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How can we be a positive food influencer in 2018?

Are you ready for hyper-local food? It is the leading food concept for 2018, and it will elevate the food label game along with consumer conversation.

Food trends are driven by chefs. If it appears on fine dining menus, then it will materialize in other foodservice channels and eventually in the homes of the consumer. Have you forgotten about the high price of pork bellies? Chefs upgraded the pork belly, serving bacon in a new way. And bam, you have a hot new trend, driving prices to fresh new highs.

What is next for food trends? The National Restaurant Association turns to 700 professional chefs and asks what will be on the plates of Americans in 2018.

“Chefs strive to strike the right balance between offering consumers what they want to eat now and guiding them toward new and exciting culinary frontiers,” says American Culinary Federation National President Stafford T. DeCambra. “ACF chefs dedicate countless hours to continuing education and professional development to stay at the forefront of culinary innovation, allowing them to respond to and redefine diners’ expectations in an ever-changing foodservice landscape.”

So, what do you think is on the list — lab-grown meat or chocolate-covered insects? No, we are not having any of that nonsense. However, I did check out the official “What’s Hot” list from the National Restaurant Association and how it shakes down.

Top 20 food trends

1. New cuts of meat (e.g., shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut)
2. House-made condiments
3. Street food-inspired dishes (e.g., tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas)
4. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g., chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
5. Sustainable seafood
6. Healthful kids’ meals
7. Vegetable carb substitutes (e.g., cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti)
8. Uncommon herbs (e.g., chervil, lovage, lemon balm, papalo)
9. Authentic ethnic cuisine
10. Ethnic spices (e.g., harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi)
11. Peruvian cuisine
12. House-made/artisan pickles
13. Heritage-breed meats
14. Thai-rolled ice cream
15. African flavors
16. Ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes (e.g., tacos, teriyaki, sushi)
17. Donuts with non-traditional filling (e.g., liqueur, Earl Grey cream)
18. Gourmet items in kids’ meals
19. Ethnic condiments (e.g., sriracha, sambal, chimichurri, gochujang, zhug)
20. Ancient grains (e.g., kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin)

If you are keeping score, new cuts of meat top the trends along with the leading protein trend. Rounding out the top five protein trends are sustainable seafood, heritage-breed meats, plant-based burgers and hand-made sausages. Luckily the plant-based burgers did not make the top 20 overall list.

Trends heating up in 2018 include ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, farm/estate-branded items, Heritage-breed meats and Peruvian cuisine. These up-rising food fads can easily be supported by pork. On the flip side, some of the food trends cooling off are hand-made sausage, nutrition and meal kits.

The probably more important thing to note is the top concept trend, highlighting consumers’ values for the new year. 

1. Hyper-local
2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
3. Natural ingredients/clean menus
4. Food waste reduction
5. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine
6. Environmental sustainability
7. Locally sourced meat and seafood
8. Locally sourced produce
9. Simplicity/back to basics
10. Farm/estate branded items

Thus, any food supplier that can provide a product that is simple, farm-branded, grown hyper-local contains natural ingredients that also supports ethnic flavors and proves environmental sustainability along with reducing food waste will capture the hearts of consumers and top dollar in 2018.

Sweet, we have taken food priorities to a whole new level. I can see it now: Food label “HYPER-LOCAL” or restaurant saying we are so local that we are raising pigs on the rooftop for pork on your plate. Let’s just put the table in the barnyard, brand the meat and send the food waste over the fence. Sign me up!

On a serious note, these concept trends will drive food labels, foodservice menus and more importantly the consumers’ conversation. Hence, it is probably time for the pork industry and all of agriculture to decide how we participate in the conversation? How can we be a positive food influencer in 2018?

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