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Food Trends of 2017 and Looking Ahead to 2018

By Stephanie Ganz of The Apple Cart

Goodbye 2017 Food Trends, Hello 2018 Food Trends!

While some classics never go out of style, these days modern diners are evermore obsessed with what’s next. Once a trend has been sufficiently played out, it elicits eye rolls and yawns, as guests look to the horizon for something shiny and new to post on their Instagram. We’re taking a look back at the foods that shaped 2017 and turning our gaze forward to what we might expect to see in 2018...

2017 and 2018 food trendsGreens

 2017: Kale

  • This trend didn’t exactly start in 2017, but it saw a definite plateau this year, with kale salads all over menus and kale chips cluttering retail store shelves. And while the superfood is versatile and loaded with nutritional benefits, it’s seeing its heyday winding down.

2018: Sea Greens
  • Whether you call it ‘seaweed,’ ‘sea greens,’ or by their proper names, including kelp, nori or dulse, sea greens are entering the market in a big way. This potentially sustainable aquaculture can feed a staggering amount of people, and intrepid entrepreneurs on the coasts are cashing in. Sea greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and omega-3’s. And, according to Rowan Jacobsen, “a seaweed farm can produce twice the protein per acre of a soybean farm and 17 times that of a livestock farm. And it does it all without any inputs of energy, fertilizer, or water.” Take that, kale!


: Savory Yogurt
  • In an effort to get sugar out of the breakfast bowl, some yogurt brands saw success with savory options last year, with flavors like ‘everything bagel’ entering the market. Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Yogurts pioneered the trend, with flavors like sweet potato, beet and parsnip. Recently, Fage got in on the trend with their “Crossovers,” and Chobani introduced a line of “Meze Dips,” including Chili Lime and Smoked Onion and Parmesan. Recipes for savory yogurt bowls proliferate on sites like Pinterest.

2018: Savory Ice Cream
  • Look for this trend, which tipped off last summer, to resurface in the warmer months. Flavors like Chicken & Waffles, Sweet Pea, and even Cheese ice cream will make their way into the mainstream. If you’re trying to hone the flavor combinations on your dessert menus, think about the combination of sweet and savory elements, like maple and bacon or balsamic and strawberry, and then let your imagination do the walking. Unexpected ingredients will be making customers stop and take notice this year.

International Tastes

: Authentic Ethnic Food

  • The idea of authenticity in ‘ethnic’ foods dominated last year, with the National Restaurant Association recognizing ethnic breakfast items, African flavors, and ethnic spices among their food trend forecast for 2017. Tapping into various ethnic comfort foods, such as pho and Korean fried chicken, for example, was extremely popular over the past year.

2018: Multicultural Food
  • The concept of the "melting pot" as it relates to global food will continue to dominate in 2018, as cultures blend together on the menu. Think about the turning the ‘authentic’ ethnic food trend on its nose with dishes like Pastrami Pho and Chicken Tikka Poutine, because who’s to say what’s authentic anymore?

food trends of 2017 and 2018Tangy Flavors

2017: Housemade Pickles
  • Over the past few years, chefs have shown their prowess for preserving seasonal ingredients through pickling. Think everything from watermelon rind to ramps; and while a perfect pickle knows no quitting time, the trend itself has already started to yield the floor to other sour notes, like house-made fermentables such as sauerkraut and kimchi.

2018: Vinegars with Terroir
  • Wine culture familiarized chefs and guests with the term ‘terroir,’ which, according to is, “how a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of wine.” Essentially, it’s the taste of a place in the final product. Vinegars are getting in on this concept with chefs skipping the mass-marketed stuff in favor of locally-sourced vinegars, as well as vinegars that use local ingredients in their blends.


2017: Humanely-Sourced Protein
  • Consumers continued to question the sourcing of their foods, specifically animal proteins, in 2017, and producers were compelled to label accordingly, calling out practices like ‘grass-fed,’ ‘grass-finished,’ and ‘humanely-raised.’ As consumers grow accustomed to these terms, you can expect producers to begin calling out even more specifics, such as field rotation and the types of grass used to feed their crops because, we’re learning, not all humanely-raised or sustainably-sourced protein is created equal in terms of flavor.

2018: Alternative Protein Sources
  • Plant-based proteins are typically healthier and more sustainable than their meatier counterparts, and customers are picking up on this in a big way. One trend that’s picking up steam is plant protein that eats like meat, with a “bleeding burger” catching eaters’ attention last year. Consider the following statistical data: “According to HealthFocus data, 17% of U.S. consumers aged 15 to 70 currently claim to eat a predominantly plant-based diet, while 60% report to be cutting back on meat-based products. Of those who are reducing their intake of animal-based proteins, 55% say the change is permanent, and 22% hope that it is.”

We’re also excited to watch the rise of zero-waste concepts, the popularity of bugs as a source of protein, and healthier kids meal options. What food trends did you see in 2017, and what do you hope catches on in the new year?

Contributed by: Stephanie Ganz
Stephanie is the co-owner of The Apple Cart, a Richmond, VA-based company that helps food businesses start and grow.