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Trendy Foods

The food industry in the U.S. develops thousands of new products every year to meet consumer demands and trends

By Nurhan Dunford

(Stillwater, Okla - June 27, 2016) The manufacturing industry spends millions of dollars to predict, set and lead consumer trends to sustain and expand their businesses. The food industry in the U.S. develops thousands of new products every year to meet consumer demands and trends. A cursory look at the food-related publications in scientific literature and web-based social media clearly shows health- and sustainability-related issues have been the drivers of food trends for the last few decades.

Globalization also shapes food trends, with this year being no different. Following are some of the trends that are making an impact this year.

Vegetables continue to be popular menu items. Food experts predict even restaurants that traditionally specialize in meat will begin serving vegetables in the form of other items, such as steaks or noodles. Various examples include a cauliflower steak, spiralized carrot or zucchini in the form of noodles and smoked or charred vegetables.

Following the kale trend of the past few years, seaweed has emerged as a popular menu item, showing up in the form of bacon-flavored algae, seaweed popcorn and seaweed spaghetti.

Okra and rainbow chard also are popular; however, the concept of eggplant and tahini mayonnaise is very interesting. My dad’s favorite breakfast item was a bread spread or dip made with tahini and pekmez, a molasses-like syrup made by condensing juices of fruit must. Mostly grapes, but sometimes sugar beets, figs, mulberry or juniper berries are boiled with a coagulant to make pekmez. Tahini is used in many food formulations and is an interesting application for mayonnaise.

In addition to vegetables, ethnic seafood recipes and sustainable seafood also are trending food items. The Hawaiian dish poke, pronounced po-kay, is becoming the “new sushi.” Poke, which is traditionally made with diced fish, usually tuna, marinated in soy and sesame, is already on trendy restaurant menus around the country. Food connoisseurs predict it soon will be seen everywhere, served over rice bowls with soba noodles and even in sandwiches.

Sustainably farmed paiche, pronounced pie-chay, and blue catfish are showing up in high-end food stores. Paiche is promoted as a cheaper option to halibut or sea bass. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora categorizes paiche among species that are “not necessarily threatened with extinction,” allowing it to be sold commercially, but “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.”

What about an exotic flavor or marinade for vegetables and seafood? Koji, pronounced as koh-jee, rice is inoculated with the koji mold Aspergillus oryzae and is traditionally used to make miso and soy sauce for umami flavor. Today, fermented koji is mixed into vinaigrette and tossed with vegetables before roasting and used as a marinade. Koji is promoted as a natural alternative to chemically derived monosodium glutamate, minimizing the need for salt, sugar or oil addition.

“Root-to-stem dining” is emerging in restaurants. The idea is to use everything from stems and leaves to unusual cuts of meat in tasty and appealing recipes and minimize waste. Wasted salad, made with cabbage cores, kale stems and broccoli stalks, already is available in some stores. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 32 percent of food produced in the world is lost or wasted. In North America and Oceania, the food waste is the highest in the world, 1,500 kilocalorie/capita/day. Numerous public and private advocacy groups and organizations have launched educational programs to minimize food waste, and culinary chefs are among them.

Sprouted grain products, including grain cereals, snack bars, and rice and risotto mixes, can be found in cereal aisles today. Sprouting grains activate enzymes that make plant proteins, starches and vitamins more available for absorption.

Pulses now are marketed as snacks in the form of crisps, as ingredients in prepackaged salads with edamame and roasted soy nuts, and in soups. Pulses, such as lentils, dry peas, dry beans and chickpeas, are legumes that are harvested for their dried seed. They are low in fat, high in fiber and a good source of protein. Growing up in Turkey, roasted chickpeas were my favorite snacks as a kid. Seeing roasted chickpeas with some olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper served as a snack in the United States is nostalgic and brings back childhood memories. Today, chickpeas are not just being used as snacks. Panelle, panisse, socca and cecina are sort of thin, unleavened pancakes or crêpes made from chickpea flour. They are gluten-free and high-protein food items.

The beverage industry is another area that is experiencing new trends. By now, numerous versions of water, such as organic raw maple water, cactus water, coconut water, organic birch tree water, Artesian water from a 680-foot-deep New Zealand protected confined aquifer and even black premium alkaline water, are common in stores. Cold brewed and coffee-infused fruit drinks may be fascinating, but nitro tap coffee is the newest fad. It is a coffee drink that is treated with nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide under high pressure, then chilled in a keg and served on draught with a foamy head like a Guinness beer. Which is more interesting: nitro tap coffee or switchel, a new hipster drink made by diluting apple cider and maple syrup then mixing with water, promoted as an energy and electrolyte booster?

Have you heard the buzzword “DIYed eats,” referring to“Do It Yourself” foods? More and more consumers will prepare their pickles, sausages and bread at home this year. Consumers do not have to be good cooks and spend a lot of time finding recipes and shopping for ingredients. Food conversation is not as simple as what we eat or where we eat anymore. It has since become more complex in which people want to know details, such as who prepares and serves the food.

In today’s world, it is as simple as touching a button to get what you need for a homemade meal. A number of web-based suppliers bring groceries and boxed meal kits with precise portions, trendy and fresh ingredients, along with cooking instructions to doorsteps quickly. Mobile apps are available as well as using social media as a resource for meal options. Millennials are relying more on photo apps and videos posted on social media to prepare their own meals instead of cookbooks.

I encourage you to try some of the foods mentioned in this article, and let us know what you think about them. If you like an idea but find the products available in the market are not satisfactory and have some ideas to develop better products for commercialization, FAPC staff is available to help with the technical and business aspects of the process.