As 2023 recedes into the distance many people reflect on what has that year brought. I on the other hand spend a chunk of time wadding through reports and reading expert opinions on what the hot food trends of the new year will be.
Last year we were told Potato milk would be the next big thing. I’m not sure about you but I’m yet to see a spudalicious latte on offer at a café near me. By the way the milk we’re told to get on board with in 2024 is camel (insert groan or visions of sprawling camel farms in Waiouru depending on if you are a cynic or an opportunist).
This brings me to how such predictions are made. Wholefoods in America, a giant supermarket chain and subsidiary of Amazon put out a report each year which is often quoted in such predictions as this. Using their data from customers they say they can see trends forming.
Having a report that is often re reported is both good business for Wholefoods and a self-fulfilling prophecy – let’s be honest if they’ve just invested in Camel milk, they want you to stampede to the nearest Wholefoods to get this elusive milk.
Bidfood in the UK also put out a comprehensive trend report, using consumer analytics. This one is aimed at eateries with ways to take advantage of the hot trends. In my opinions this is a very pragmatic report, highlighting the obvious rather than crystal ball gazing.
Tastewise is an AI platform helping food and beverage manufacturers keep ahead of trends. Their job is to be one step ahead although this comes with the caveat that their customers are big manufacturers.
Hanni Rützler is one of the leading academics in this field and recently published her “Food Report 2024”. Rützler’s wide-ranging educational background – she studied nutritional sciences, psychology and sociology, food and biotechnology – helps her to observe and analyse food trends from a number of perspectives. This, her eleventh annual report is one that comes with no industry bias or vested interest. But what is a food trends? Rützler says, “I define food trends as a response to current desires, problems and longings in our society in terms of nutrition or food production. A food trend must therefore always offer potential solutions.”
This brings me to TikTok and its power to create trends often in such a disruptive and lightning quick way many big businesses and manufacturers can’t keep up. By Rützler’s definition many of these aren’t food trends as they don’t offer solutions to problems, other than entertainment. And as they can appear out of nowhere these trends can be gone just as quickly.
On that note the TikTok trend of smash ups, (think smash burger taco or more recently dumplings or perhaps you caught The Sauce first podcast and Tash’s skillet meatloaf burger) is apparently here to stay. So, keep your eyes peeled for the chickle (fried cheese wrapped pickle) or the carbonara ramen coming at you from “influencers”.
A big change commentators have noted from 2023 and expect to continue in 2024 on your social feeds is the expansion of pop culture influencing food. The best example of this is the Barbie movie which spawned all manner of pink foods and Barbie themed party spreads. Time sensitive seasonal trends have always been big on social (Christmas, Thanksgiving (in the US), Valentines Day, International Donut Day….) but these are easily planned for by businesses. These more organic fads spawned by pop culture feed into the need from consumers to belong to a community and have a bit of fun.
The real question I am pondering as I read these predictions from various sources is what relevance do they have in New Zealand?
Both Wholefoods and Tastewise point to the rise of Asian flavours. It’s true that in New Zealand the Korean food is on the rise (think NeNe Chicken) but I would contend many of these cuisines and flavours are well entrenched in both our hospitality scene and the home cooks repertoire. Interestingly Bidfood, with a more UK stance points to Caribbean and Mexican cuisines being the flavour di jour – flavours perhaps already well cemented in America.
The Bidfood report also points to consumers valuing authenticity with 56% consumers saying they would pay more for a dish they perceive as more authentic. Authenticity and what this means, cultural appropriation vs fusion is a topic that has been hiding in the wings and I think will become louder and more discussed in the coming years.
As for paying more for authentic dishes, my experience in New Zealand and often overseas, the more bells and whistles an eatery has the less authentic the food. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule but of you want the real McCoy Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese food in Hamilton chances are you are sitting on a cheap plastic chair, and it will cost you less than a trip to McDs!
The prevalent and ongoing, if ever evolving theme in food is sustainability. We saw this play out with previous predictions of the rise of veganism. And while vegan this and vegan that continues to dominate headlines the truth is NZ still has very very few vegans. And where previous years predictions looked to the fake or lab grown meat it looks like real food is back on the menu with more vegetable and grain driven meat alternatives coming to the fore in 2024.
And in what might sound like a contradictory trend but is aligned with veganism as a sustainability stance, offal is set to become the hero of your plate. I would say this is more likely to be in a restaurant setting as chefs look for the most economical cuts they can tick the sustainable box as well as another rising consideration, health benefits (see more on this below).
Continuing in this vein is the rise of no waste. Watch as manufacturers try to jump on this bandwagon and let’s circle back to authenticity and the fact this piece is being written by a cynic.
Cacao pulp (the white juicy pulp that surrounds cacao beans) is a good example of this and is said to be the next hot beverage or natural sweetener. Nestlé began using cocoa pulp instead of refined sugar in some of its chocolate bars in 2019 and this is said to be the tip of the iceberg.
Recently chatting to Thomas from Coromandel Chocolate the question I had was is cacao pulp necessary in the fermentation process to get cacao beans or a waste product as we are being led to believe. All I can say is watch this space!
Here in Aotearoa Rescued Kitchen is one innovative company in this space, while the likes of Misfit Gardens in Taupo are growing fast, distributing produce boxes full of fruit and veg rejected by the supermarkets. Read about Island Gelato’s Gelato made from Kumara destined for the bin here.
Health remains to be another enduring theme in food, although I would preface this by saying this trend highlights the conflicting world where some are facing a cost a living crisis while others are willing to pay through the nose for their Buckwheat Bowl (Buddha Bowls were so 2019 not to mention did not have the endorsement of the Dali Lama). Buckwheat, which is in fact a seed not wheat, is gluten free and a prebiotic which helps with inflammation a symptom of a modern diet of highly processed foods, making it the perfect new hot supermarket staple (available at Wholefoods and online at Amazom.com 😊)
Decades of highly processed foods may be causing inflammation in our bodies, the low-fat movement exponentially increased our consumption of sugar playing havoc with hormones, especially in women. And 2024 is the year of the Woman (and all those that identify as such).
So, watch this space as foods that balance hormones or are specifically aimed at women hit the shelves.
Women also dominate in the industry. The Feed covered United Fresh’s call for more women in NZ horticulture in 2024, while Kelli Brett and co launched Women in Food & Drink Aotearoa. This writer, who identifies as her is saddened that in 2024 we are still talking about gender or more specifically women and their role is certain industries.
Talk of the non-alcoholic alternatives has died down with more conversations about cocktails. Mixologists are hot and are flexing their skills as they take culinary skills of chefs into the bar. Learn about milk cocktails on The Sauce, episode three.
While cocktails are going savoury spicy food is getting a sweet make over with “swicey” being the term to look out for. But if you are just after the spicy the guajillo chilli is the hot ticket of 2024.
Finally perhaps New Zealand can ignite the provenance and authenticity debate in 2024 as we claim the Pav as our own once and for all. It’s tipped the rest of the world is about to go all fluffy over the meringue dessert we’ve all been gorging ourselves on this festive season.