Monday, 5 January 2009

Trends In Food

Where America goes, the rest of the western world is sure to follow sooner or later. So, as we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new one, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the Top 10 Food Trends of 2008, courtesy of TIME Magazine. Will these trends find their way across the big pond? Most of them will, for sure. So prepare yourself for European food trends of 2009.

1. Recession Dining

Extravagant dining is out - and budget cooking is in. The less well-off will be looking for restaurant bargains and cooking more often at home. The better off will be increasingly engaging in the culinary equivalent of purchasing a Toyota Prius - dining out on meatloaf with tomato ketchup.

Restaurants Tom Aikens, Lindsay House and Franklins announced closure and I suspect there will be many more to follow as customers continue to tighten their belts. And a sure sign is M&S running its "Dine in for £10" campaign.

2. Nanny-state food regulations

Americans were shocked when New York City introduced a law aimed at curbing obesity by requiring fast-food restaurants to post the calorie content of each menu item. Los Angeles City Council went even further, banning new fast-food restaurants from opening in some neighbourhoods for a year.

We're well ahead of the nation of snake-oil salesmen when it comes to consumer protection - and most of us are very happy to be so. But obesity has become a massive health time-bomb that may well lead to new food laws.

3. Salmonella Saintpaul

The US Food & Drug Administration reported 145 cases of sickness from the Saintpaul strain of salmonella. Initial blame fell on raw tomatoes, and millions of Americans stopped buying them before FDA officials eventually concluded that tainted jalapeno and Serrano peppers from Mexico were responsible.

Nothing will stop me eating chillies and luckily the EU has excellent food hygiene and public health services. But we've had many food scares, including BSE, e-coli and salmonella, and there are bound to be more to come in the future.

4. The war on bottled water

Once a tell-tale sign of the trendy consumer, bottled water is now considered acceptable only for distribution by the emergency services to people trapped underground. Restaurants and bars are taking this environmentally costly product off their menus and re-introducing tap water.

Britain is following closely in the footsteps of the US with this one. With carbon footprint a hot topic, the days of food and drink products containing fewer calories than are used in their manufacture and distribution are numbered.

5. The Clover coffee maker

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz liked this coffee machine so much, he bought the company. Now every branch of Starbucks is promoting "the world's best cup of brewed coffee". Nothing to do with the company's flagging sales in the wake of its anti-union activities and the economic recession.

Back in the 1970s, Brits were driven insane by adverts starring Victor Kiam, the man who said he liked Remington razors so much that he bought the company. To quote from 70s chart-toppers The Who - "We won't get fooled again".

6. Caffeinated foods

As an alternative to coffee, US food scientists have created a raft of caffeinated foods, including sunflower seeds, potato chips and candies, leading public-health officials to complain that all the new "energy foods" could cause a spike in caffeine-related health problems.

Brits drink plenty of coffee, Coke and Red Bull, but with greater health awareness and following successful litigation against MillerCoors in the US it seems likely that the fad for caffeinated food & drink products will wane.

7. Goat

Goat meat is starting to appear on menus across the US. The meat is leaner and more healthy than traditional alternatives and hence appeals to the health-conscious middle classes. Several smart restaurants in California and NYC are offering dishes of roasted baby goat, or kid.

No, they're not kidding. Although curry goat in Britain is often made from mutton, Caribbean and Islamic communities do consume some goat. But for low fat meat alternatives, ostrich is the British foodies' favourite.

8. The backlash against local food

There's some serious campaigning against locavores by supermarkets claiming that shipping in giant trucks equals low carbon footprint. But those in favour of local sourcing point out that the supermarkets transport huge quantities of processed and packaged food, negating any savings.

Right-wing food bloggers (yes, there are some well-known ones) will back the supermarkets, while left-wingers argue for an exclusive diet of unprocessed, local food. Sense, as usual, lies somewhere in-between the two extremes.

9. The year's most celebrated chef

In a story worthy of a Hollywood movie, stunned foodies learnt in 2007 that Thomas Keller's famous protégé Grant Achatz had been diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Miraculously, after 6 months treatment at UCMC he was cured with little or no permanent damage to his palate.

If you haven't already got a copy of Alinea, get someone to buy you one. It was my favourite of the 2008 restaurant books - knocking A Day At El Bulli and The Fat Duck Cookbook into 2nd and 3rd place. And if you can get to Chicago...

10. Mex-Italian

After years of serving up "Italian food", Mexican chefs have declared UDI and created their own unique cuisine. With a little promotional help from rapper-turned-chef Coolio, Mex-Italian is the latest culinary fad and the Mex-Italian restaurants of Seattle and Minneapolis are the places to be seen.

The last two cuisines to take off in the UK were Japanese and Spanish. Less Mexican food is sold than almost everywhere else in Europe, but forecasts are for rapid expansion. So... Mex-Kashmiri or Mex-Szechuan next?


The Boston Foodie said...

Great minds think alike! I just posted a trends piece, too. Seems to all be driven by the new economy.

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Jeena said...

Happy new year Aiden.

Mike said...

Maybe the reason there's so little Mexican food in Britain is that people have been put off by eating at Wahaca, where the Times described Thomasina Miers' food as "like M&S ready meals". Or maybe M&S is closing all those Simply Food stores because their ready meals taste like the food at Wahaca. Now, Mex-Mongolian could be interesting. Yako-taco, anyone?

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Great post as ever, I went off on one of Mike's links and was lost in the Times for a while.

Hope all is well at the new place.

Trig said...

Starting soon, Amanda. Watch this space.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Great post! I'm very interested to read about food trends since I seem to miss everything until it's too late :)

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