As a foodie and as someone fascinated by cultural trends, I bring to you my predictions for the top 8 food trends for 2018 in the United States. Do you agree with these? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments! And in January 2019 you can tell me I was right (or wrong).
Trend 1: Eating around the family dinner table.
Forget dinner on the run. Forget dinner in front of the TV. Forget dinner at mid-tier sit down chains. 2018 will see the return to the family dinner table. However, unlike previous generations, it may not be with the immediate family. And it may not be a home cooked meal. Dinner will be with whomever is around – neighbors, friends, family, lovers, even pets. Yes it might be a home cooked meal, but more likely an order-in. Though group-cooked meals or bring-your-own are more and more common. Either way communal dining is coming back! And finally people will start putting down their iPhones during meals and pay attention to each other.
Trend 2: The decline of sushi.
There was a time when sushi was a special treat prepared by highly trained sushi chefs at very nice (pricey) restaurants. Today sushi is everywhere. Heck you can get fill up your gas tank and pick up some sushi-to-go at the same time.
However, with abundance comes gaps in controls, quality, and inspections. I believe it is a matter of time before complaints about parasitic roundworms crawling out of your corner-store-saba-roll as you put it in your mouth will increase. And after a handful of these on social media, we begin to see the decline of fast food sushi in the United States and it will go back to the trained experts at nice restaurants where it belongs.
Trend 3: Barter food.
2017 continued the expansion of crop shares, grow-your-own, community gardens, and food co-ops. We see chicken coops in suburbs and urban farms sprouting up in cities. I predict that in 2018, what you grow along with products from your animals will be used in place of cash currency more and more often. Hunters and fishermen have been doing this for decades. You’ve got a bakery and I’ve got a garden; who needs a grocery store or cash? I’ve got fresh eggs from my chickens and you give great haircuts. Do we have a deal? Spinach will be the new cryptocurrency (ok I get carried away sometimes.)
Though if I am correct in this prediction, don’t be surprised if in 2019 the government decides to tax your back yard vegetable garden. I won’t be.
Trend 4: Flag a food truck.
2016 was the year of food trucks. 2017 was the year of order-in. 2018 will be the year of flag a food truck. Remember when the ice cream truck use to drive around each day and you’d run outside and flag him down because you wanted a Creamsicle and they always tasted better from the truck? You knew exactly when they would drive down your street and you were ready. Well how about a deli truck that drives around and you flag it down if you want a sandwich? Or a Pizza truck? Or a salad truck? Don’t waste time ordering or waiting for unpredictable delivery. Just know the local routes in your local community. [Though if you see the sushi truck driving around, turn the other way. See Trend 2.]
Trend 5: Understanding labels.
For as much as people have been reading labels the last couple of years, which is great, I believe that 2018 will become the year where people start to really understand labels and push back hard on false marketing.
High fructose corn syrup vs cane sugar? Animal shortening? Dextrose? What exactly does partially hydrogenated mean? Is Riboflavin a flavoring. Does the product use chemical red dye (not so good) or does it simply use beet juice (better)? So many questions that we will start to get to the truth about.
Here is an example. You see the one item labeled Whole Wheat and the other labeled Multigrain. Which one is healthier?
I bet some of you said multigrain. But that’s the wrong answer. The whole wheat has one grain. The multigrain has more than one grain. Number of grains is about taste not health.
However, the whole wheat has whole grains which are very healthy especially for your colon. With the multigrain it is likely that not a single one of the many grains used is a whole grain – they are probably all refined grains – otherwise it would be labeled as whole grain too.
Understand the labels. Ask questions. Challenge the marketing-talk. Having a colon problem because you did not eat enough fiber or whole grains? Well that will be pretty shitty. It is your health vs their profits! Fat free doesn’t make it necessarily healthy. Pixie sticks are fat free after all.
Trend 6: Edible flowers and interesting nectars.
Californians have been beautifying and enhancing their food with edible flowers and interesting nectars for years. Maybe some egg Benedict with a honeysuckle nectar drizzled atop and an edible flower garnishing the plate instead of breakfast potatoes. Hey, Amazon now owns Whole Foods.
As a positive, maybe, just maybe, this trend will lead us to invest in figuring out how to support a resurgence of the much-needed honey bee.
Trend 7: Simple foods.
For all the other trends, and considering the early 2000s movement towards gourmet at home, I believe 2018 will be the year of the return to simple food. A meal might be some walnuts, a chunk of Gouda cheese, a simple lettuce salad, and a piece of fruit.
Food simplicity will be the trend of 2018. The ideal meal will be 4 ingredients or less. Some of it bartered and all of it eaten slowly and enjoyed with friends and family.
Trend 8: Making sure everyone is fed.
All and all, people have been fairly generous supporting food drives, holiday meals, emergency cupboards, and helping those in need. However, I believe in 2018 our society will take this to the next level.
I think we will see an expansion of pay-for-others practices, restaurants that offer pay-what-you-can meals, random delivery orders being send to those in need. (“I want to order a large pepperoni and mushroom pizza to be delivered to my home, and can you also deliver one to [the family that is struggling] at this other address. Yes I am paying for both.”)
Some of this trend will be in response to better awareness of people in need, some in response to draconian practices from our government, and most of it because people really are good and really do care. They just need a positive social trend to help them along.
Great list, Paul! I would add, perhaps in conjunction with your #8: No more food waste. Only order what you are going to finish, don’t overprep, and when visiting the all-you-can-eat buffet, don’t pile it on just because you can. To quote “Drawdown” by Paul Hawken: “A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.”
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Very good addition and yes: No more food waste. There have been hints of this popping up, including some buffets that charge for what remains on plates, and some restaurants that will give a smaller portion of sides but then ask if you would like more (complimentary). Also more and more office buildings are installing better facilities to allow workers to have leftovers for lunch, thereby reducing waste. I don’t know enough on the food processing side, but it also ties to trend 3. I’ve seen crates of rotting vegetables at grocery stores (and they were probably trucked in). This doesn’t happen when you grow your own. BTW, Paul Hawken has a deep worldview.
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Good information here, Paul and I believe some practices have started already. Would like to add people going organic/plant-based diet or gut healthy foods. This has been a trend in the previous years but have grown more popular due to a growing number of new illnesses linked to processed food and diet fads. I really hope trend #8 becomes everybody’s practice since a lot of people are starving these days and hope it reaches far to other countries as well.
Thank you Nancy. I think the reason I did not include the organic/plant based diet and gut healthy food is because it has been going a while. But you are the 3rd person to point out both are going to a new level, especially gut healthy food, so I think you all are right that it should be on the list.
And amen to trend 8. I will be writing more about that closer to summer.