2017 Trend Review

Did plant-based proteins take center stage? We reviewed the top food trend predictions for 2017 and summarized the results into four common themes from the predictions that emerged over the course of the year. While more than four of the trends mentioned did evolve, we chose to elaborate on these main themes.

Four food and flavor trends that gained traction include clean label, plant-based proteins, evolution of ethnic and reduced sugar.

Top trends that came true:

Clean Label is an Expectation

december TB clean label

Today, clean label is more than a trend, it is an industry standard. Over the course of 2017, this movement developed further to include more “free-from” ingredients, more simplified ingredient lists and became a focus of not just consumer packaged goods companies, but also the quick service restaurant [QSR] industry. For many shoppers, an easy-to-read ingredients list is an expectation for the food they buy — whether in the grocery store or as they make choices in line at a QSR.

Why 2017 is The Year of The Clean Label [QSR]
Clean labeling: What food manufacturers need to know [Food Dive]

Evolution of Ethnic

ethnic flavor trends

Ethnic flavors continue to expand in the food and beverage world as people develop a desire to bring worldly flavors to their own kitchen. Some of the top drivers of this trend are flavors from Peru, kimchi from Korea, as well as Persian foods: flavors coming from the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Ethnic flavors flooding the food and beverage marketplace [Food Business News]
African Flavors Trend is Big and Bold in 2017 [Food & Drink Resources]


Plant-Based Protein

plant based protein

Throughout 2017 there was an increase in plant-based proteins being offered as a substitute for meat, as was predicted. While this benefits vegetarians, many consumers involved in this trend were looking to substitute meat with plant-based proteins for a select number of meals.

Focus on Plant-Based Protein [Nutraceuticals World]
Nestle Names Plant-Based Food as Key Trend That is Leading Industry Growth [One Green Planet ]


Reduced Sugar

december TB reduced sugar ice cream

The trend of removing artificial sugars from foods grew over the course of 2017. Here are a few articles that discuss this trend, as well as examples of products with reduced sugar due to this trend.

Sugar reduction no longer a trend, it’s the norm – the market [Food Ingredients First]
Public near evenly divided on banning sugary beverages from SNAP [Food Business News]

Editors Note: This review is an edit to the January 2017 post below, Top Food Trend Predictions for 2017.

For more global food trends visit our collection of food trend content.


Is Harissa the Next Sriracha?

The new year is upon us. As we settle into our goals for the year, it is time to focus on the top food trends predicted for 2017. What is the next great super food? How are Millennials influencing the buying chain? Is harissa the next sriracha?

Many food and flavor trends for 2017 are predicted for growth from prior year trends. Some are new to the lists this year. Here, Kalsec® rounds up the most talked about trends for 2017.

Common Themes

Flexitarian. Plant-based focus. Personalized nutrition and eating. One of the largest macro-trends predicted for 2017 is the shift to customized, health-conscious eating with plant-based products taking center stage – at least some meals during the week.

Another large trend adding to the new product market is a focus on reducing food waste. From exact quantity meal delivery kits to using once-wasted byproducts in new and innovative ways, companies and consumers alike are reaching for ways to reduce waste without compromising flavor.

Well known macro-trends that are staying strong through 2017 include the clean label movement related to increases in “free from”, organic and the removal of synthetic ingredients; transparency in the supply chain; diversified and global food flavors with hyper-awareness on authentic local flavors; and eating for a functional benefit.

Whether in restaurant menus, new product launches or consumer research, these are the most common trend themes being discussed for 2017.

17 Sources for 2017

While Kalsec® cannot predict the future, we do help our customers stay ahead of the industry by closely monitoring food trends. Here is a compilation of 17 food trend prediction lists for 2017 from well-known and niche sources we are watching.


SOURCE: James Beard Food Editors [Posted December 8, 2016]

  1. Everything is French Again: French cuisine leads trends
  2. Make Way for Whey: Acid whey to be used, instead of a food-waste byproduct
  3. Cauliflower is the New Kale…
  4. …and Kalettes Will Be Next: The next trending vegetable
  5. Sorghum Becomes the New “It” Grain: The new popular ancient grain
  6. Frybread Jumps from State Fairs to Fine Dining: Fried dough moves into classier menus
  7. Where’s the Beef?: Seeing beef move from the star of a menu to more of a supporting player
  8. Delivery-Only Restaurants Take Root
  9. Fermentation Gains Traction
  10. Vegetables as King: Dishes with vegetables as the spotlight
  11. Sprinkles and Technicolor Desserts Take the Cake: Sweets exploding with color
  12. Waste Not, Want Not: A focus on reducing food waste
  13. Tataki It or Leave It: A cold appetizer gaining momentum

SOURCE: Whole Foods [Posted December 6, 2016]

  1. Wellness Tonics: A new set of tonics, tinctures and wellness drinks with roots in alternative medicine and global traditions
  2. Products from Byproducts: Using food-waste byproducts for new products
  3. Coconut Everything: Growth of coconut-based products
  4. Japanese Food, Beyond Sushi: Japanese-inspired eating
  5. Creative Condiments: Rare and unique sauces, dips and condiments trend
  6. Rethinking Pasta: Non-traditional pasta bases and artisanal pastas take center stage
  7. Purple Power: Purple varieties of common foods, such as purple corn and purple asparagus gain popularity
  8. Flexitarian: Personalized healthy eating
  9. Mindful Meal Prep: Conscious meal choices based on more than taste, such as stretching value, reducing food waste or saving time

SOURCE: Grubhub [Posted December 13, 2016] Grubhub analyzing food order data from 2016. The article also covers the 5 most popular dishes in 2016 and the most popular dishes ordered by city in 2016. The forecast for dish popularity in 2017 is based on orders in 2016.

  1. Ternera: 1781 percent increase in orders throughout 2016
  2. Tamales: 456 percent increase in orders
  3. Poke: 169 percent increase in orders
  4. Spam Musubi: 161 percent increase in orders
  5. Takoyaki: 139 percent increase in orders
  6. Sancocho: 126 percent increase in orders
  7. Brisket: 95 percent increase in orders
  8. Tater Tots: 85 percent increase in orders
  9. Pho: 78 percent increase in orders
  10. Patacones: 48 percent increase in orders

SOURCE: McCormick

  1. Rise & Shine to Global Tastes: Breakfast options with big, global flavors
  2. Plancha – Flat-out Grilling: Grilling on a plancha, or a thick, flat slab of cast iron, is growing in popularity
  3. Egg Yolks – The Sunny Side of Flavor: Egg yolks leave breakfast behind
  4. Modern Med: Melding Eastern Mediterranean ingredients with Western European classics
  5. Sweet on Pepper: Peppercorns paired with sweet recipe components

SOURCE: Comax Flavors [Posted December 3, 2016]

  1. Flower Power: Floral inspired flavors
  2. Spice is Nice: Due to globalization of palates, once exotic spices are growing
  3. Smoke Out: Hot and cold smoking of foods, not just meats is seeing an upward swing
  4. Nostalgia Remix: Comfort foods of childhood are being reinvented

SOURCE: Food Technology [Posted December 28, 2016] Food Technology magazine is published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

  1. Food Taxes – Mo’ Money for Local Governments: Taxes on “less than healthy” food items like soda
  2. It’s All About Me!: Personalized nutrition and less interest in government appointed guidelines
  3. Food Waste in the Spotlight: Imperfect produce acceptance and better waste management for big companies
  4. Plant Popularity: Plant-based foods galore
  5. A Sweeter Balance: Sugar as a focus, both for reduction and labeling issues
  6. Convenience Becomes Personal: Meal kits and delivery services for individual tastes and diets
  7. Fast Forward, Fresh!: Better alignment with today’s food lifestyles
  8. Intentional Snacking: Snacking with nutritional purpose
  9. Even Safer Food: Better labeling, FSMA compliance and food analysis
  10. Flexing for Shorter Shelf Life: Intelligent packaging for perishable foods
  11. Personalized Smart Bars: Personalized nutrition based on individuals’’ physical needs

SOURCE: Innova, as published in Food Ingredients First [Posted November 14, 2016]

  1. Clean Supreme: Total transparency in labeling
  2. Disruptive Green: Plant-based focus
  3. Sweeter Balance: Reducing sugar for health but maintaining flavor
  4. Kitchen Symphony: Authentic ethnic flavors
  5. Body in Tune: Personalized nutrition and eating for health
  6. Plain Sophistication: Back to basics and a focus on simple, traditional, and/or historical
  7. Encapsulating Moments: Targeting products for specific moments or feelings
  8. Kids – Beyond Pester Power: Catering to the future foodies
  9. Fuzzy Borders: Food category crossovers and mashups
  10. Seeds of Change: Chia, hemp and other seeds are getting attention

SOURCE: Mintel [Posted November 11, 2016]

  1. In Tradition We Trust: Recognizable products rather than revolutionary
  2. Power to the Plants: Expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations
  3. Waste Not: Eliminating food waste
  4. Time is of the Essence: Time required for food preparation and consumption becomes influential
  5. The Night Shift: Evening-focused fare to help relaxation before bedtime
  6. Balancing the Scales – Health for Everyone: Healthy food becoming more available and affordable

SOURCE: Datassential, as published on Smart Brief [Posted December 12, 2016]

  1. Dukkah: Egyptian dukkah spice blends
  2. Agrodolce: Italian sweet-and-sour condiment
  3. Cajeta: Mexican reduction of goat’s milk to caramelization
  4. Avocado Oil: As an alternative oil in cooking, dressings and condiments
  5. Galangal: Southeast Asian root with a sharper flavor than ginger
  6. Next-Level Seaweed: New varieties
  7. Finger Limes: Australian fruit with juice vesicles similar in texture to caviar
  8. Umeboshi: Pickled and fermented Japanese plums
  9. Chermoula: North African paste similar to pesto or chimichurri
  10. Tobiko: Flying fish roe
  11. Gose: Top-fermented German wheat beer
  12. Teff: Small Ethiopian grain
  13. Zhug: Yemeni hot sauce
  14. Karashi: Japanese mustard
  15. Sambal: Indonesia chili sauce

SOURCE: Food & Drink Resources [Posted October 14, 2016]

  1. Pasta is Still So Back In
  2. Khachapuri: Georgian dish of bread, cheese and eggs, similar to American pizza with an egg on top
  3. Seaweed
  4. It’s Hot in Here: Harissa gains popularity
  5. Asian Peasant Food
  6. Oko Nam Yaki: Asian savory pancakes
  7. Meatless Entrees
  8. Jackfruit: As a meat substitute
  9. Dragonfruit
  10. Souping: Fruit soups served cold as the next smoothie craze
  11. Flavored Butters
  12. Fresh Cheeses
  13. Compressed Sawdust: For open-fire cooking in restaurants
  14. Incense: Burned with or under dishes to give another level to the sensory experience
  15. Especially Dark: Smoked, charred and roasted characteristics
  16. No Soda: Sparkling water continues to trend
  17. Crowlers: Stand-alone beer canning option for microbreweries
  18. Teatotalism on the Rise: Creative mocktails gain popularity
  19. New (ish) Restaurant Concepts: Melding concepts for new menu items
  20. Transparent Menus: Everything from calories to sourcing on the menu

SOURCE: Market Watch [Posted November 7, 2016]

  1. The Next Superfood: Moringa
  2. The Next Buzzword: Regenerative grazing
  3. The Next Ingredient: Something consumers understand
  4. The Next Healthy Beverage: Plant waters
  5. The Next Meat Alternative: Jackfruit
  6. The Next Natural Food Dye: Spirulina

SOURCE: Sterling Rice Group

  1. Wake + Cake: Dessert at breakfast
  2. Dosha Dining: Foods based upon individuals’ natural constitutions
  3. Plant Butchery: Plant-based mock versions of meat products are showing up on the butcher’s counter
  4. Food Waste Frenzy: Focus on new uses for once-wasted food items
  5. Snackin’ Sardines: Sardines get attention for protein-rich snacking
  6. Noodle on This: Branching out from Americanized lo mein noodles to more authentic experiences
  7. Mocktail Mixology: Non-alcoholic gourmet mixed drinks
  8. Goat! Get It.: The next influential protein
  9. Cook + Connect: Communal dining experiences and fleet farming movements open new opportunities
  10. Migratory Meals: Refugees and immigrants bring their cultural foods to their new homes

SOURCE: Baum + Whiteman

  1. Why Falling Food Prices are Killing Restaurants:Restaurants struggle as falling food prices while increasing rents, wages and other business costs are creating a larger gap between restaurant and eating at home costs, but gastronomic elite restaurants are booming
  2. Restaurants without Seats; Seats without Restaurants: Increasing popularity of delivery only restaurants as well as “home based” cooking for meal delivery and meal kit services, all run via the internet
  3. Cauliflower Marches On: Vegetables continue to become more prominent on the plate and the vegetarian/flexitarian trend remains strong
  4. Artisan Butchers Strike Back: As a counter-trend to the vegetable focused movement, “butcher-to-table” trend of artisanal butchery, new cuts of meat, specialty meat shops and nose to tail butchering
  5. Breakfast is Becoming Brunch: The rise of all-day-breakfast and weightier, more substantial early day offerings
  6. Hail Kale…and Farewell: Kale is losing traction, but seaweed is gaining speed
  7. Fast-Casual Growth – Is There No End?: There is a strong growth of fast casual dining, but the market might be getting saturated – where only those that differentiate themselves will survive
  8. Bowls, They Say: Bowls as a serving medium (acai, ramen, bibimbab) are gaining momentum
  9. Oddball Ice Creams Getting Hot: Ice cream as a platform for creative innovations, including freakshakes, Thai rolled ice cream, frozen yogurt in cotton candy and savory ice creams
  10. Restaurants Surrounded by Wolves: Restaurant dilution through retail spaces (Moleskin has a meal-serving café) and brands competing against their own customers (Kellogg’s is opening a cereal restaurant in Time Square)
  11. Ramping Up the Spice…And Then Offsetting It: More complex spice and heat is still trending, often with a sweet element to offset it
  12. Where to Look for Innovation: Innovation moves from restaurateurs to capital entrepreneurs
  13. Vegetables are the New Comfort Foods: Vegetable recipe searches and pins are outperforming more traditional comfort foods such as mac and cheese

SOURCE: National Restaurant Association

Top 20 Food Trends

  1. New Cuts of Meat: Cuts like shoulder tender, oyster steak and Vegas strip steak
  2. Street Food-Inspired Dishes: Versions of dumplings, tempura or kabobs
  3. Healthful Kids’ Meals
  4. House-Made Charcuterie
  5. Sustainable Seafood
  6. Ethnic-Inspired Breakfast Items: Such as chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes
  7. House-Made Condiments
  8. Authentic Ethnic Cuisine
  9. Heirloom Fruit and Vegetables
  10. African Flavors
  11. Ethnic Spices: Like harrisa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi
  12. House-Made Sausage
  13. House-Made Pickles
  14. Ancient Grains: Kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin and more
  15. House-Made/Artisan Ice Cream
  16. Whole Grain Items in Kids’ Meals
  17. Protein-Rich Grains and Seeds: Such as hemp, chia, quinoa and flax
  18. Artisan Cheeses
  19. Savory Desserts
  20. Gourmet Items in Kids’ Meals

Top 10 Concept Trends

  1. Hyper-Local Sourcing: Restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items
  2. Chef-Driven Fast-Casual Concepts
  3. Natural Ingredients/Clean Menus
  4. Environmental Sustainability
  5. Locally Sourced Produce
  6. Locally Sourced Meat and Seafood
  7. Food Waste Reduction
  8. Meal Kits: Pre-measured and/or prepared raw ingredients for home cooking
  9. Simplicity/Back to Basics
  10. Nutrition

SOURCE: Sensory Effects

  1. Artisanal/Craft/Local Flavors
  2. Limited Time Offerings (LTO)
  3. Ethnic and Worldly Foods: Especially the “East meets West” macro trends
  4. Clean Label
  5. Savory, Spicy and Sweet Flavors
  6. Tropical Fruits and Flowers

SOURCE: Flavor and the Menu

  1. Salad’s Crisper Focus: Crunchier greens, more substance and more style lead salad innovation
  2. Japan’s Comfort Cuisine: Izakaya fare takes the spotlight
  3. Small Potatoes Go Big: The small potatoes have big versatility as a safe platform for flavor innovation
  4. Skillet Sensation: As a carrier to comfort foods, skillets offer a new medium for spins on traditional fare with a rustic influence
  5. Mindful on a Mission: A holistic approach, being thoughtful and intentional in all aspects of dish development
  6. Chickpeas Go Chic: Emerging food as a menu superstar
  7. Seafood’s Modern Hook: Flavor-forward seafood in all forms is a sustaining trend
  8. Guajillo Gains Ground: As the next hot chile
  9. Next-Gen Nachos: Innovation with an “anything goes” attitude in this fan favorite food
  10. Next-Level Non-Alcoholic Beverages: A refreshing change with artisanal mixology spilling into the non-alcoholic realm

SOURCE: bon appétit [Posted December 23, 2016]

  1. Cauliflower Won the Popular Vote
  2. I’d Like to Place an Order for Delivery: Restaurants moving to not having a seating area, only delivery
  3. The After Dinner Drink – Amaro: An Italian bittersweet herbal liqueur
  4. Nutritional Yeast, More Delicious Than It Sounds: Umami-rich vegan condiment that is moving mainstream
  5. Adaptogens, a Totally Real Word, We Swear: Ground natural supplements to relieve stress
  6. The Return of the Old-School American Pizza Joint: Neapolitan is out, and doughy old-school American pies are back in fad
  7. The Entire Yogurt Lineup: New sources of milk for yogurts, such as sheep and coconut milk
  8. Charcoal is Good for You?: As a purifier/filter
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