The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2016 culinary forecast shows that mature menu trends maintain momentum, while sub-trends evolve in their wake. The annual survey of nearly 1,600 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation – found that local sourcing and environmental sustainability continue to rule the top of the menu trends list for 2016, from overall culinary themes to more focused versions of those themes. Also prominent in the top 20 are various takes on global flavors.
“True trends evolve over time, especially when it comes to lifestyle-based choices that extend into other areas of our everyday life,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association.
"Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning, but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions. No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry," Riehle said.
Top 20 food trends for 2016:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
3. Locally grown produce
4. Hyper-local sourcing
5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
6. Environmental sustainability
7. Healthful kids' meals
8. New cuts of meat
9. Sustainable seafood
10. House-made/artisan ice cream
11. Ethnic condiments/spices
12. Authentic ethnic cuisine
13. Farm/estate branded items
14. Artisan butchery
15. Ancient grains
16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
17. Fresh/house-made sausage
18. House-made/artisan pickles
19. Food waste reduction/management
20. Street food/food trucks
There is some synchronicity among several of the top trends for 2016. For example, locally sourced items are tied to the grow-your-own concept of hyper-local items, which in turn drills down to the make-your-own trend of house-made items.
International influences are also making a strong showing at the top of the list in 2016, including ethnic condiments and spices, authentic ethnic cuisine, ethnic-inspired breakfast items, and street food.
Additional analysis of survey results reveals which trends are gaining momentum and which ones are slowing down. For example, African and Middle Eastern flavors are on the rise, while kale salads and gluten-free cuisine are losing ground as hot trends.
When asked which current food trend has grown the most over that last decade, 44 percent of the chefs said local sourcing. Looking forward, 41 percent said the trend that will grow the most in the next 10 years is environmental sustainability.
The NRA surveyed 1,575 American Culinary Federation members September 2015, asking them to rate 221 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2016. Find more information at Restaurant.org/FoodTrends.