016)

Poke —This Hawaiian dish is already pretty popular on the food scene, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, according to Baum + Whiteman, a food and restaurant consulting company. Who wouldn’t want chunks of tuna soaked in a soy & sesame oil marinade and served atop seaweed-seasoned rice?

Waste-based cooking — …70 billion pounds of food go to waste each year. Earlier this year, it was impossible to ignore the buzz about wasted, a community of chefs, farmers, and other members of the foods world who work to cook up something delicious out of unused or “un-coveted” food.

Savory yogurt — …savory versions are starting to pop up all over the place. Blue Hill, for example, produces and packages yogurt flavors like beet and butternut squash, and at the Chobani store in New York City, you’ve got five savory “yogurt creations” to choose from.

Algae — Algae’s been lurking around in the background for the past couple of years, poised to hit full-blown superfood status.

Black raspberries — Antioxidants! That’s all you need to know, move along. Berries in general are chock-full of ‘em — probably why they tend to reach superfood status. … Science says they contain three times the amount of antioxidants than red raspberries or their doppelgangers, blackberries (good luck trying to tell those two apart).

Better sports drinks — For a long time, people have been worried about the calories, sugar, and artificial flavors lurking in sodas, but sports drinks curiously got a pass, in spite of the fact that they’re really not much better.

Baobab — Fruit from the baobab tree — eight of the nine species are native to Madagascar and mainland Africa, so you can just get ahead of the economic backlash that accompanied quinoa’s sudden rise in demand — is rich in vitamin C.

Water tapped from any/every kind of tree/fruit —
Coconut water kicked things off, then maple water and birch water came onto the scene. What’s next? Pine water? Peach tree water?

Moringa — Native to Africa and Asia, it’s pretty versatile, and perhaps most important in an ever-warming world, it’s drought resistant and can actually purify water (along with an absolute treasure trove of other benefits).

Genetically engineered meat — …there are plenty of people who don’t support this “Frankenfish” (or “Frankenfoods” in general). Since conventionally produced meat has so many environmental and health drawbacks, genetic engineering may eventually attempt to provide solutions to things like methane-producing cows (i.e., bull farts)… though that uncharted territory is sure to have its own set of drawbacks

Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2016
Drawing on more than 100 years of combined industry experience, Whole Foods Market’s product experts have pinpointed 10 top food trends to watch in 2016.
(Posted December 21, 2015)

  1. Uncommon meat and seafood—Lesser-known meat and seafood options are making their way from restaurant menus and local obscurity into mainstream American kitchens.
  2. Wine in a can—As American wine drinkers become an increasingly young, diverse and playful bunch, winemakers are taking note. … Cue the aluminum can – a portable, easy-to-chill option that’s well suited for single servings and active, outdoor lifestyles.
  3. Plant-based everything—Plants are playing a meatier role in a surprising number of products, and not just for vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
  4. Culture Craze: Fermented foods and probiotics—Whether shoppers are seeking gut health or go-for-it flavor, fermented foods and probiotics are growing like good bacteria – and they’re not just for hippies anymore. Fiery picks like kimchi and gochujang will continue to gain steam, while innovative options like chiogga beet kraut and non-dairy tonics will add variety.
  5. Non-GMO-fed verified products—As shoppers demand more transparency in their food, the non-GMO movement will continue to gain momentum. Whole Foods Market currently offers more than 11,000 non-GMO verified choices and 25,000 organic options, with even more in the pipeline.
  6. Graze Craze: Grass-fed 2.0—With new grass-fed products– from milk, eggs, yogurt, butter and cheese options to packaged meat snacks and even protein powders – sprouting up across the store, grass-fed has proven it’s no longer a niche category for health fanatics or Paleo devotees.
  7. Dried and true: dehydrated foods—Unlike the kale chip craze of years past, 2016’s dehydrated trend takes it to new heights – from dehydrated broccoli, Brussels sprout and parsnip chips to sophisticated salmon, bison and chicken jerkies with grown-up flavor combinations.
  8. Heirloom ingredients beyond the tomato—Heirloom ingredients are making a comeback and not just in the produce aisle.
  9. Alternative and wheat-free flours—People are going nuts for gluten-free flours made from legumes, ancient grains, teff, amaranth and, well, nuts. Chickpea flour is a quick riser, while other legume-based flours are showing up in bean-based pastas and other packaged goods.
  10. “Old World” flavor adventures —”Old World” flavors with a twist continue to see significant gains, especially Far East flavors from Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, as well as Middle Eastern ingredients.

Popular Nutrition Trends for 2016

The magazine Today’s Dietitian spoke with several nutrition experts to determine what products and categories will be the most popular this year and on the minds of clients and patients in 2016. Compiled by Densie Webb, PhD, RD, freelance writer, editor, and industry consultant.
(Posted December 2015)

Souping: “Souping is the new juicing,” says Rachel Beller, MS, RDN, CEO of Beller Nutritional Institute… soups keep the fiber, seeds, rind, and pulp that juicing often discards
Sprouted Grains: Our forecasters predict that they’ll become more mainstream. Sprouting…creates enzymes that make plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches, and vitamins more available for absorption.
More Products with Less Sugar: …Companies will be under increasing pressure to reduce the added sugar content of their products and, as a result, will be turning to more of the so-called ‘natural sweeteners,’ like stevia, maple syrup, agave syrup, monk fruit, date sugar, and coconut palm sugar. …(… many of which are metabolized by the body no differently than sucrose.)
Probiotic Push: … it’s not just about improving intestinal health. There’s an important gut/brain connection you may be hearing more about. Research suggests that probiotics may be helpful in treating symptoms of depression.
Full-Fat Dairy: “Now that people are starting to embrace more fat in their diets, I think we’ll continue to see more full-fat and reduced-fat (as opposed to fat-free) dairy products being used.” …A survey conducted by IRi…found that whole milk sales have gradually increased from 27.9% of the retail market in 2010 to 32.1% in 2015.
The Pluses of Pulses: The United Nations is so certain that pulses will peak in popularity that it has dubbed 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The aim of IYP 2016 is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production, aimed towards food security and nutrition.
Better With Beets: Beet juice—alone and combined with passion fruit juice—was on display at FNCE® 2015, along with beet hummus and beet-infused sports drinks. Consuming more beets would be a good thing, because they’re rich in betalains, antioxidant compounds; folate; fiber; and the minerals manganese, potassium, copper, and magnesium.
Relaxing Cholesterol Restrictions: …the 2015 DGAC, which reviews the latest research and makes recommendations for the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, has for the first time taken a step back from the 300 mg/day rule. Whether or not dietary cholesterol in excess of [330mg/day] affects risk of coronary artery disease or risk of diabetes is still unclear.
Sustainable Diets: Another first for the 2015 DGAC report was the mention of sustainable diets as part of the recommendations for achieving a healthful diet. “ Be armed with information about what a sustainable diet is and advice on how to eat sustainably.”
Managing Food Waste: The FDA and the USDA have established a joint goal to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030. In the next few years, expect to address more questions about how to cut food waste in the home.
Renewed Push for Protein: Researcher Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD, FACSM, from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, says we can expect more research on the benefits of increased intakes of high-quality protein in middle-aged men and women.

Food Technology’s Top 10 Predictions for 2016

Food Technology Magazine Editors Share Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2016. Click on the posted link next to see a complete description.
(Posted December 16, 2015)

Clean Labels Spread to Fine Dining
This year was marked by tons of major food companies, in addition to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, announcing the “healthification” of their menus through the banning of artificial ingredients/additives.

The Intersection of Health and Convenience
Foods and beverages that deliver on both health and convenience will proliferate and gain wider distribution as consumers look for easy ways to incorporate more good-for-you products into their lives.

Less Is More
Food manufacturers will have to continue to make food products that are less processed as consumers demand more transparency and foods that are closer to their natural state.

Smartphone Staple
Your smartphone will become an indispensable utensil for eating and dining in 2016.

The Packaging Connection
Foodies have long been interested in the backstory behind the foods they choose, but recent technologies have made it more possible than ever to bring this kind of information to the everyday consumer.

Cleaner Labels
More than ever, consumers are pushing food manufacturers to use ingredients to produce products with so-called clean labels. Ingredient manufacturers have stepped up and now offer ingredients that are naturally derived, minimally processed, organic, and not genetically modified—all of which food manufacturers use to formulate clean label products.

Morally Conscious Foods
Increasing emphasis on conscious living will lead to a new category of foods—morally conscious foods.

Gourmet Convenience
With 48 million time-strapped Americans describing themselves as foodies, gourmet convenience will be among the new megatrends.

Generational Nutrition
Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials will continue to play a role in popular nutritional trends as well as product labeling.

Focus on Food Safety
Researchers, food manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and suppliers will continue to focus attention on pathogens, developing new and improved methods of analysis, instruments, detection supplies, and specific applications.

McCormick Flavor Forecast for 2016

McCormick & Company has unveiled its annual forecast revealing the trends that will shape culinary innovation—in home kitchens, at restaurants, and on retail shelves—in the years to come. Identified by a global team of McCormick chefs, food technologists, and flavor experts, these trends offer a taste of 2016 and beyond.
(Posted December 2, 2015)

Heat + tang: Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents to elevate the eating experience. Peruvian chilies like rocoto, ají Amarillo, and ají panca paired with lime. Sambal sauce made with chilies, rice vinegar, and garlic.

Tropical Asian: The vibrant cuisine and distinctive flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines draw attention from adventurous palates seeking bold new tastes. Pinoy BBQ, a popular Filipino street food, is flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper, and banana ketchup. Rendang Curry, a Malaysian spice paste, delivers mild heat made from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander, and turmeric.

Blends with benefits: Flavorful herbs and spices add everyday versatility to good-for-you ingredients. Matcha’s slightly bitter notes are balanced by ginger and citrus. Chia seed becomes zesty when paired with citrus, chili, and garlic.

Alternative “pulse” proteins: Packed with protein and nutrients, pulses are elevated when paired with delicious ingredients. Pigeon peas, called toor dal when split, are traditionally paired with cumin and coconut. Cranberry beans, also called borlotti, are perfectly enhanced with sage and Albariño wine.

Ancestral flavors: Modern dishes reconnect with native ingredients to celebrate food that tastes pure and satisfying. Ancient herbs like thyme, peppermint, parsley, lavender, and rosemary are rediscovered. Amaranth, an ancient grain of the Aztecs, brings a nutty, earthy flavor.

Culinary-infused sips: Three classic culinary techniques provide new tastes and inspiration in the creation of the latest libations—pickled, roasted, and brûléed ingredients.

The Hartman Group’s 10 Trends in Health & Wellness (Posted November 3, 2015 online)

Trends from Hartman’s A.C.T. (Anthropology. Culture. Trends) Health & Wellness 2015 on September 24, Seattle, on cultural factors and trends transforming the food and beverage marketplace.

1. Progressive health and wellness consumers are increasingly influential in redefining food culture
2. The “new healthy” is a consumer journey of contradiction and discovery
3. Health, wellness and sustainability are starting to converge at the most progressive food retail and food service outlets
4. Gen Z is already exerting its influence on the marketplace—and some haven’t even been born yet
5. Today, through transparency, health and wellness is converging with sustainability
6. Energy is a key component of contemporary health and wellness across all age groups
7. “Activating” health and wellness at retail and food service means more than mere execution; it involves “strategic choices”
8. Consumers managing diabetes look to food and beverage for solutions
9. You can learn a lot from disruptive health and wellness brands
10. Progressive consumers are a window onto the future of health and wellness

Comax 2016 Flavor Trends

Posted November 30, 2015 in a Comax Press Release For a more complete explanation of each trend, please see the press release.

Today’s consumers continue to seek healthier choices and new culinary experiences. In response to consumers demanding less processed, better-for-you products, Comax Flavors reveals the 2016 Green Goodness and Cup of Tea collections. The Cuban Culture and Chef’s Table collections address the younger demographics, multicultural consumers and consumers craving authentic culinary experiences.

Green Goodness As part of the health and wellness lifestyle trend, consumers are looking for natural, less processed, better-for-you products. Naturally, consumers are gravitating toward green vegetables and fruits, putting them in the limelight. Flavors in this group include: • Avocado Pear • Broccoflower • Green Jackfruit • Jalapeño Honey

Cup of Tea
The popularity of tea has lead to a focus on specialty tea, namely Matcha. According to the Sage Group, U.S. retail sales of Matcha green tea powder reached about 55% in 2014. This tea trend is further evidenced by The National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot 2015 Culinary Forecast,” which revealed specialty ice tea such as flavored tea and matcha as trending in non-alcoholic beverages. Flavors in this group include: • Cascara Tea • Dandelion Tea • Matcha Rose • Turmeric Orange Ginger

Cuban Culture
The recent lift of the U.S. Cuban embargo is creating new opportunities for Americans and propelling Cuba into the public eye. Cuban culture with a focus on cuisine will be influential in the culinary scene. Flavors in this group include: • Café Cubano • Cuban Sofrito • Mamey Mojito • Toasted Coconut Flan

Chef’s Table
Consumers seek social, interactive and authentic culinary experiences and chef’s tables are meeting this need. This trend is evidenced by Netflix’s 2015 docu-series Chef’s Table, which profiles renowned international chefs. Flavors in this group include: • Coconut Vinegar • Pickled Artichoke • Roasted Strawberry • Smoked Avocado

Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2016 Posted November 17, 2015 on Food Ingredients 1st website 1. Organic Growth for Clear Label: “Clear label” established itself as a key trend in 2015, with greater transparency and the focus on simpler products with fewer artificial additives taking “clean label” to the next level. 2. Free From For All: Many consumers don’t actually need products that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy, but are demanding them anyway, as they believe them to be healthier. 3. The “Flexitarian” Effect: The rise of part-time vegetarians, who have reduced their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns, is having a major impact on new product activity. 4. Processing the Natural Way: Established food processing practices that have been around for centuries are in the spotlight. They bring with them a natural and authentic image to counteract some of the negative perceptions of heavily processed foods. 5. Green Light for Vegetables: Consumers know that they need to eat more greens, but shy away because of taste expectations. Children can be encouraged to eat more through hidden vegetable products, while the rise of fusion smoothies and high vegetable pastas, indicates that adults can also be encouraged to increase their intake. 6. Creating a “Real” Link: “Real” is about telling a story about where the product comes from and goes beyond certification alone. 7. Small Players, Big Ideas: Big companies used to have a few major competitors, now they have hundreds of small ones. … small companies are getting their ideas out much quicker and serving as inspiration for the big boys. 8. Beyond the Athlete: The benefits of sports nutrition components such as protein and energy ingredients can be exploited by all demographic groups and manufacturers are therefore diversifying on the “healthy living” platform for everyone. 9. The Indulgence Alibi: …health conscious consumers do want to justify consuming a product purely for pleasure and therefore look for an excuse. A classic “indulgence alibi” can be the wholesome or natural quality of ingredients. 10. Tastes for New Experiences: Well-traveled and highly adventurous consumers…are looking for highly specific and authentic products from all over the globe.

Technomic’s Take: 2016 Food Trends

From a Technomic Press Release dated October 26, 2016

Technomic’s consultants and experts base their annual predictions on site visits in trendsetting cities plus interviews and surveys of operators and consumers, backed up by qualitative data from Technomic’s vast Digital Resource Library and quantitative menu data from its searchable MenuMonitor online database.

1.The Sriracha effect. Having learned that Sriracha sauce can add instant ethnic cachet to something as straightforward as a sandwich, chefs are scouting the world for other assertive flavorings to employ in similar ways. Likely bets: ghost pepper from India; sambal from Southeast Asia; gochujang from Korea; harissa, sumac and dukka from North Africa.

2.Elevating peasant fare. Meatballs and sausages are proliferating—traditional, ethnic or nouveau, shaped from many types and combinations of meats. Likewise on the rise are multi-ethnic dumplings, from pierogis to bao buns. Even the staff of life gets the royal treatment, from haute toast to signature cheesy bread.

3.Trash to treasure. Rising prices for proteins raise the profiles of under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and “trash” species of fish—but the “use it all” mindset has also moved beyond the center of the plate. How about a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer?

4.Burned. Smoke and fire are showing up everywhere on the menu: in charred or roasted vegetable sides; in desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings; in cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.

5.Bubbly. Effervescence makes light work of the trendiest beverages: Champagnes and Proseccos, Campari-and-soda aperitifs, adults-only “hard” soft drinks including ginger ales and root beers, fruit-based artisanal sodas, sparkling teas.

6.Negative on GMOs. Whatever the science says, many consumers have made up their minds: no genetic tinkering with their food. Some diners will gravitate to restaurants touting GMO-free fare; others will demand GMO labeling on menus. That’s a big issue for the supply chain, since many crops (such as soy fed to livestock) have been modified to boost productivity.

7.Modernizing the supply chain. Climate destabilization, mutating pathogens and rising transportation costs, among other challenges, will lead to increasingly frequent stresses on the food supply chain, such as 2015’s Florida orange freeze or avian flu-related egg shortage. Consumer demand for “fresh” and “local” fare also challenges a distribution system based on consolidation, centralization, large drop sizes and long shelf life.

8.Fast food refresh. Consumers gravitate to “better” fast food, transforming and diversifying the industry. “QSR plus” concepts with fresher menus and spanking-bright units exploit a price niche between fast food and fast casual (think Culver’s or Chick-fil-A). “Build your own” formats are springing up in more menu categories. Many quick-service eateries are adding amenities like alcohol. Others are giving up on upscaling and returning to their roots, serving simple, traditional menus at low prices.

9.Year of the worker. In today’s tighter labor market, mandates to boost minimum wages will reverberate up and down the workforce, with experienced staffers demanding proportional raises and skilled workers (already in short supply) even harder to hire. That’s tough news for operators trying to hold down menu prices. Front-of-house technology and back-of-house automation will help restaurants do more with fewer or lower-level workers, and companies will devote more resources to training and retention.

10.The delivery revolution. Proliferating order-and-pay apps and third-party online ordering and delivery services make “dining in” easier than ever and, in some cases, “dining out” a thing of the past. Transformational companies like Uber and Amazon are muscling into the market. App-only services like Munchery deliver food from commissaries, bypassing the brick-and-mortar restaurant altogether.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.

Posted online by the National Restaurant Association on November 5, 2015.

The annual What’s Hot culinary forecast predicts food and menu trends for the coming year. For 2016, the NRA surveyed nearly 1,600 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) to find out what the hottest menu trends will be. Its website predicts additional trends by product category.Top 20 Trends

  • 1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • 2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
  • 3. Locally grown produce
  • 4. Hyper-local sourcing
  • 5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
  • 6. Environmental sustainability
  • 7. Healthful kids’ meals
  • 8. New cuts of meat
  • 9. Sustainable seafood
  • 10. House-made/artisan ice cream
  • 11. Ethnic condiments/spices
  • 12. Authentic ethnic cuisine
  • 13. Farm/estate branded items
  • 14. Artisan butchery
  • 15. Ancient grains
  • 16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
  • 17. Fresh/house-made sausage
  • 18. House-made/artisan pickles
  • 19. Food waste reduction/management
  • 20. Street food/food trucks

Mintel Identifies Global Food and Drink Trends for 2016 Posted by Mintel, October 19, 2016 Mintel’s team of global analysts have identified and analyzed 12 key trends set to impact the global food and drink market in 2016. They are:

  • 1. Alternatives Everywhere: The growing ranks of novel protein sources and potential replacements appeal to the everyday consumer, foreshadowing a profoundly changed marketplace in which what was formerly “alternative” could take over the mainstream.
  • 2. Artificial: Public Enemy No. 1: Consumer demands for natural and “less processed” food and drink are forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients.
  • 3. Eco is the New Reality: Drought, worries about food waste, and other natural phenomena not only affect the worldwide food and drink supply, but influence preparation and production.
  • 4. From the Inside-Out: Consumers are recognizing that diets can connect with the way they look and feel.
  • 5. For Every Body: The rising promotion of athletic programs that encourage consumers to get and stay active showcases a parallel need for food and drink that helps consumers get acquainted with sports nutrition.
  • 6. Based on a True Story: Consumers have been romanced by product origin, ingredients, or inspiration stories.
  • 7. e-Revolution: From Carts to Clicks: While the Internet has not yet vastly changed the landscape of grocery shopping, innovations encourage consumers to think outside traditional physical retailers.
  • 8. Diet by DNA: Interest in natural and “getting back to basics” has boosted ancient grains and superfoods, fostering a principle that age-old staples are better than today’s manufactured options.
  • 9. Good Enough to Tweet: The rise of food-centric media has sparked new interest in cooking, not only for the sake of nourishment, but for the purposes of sharing one’s creations via social media.
  • 10. Table for One: Across age groups, more consumers are living in single-person households or occasionally eating meals alone.
  • 11. Fat Sheds Stigma: Consumers’ awareness of the many sources of good and bad fats is ushering in a paradigm shift in which fat content is not the first and foremost consideration in the search for healthy products.
  • 12. Eat with Your Eyes: Flavor has long been the core of innovation, but more visual and share-focused societies call for innovation that is boldly colored and artfully constructed.

Research Predicts the Food and Drink Trends of the Future
Posted by FoodBev Media, Sept. 8, 2015

The Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, predicts some key trends impacting the food and beverage industry of the future.

Food and health coming together
Health-conscious millennials are gravitating toward healthier mixers and combining exercise with hedonism when it comes to alcohol.

Technology changing the way we eat
The future promises curated delivery, delivery-only restaurants and even zero-cost delivery by self-driving car. The FoodBev editor noted “Last month, we reported on a survey that claimed the way in which we ordered food was directly influencing the cuisines we opted to eat.

The Rise of “Post-artisan”
The cloying cocktails of the 1970s and ’80s – long considered passé – are now making a comeback, as mixologists reinvent them for sophisticated, modern palates.

Sharing our food with others
Some 72% of British and American millennials are likely to share pictures of their food and drink if it is different or unique, compared with just 22% of boomers.

Cannabis in beverages
Nearly three quarters of consumers surveyed across the millennial, generation X and boomer generations agree that marijuana will be as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.