Edition: January 1st 2019, Written 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 never-ending trends annually. Today, the spread of trends is remarkably easier with the emergence of globalization. With many of 2018’s trends keeping their momentum, we look at the ones poised to dominate for years to come.
This isn’t food. The reality of it, however, will affect the food industry as our preferences adjust to our awareness due to increased transparency. When The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper recited a Pringles recipe off the top of his head, we merely took delight in the unique humour. Yet it perhaps foreshadowed today’s widespread transparency heightening our consciousness of the food we eat. The concept of supply and demand proposes that the whims of supply affect the demand and vice-versa. As laws increasingly favour transparency and manufacturers are obliged to be more open, we have a say in how they produce for us if we feel discontent with our knowledge of how they operate.
Food and Stability
Our kitchen interest grows the more we feel out-of-touch with the out-of-control world. Caring for ourselves via the food we eat thus becomes a convenient substitute for the growing negativity in the world, 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 coincided with a similarly radical growth of the ‘Republican party of Trump’ and the French National Front party – both steered by populists whose agenda added fuel to fire of disunity.
In the wake of terrorism and political turmoil, trend experts theorize that increased control over what we put in our mouths will be among what constitutes a balance in our lack of control of a chaotic world. With upcoming years poised to worsen in social and political intensity due to our growing differences according to experts - a night becoming darkest before dawn if you may - many can be expected to find stability elsewhere.
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 towards 2018 and beyond.
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 continues to spread. Switching from the common Western diet to a well-designed vegetarian plan eliminates most animal products whose substitutes, including whole grains, vegies and fruits, mean 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 diseases, and lower blood sugar levels. With some European diners widely incorporating animal-free diets in their menus in our health-conscious time, we expect a 2019 surge in flexitarianism.
Although the actual origin of floral flavouring is a subject of controversy, many identify its presence in the Yunnan province of China centuries ago, when nature was artistically embodied by flower designs with which teas were wrapped and sewed into small buds to later bloom and take the shape of the 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 recent popularity of rose water, which had long been observed in Persian and Middle-Eastern menus.
Experts forecast the presence of rose flavours in foods everywhere in the coming years, with elderflower, orchid, and lavender to name a few expected to complement sweets, beverages, and dishes.
You’d think that in the age of digital media, when 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 indicates that we’re in too deep in it to resist warming our throats with the savoury everyday favourite dating back centuries within Western realms alone.
With market research firm Statista declaring tea the most consumed drink after water, its trendy era of varieties seems to be reaching its peak. 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 a drastic rise since 2017. 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 face-to-face interactions. With research divulging a percentage increase in ready-teas from 2016 to 2018, our prediction points towards it gaining further momentum in 2019.
One thing for sure is the rise of the pink noon chai latte, which is home to Kashmir - a city 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 an Instagram hit.
A $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, which gave Amazon ownership of over 400 Whole Foods supermarket stores across the U.S., didn’t come without inviting many a prediction regarding future possibilities that could revolutionize the global supermarket industry. With some anticipating a key role by Amazon’s 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 deliveries, listing ingredients for a planned dish, or finding the latest food trends and renowned food ingredients that could boost our kitchen inspiration and initiative.
The Filipino Ube
The last decade saw a reduction of human emotion to computer-generated symbols mimicking our expressions, 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 that 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 type of sweet potato that mainly relies on its aromatic flavours used to enhance sweet concoctions like ice creams and cakes. Despite its immense usage in Asian desserts, it hasn’t quite taken off yet in some parts of Europe 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.
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 this concept of high-tech nature, pointing the future towards smart-farming, Dutch research firm Mintel agrees.
The verdict on which trends will dominate is subject to debate, giving the nature of trends is fragile as it is ephemeral. With European food experts unveiling their proposed lists of upcoming trends, we look forward to seeing if we got this one right.