This month, I’ve been reading all kinds of predictions about what will be the Next Big Thing in 2017, from individual ingredients to overarching shifts in the way we purchase and consume food. Given the variation in food culture between countries, one would expect trends to vary just as widely; and while certain dishes and cooking styles are more popular in some countries than others, I was surprised to discover that many of the same tendencies do appear in French and Spanish publications as well as British and American ones. I think it’s safe to attribute this to the influence of the Internet, perhaps especially English-language content, on what is trending in other nations. Today’s post will take an overall view of the predicted food trends for 2017 that are cropping up everywhere.
- Conscious consumerism
While every nation has their own concerns and preoccupations, we can’t deny that many of the geopolitical issues currently facing us are global in nature: the increasing population, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources affect us all. So it’s not surprising that consumers are responding to these global issues in a similar fashion, regardless of where they are: using their purchasing power to reject practices they don’t agree with, and support those they do. Whether it’s by choosing a vegetarian, vegan or ‘flexitarian’ diet, by opting for sustainable or organic choices, or by buying local to reduce carbon footprints and support local communities, people across the world seem to be becoming more conscientious as far as their food choices are concerned, and calling for more transparency in the supply chain so that they can make more informed and responsible choices.
- Health and wellbeing
Being responsible doesn’t stop at our impact on the planet. 2017 is also set to see people paying more attention to their own health and well-being, with a whole-lifestyle approach rather than dieting. Veganism and vegetarianism are relevant here too, as they’re often perceived as a healthier alternative to meat-based diets; meanwhile, the popularity of organic foods continues to grow, the home-made trend expands into pickling and fermenting home-grown produce, and alcohol consumption is tending towards a ‘less but better’ model. Many millennials are cutting out alcohol completely from their diets, while others are drinking less frequently, or less in each sitting, but opting for higher quality or more expensive tipples such as craft cocktails, aged or small-batch spirits, or top-shelf wines; and the market is responding with the opening of more and more craft distilleries, a variety of sophisticated non-alcoholic beverages, and tasting menus offering non-alcoholic pairings.
- Changing consumption methods
Dining has always been a social phenomenon, but the word ‘social’ has acquired a new meaning in recent years. More and more people are prioritising convenience: dining out more, ordering in more, or subscribing to meal kits delivered to their door. At the same time, the social aspect of eating is no longer restricted to those we share our meals with: there is no sign that the #instafood trend will slow down in 2017, and restaurants and bars are even beginning to adapt to the younger generation’s obsession with the instaworthiness of their meals: tweaking their lighting and interiors, amping up the garnishes and even releasing new products with ‘viral’ potential.
- New technologies
With the growing interest in convenience comes an onslaught of new technologies ready to oblige. Technology is intervening more and more in all aspects of our lives, and food is no exception. It’s there in our homes, automating our kitchen routines to reduce our hands-on time or allowing us to prepare more elaborate dishes that were once only possible in a commercial kitchen. It’s there in restaurants and supermarkets, making ordering and paying a smoother and interaction-free experience. It’s there in our delivery services, with research underway into self-driving cars and delivery by drone. It’s even there behind the scenes, allowing the people who produce, process and package our food to do so more hygienically or efficiently.
All of these trends are happening internationally: they may express themselves differently depending on the country, local demand and national regulations, but they reveal a fundamental shift in the way that humans are interacting with food. It’s an exciting time for food, and I’m excited to see how these trends evolve throughout the year.