Food trends 2018

Edition 26 January, by Seringe S.T. Touray

When tea first seeped into Europe from China in the 17th Century, nobody knew it would become a quotidian part of English as well as most European and global societies, and one of the sources of endless annual trends. Today, the spread of food trends is remarkably easier with the emergence of globalization. The zeitgeist yields many aspects that determine where food will take us, from physical occurrences like surges in animal activism bringing about more vegan and gluten-free varieties to psychological reasons giving us incentive to maintain control over what we eat in these turbulent, out-of-control times. As science shows what we eat determines our mood, this makes sense perhaps in the way cinema provides escapism. While food gifts us the chance to take a break from negative external stimuli in our lives, it provides us endless ways to personalize what we eat to meet our individual, trendy demands. As one of the cosmopolitan centres of the world, we look at the Netherlands and how the Dutch food culture will be emblematic of global food trends of 2018.

Greater Awareness

This isn’t food. The reality, however, will affect the food industry as our preferences adjust to our awareness due to increased transparency. This trend will no doubt fuel a change in the global market by personalizing it for individuals; after all, the story behind each food we eat may or may not align with our individual needs or beliefs. When The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper famously recited a Pringles recipe off the top of his head, we took delight in the unique humour. Perhaps a truth in it, masquerading as humour, foreshadowed today’s widespread transparency heightening our consciousness of the food we eat. The concept of supply and demand proposes that the whims of one affect the other. As laws increasingly favour transparency and manufacturers are obliged to be open, we have a say in how they produce for in case we feel discontent with our knowledge of how they operate.

Dutch trend experts agree on animal activism being one of the causes of the vegan trend. With growing transparency, animal rights organizations including PETA are able to spread awareness of animal rights violations by producers, thereby increasing the animal rights movement and bolstering the vegan trend affecting meat consumption predicted to fall this year. Environmentalists share similar concerns, opting for eco-friendly options that will affect the behaviours of current suppliers or at least widen the market gap for new suppliers ready to cater to their concerns. Health and safety are also players in the era of transparency, with people switching from inorganic to organic foods while avoiding food additives, preservatives, and sweeteners proven by the FDA to be a detriment to health. Fitness trends of the New Year will play a role in how people adjust their food habits hence our increasing consciousness of how such adjusted habits can be beneficial for exercise. In a nutshell, awareness increases our pickiness, fuelling our positive concerns about the overall timeline of the food we eat from creation, processing, and delivery.

Food and Stability

Like currency, our kitchen interest grows the more we feel out-of-touch with an out-of-control world. Caring for ourselves via the food we eat thus becomes a convenient substitute for the growing negativity in our lives, according to expert thinking. The post-Brexit era of 2017 was known for its surprises shedding light on a tense global divide among people. In the Netherlands, an intensification of right-wing populism first seen by many coincided with a similarly radical growth of the ‘Republican party of Trump’ and the French National Front party – both steered by populists whose agenda arguably added fuel to fire of disunity. In the wake of terrorism and political turmoil, Dutch trend experts are among contributors to the theory that increased control over what we put in our mouths will be among what creates a balance in our lack of control in a chaotic world – a psychological take on how growing dissatisfaction with the unbalance will be remedied in part by substitute control and order in our diet. With 2018 poised to worsen in social and political intensity according to some experts, many can be expected to find stability elsewhere. Moreover, the golden age of technology, which keeps us firmly in touch with global trends, is justifiably credited for the enhancement of our senses of touch, sight and smell in our relentless pursuit of trendy foods deluging satellite channels and social media. The positive feeling of keeping up with the world with which we have a stable relationship via food, in other words feeling a sense of control, becomes a spin-off trend of the above, increasing the appeal of foods.

A Wave from Hawaii

Foods exist for eons before making the trending list. The Poke Bowl is no exception. Pronounced ‘po-kee’ contrary to popular misconception, this new phenomenon comprises of cubed raw fish with rice plus a variety of vegetable options from which to choose. If you haven’t heard of this Hawaiian specialty, it may be just a matter of time before you develop affinity for its colourful, nutrient-rich bowl with a wide array of optional flavours. The warm global welcoming of the cuisine was monitored by famous outlets like the Huffington Post and global giants Unilever Food Solutions, both of whom saw a 2017 spike in its popularity forecasted to continue in 2018.


You don’t need to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the many benefits of a mostly meat-free diet. Such is the philosophy of the flexitarian, otherwise known as the vegan whose trend persists in its growth. Switching from the common Western diet to a well-designed vegetarian plan eliminates most animal products whose substitutes, including whole grains, vegies and fruits, means a greater intake of beneficial nutrients (e.g. fibre, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, vitamins, etc.), while nourishing the body with plant-based protein. A primarily vegan diet provides added benefits of excess weight loss, lowered risk of heart disease, and lower blood sugar levels to name a few. With Dutch diners widely incorporating animal-free diets in their menus in our health-conscious time, we expect a 2018 surge in flexitarianism. The government-backed Dutch Nutrition Centre raised its recommended daily vegetable intake, paving way to an increase in its use, backing our trend forecast.

Floral Flavours

Although the true origins of floral flavouring is a subject of controversy, many identify its presence in the Yunnan province of China centuries ago, when the natural was embodied by flower designs incorporated into artistically made teas wrapped and sewed into small buds to later bloom and take the shape of floral designs once in contact with hot water. Adding to the displays were the exquisite floral flavours that came with the hot beverages. Today, the internet is abuzz over trendy floral flavours taking the F&B industry by storm following the popularity of rose water which had long been observed in Persian and Middle-Eastern menus. Experts forecast the appearance of rose flavours in foods everywhere this year, with elderflower, orchid, and lavender to name a few expected to complement sweets, beverages, and dishes. Specialty Tea You’d think in the age of digital media, when less and less people meet face-to-face, that less time would be dedicated to the intermittent sips of the social beverage. But the global trend of tea suggests we’re in too deep to resist warming our throats with the savoury everyday favourite dating back centuries within Western realms alone.

With Statista declaring tea the most consumed drink after water, its trendy era of varieties seems to be heading to its peak this year, with more emerging trends packaged in aluminium or tin-plated steel cans, or sold in the more conventional cup or glass. This perhaps is closely linked to the wide increase in floral flavours supplying even more options. Green, fruit/herbal and black tea fusions were particularly observed to be on the rise from 2017 leading to 2018, into which the growth is expected to continue. World Tea News (yes, it’s a thing) reports that the fastest growing segment in the tea market is ‘ready-to-drink’, which is indicative of the adaptability of the tea market to our busy lifestyles bereft increasingly of faceto- face interactions. With research divulging a percentage increase in ready-teas from 2016 to 2017, our prediction points towards it gaining further momentum in 2018.One thing for sure is the rise of the pink noon chai latte home to the city of Kashmir installed partly in the picturesque Himalayan Mountains, with a population that revels in the beverage of mainly green tea leaves and herbs at least twice daily. While already a Middle-Eastern hit, the Netherland’s ELLE Eten, which already found a place in Amsterdam selling the beverage, predicts it will be a 2018 Instagram hit.

Tech Chefs

The monumental $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods last August, which granted Amazon ownership of over 400 Whole Foods supermarket stores across the US, didn’t come without inviting a ton of independent predictions regarding future possibilities that could revolutionize the global supermarket industry. With many expecting a key role by Amazon’s renowned Alexa, stores can be brought conveniently to our homes. A mere command could task the intelligent personal assistant with the job of filling a shopping list, reordering products for doorstep delivery, listing ingredients for a planned dish, or finding latest food trends and recipes that could boost our inspiration and initiative in the kitchen. We see the enormous potential to bring artificial intelligence to the grocery store from Sonos and Google Home, with Amazon and Walmart in the thick of inhome delivery testing. With expertise in delivery, it’s not impossible to imagine Amazon’s utilization of existing algorithms to facilitate a click-and-collect option with which we can purchase and reserve items prior to stepping foot into our local stores, or having selected items efficiently home-delivered. This could be a major trend starter this year and in coming years, inspiring more supermarket chains to follow in the trendy footsteps.

The Filipino Ube

The last decade observed the reduction of human emotion to computer-generated symbols mimicking our expressions in a plethora of ways, whether through the use of emojis or colour. In an age where the instagramable gets a greater share of attention, colour becomes an integral tool for conveying emotion; it is thus no surprise colour deluges social media for the purpose of furnishing our online emotion-filled posts. However, not everything depends solely on appearance, the emergence of Ube (oo-beh) indicates – the root crop that mainly relies on its aromatic flavours used to enhance sweet concoctions like ice creams and cakes. Its bright purple colour merely complements the trending Filipino food attracting social media users worldwide. This type of sweet potato used in Asian desserts hasn’t quite taken off yet in the Netherlands as it has in Asia and America, regions in which it continues to grow in popularity, but a borderless social media is expected to spread the trend like other contagious trends, enabling the transcendence of the purple flavour through borders. Food Technology The Netherlands leads the flourishing effort to replace traditional farming for the better via high tech nature, specifically vertical farming and LED tech utilized to grow plants under ideal conditions, without soil, without the overuse of pests and fertilizers, without the overabundant use of water. Vertical farming, fancy as it sounds, is the highly controlled process of manufacturing foods in vertically stacked layers within the body of a skyscraper or equivalent structure built for the same purpose of idealizing cultivation. With its eco-friendly entailments, this doesn’t rob environmentalists the wrong way. Polls indicate a growing worldwide acceptance of the concept of high tech nature, pointing the future towards smart-farming methods geared towards replacing traditional food chains, Dutch research firm Mintel agrees.

The verdict on which trends will dominate the year is subject to debate, giving the nature of trends is fragile as it is ephemeral. With Dutch food experts among others unveiling their proposed lists of upcoming trends, we look forward to seeing if we got this one right. Meanwhile, hope you enjoyed the ride down Culinary Lane.