Hot Food Trends for 2012 Include Continued Interest in Ethnic, Southern Cooking

Processed food manufacturers will introduce more products that reflect greater use of whole grains, leaner proteins (including poultry and seafood), more mono and poly-​unsaturated fats (including specialty oils) and more vegetables, according to "Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2012," from Packaged Facts. At the same time, single-​serve fresh fruit and vegetable options are expected to boost the nutritional value and drop the caloric content of restaurant meals, especially those at quick serve restaurants targeting kids. This food trend outlook report also predicts that fusion will be the primary trend when it comes to ethnic food, particularly in relation to food trucks, with Korean influences especially strong. Interest will also increase in all aspects of Peruvian cuisine, well beyond ceviche and seafood, including greater appreciation for potato dishes. 

The flavors and ingredients of Southern cooking will remain big, adds David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, with improvisation or customization to incorporate international influences, especially those of Central and South America. Food processors will continue the trend to source ingredients and label foods from a specific state or region (e.g. Vermont cheddar, Northwest raspberries). With historical rather than geographic specificity, gastronomical archaeology and the use of ancient ingredients to develop menus will also increase.

With center-​of-​plate proteins, "Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2012" predicts higher demand for more unusual cuts, species and animal parts coinciding with the increase in local butcher shops as an outgrowth of the food craft do-​it-​yourself (DIY) movement. More humanely raised veal will offer new flavor profiles, while foodservice operators and food retailers will increase their commitment to sustainable seafood, including more trial and promotion of fresh sardines and anchovies. Traceable, local catch is likely to appear more frequently on independent and high-​end restaurant menus. On a more everyday level, affordability and appealing taste will keep sausages and hot dogs popular in 2012, with ethnic interpretations generating special interest. Similarly, chicken wings will remain a favorite owing to inventiveness of seasonings, marinades and dipping sauce flavors, while savory pies and pasties will make more appearances on more restaurant menus.

In foodservice, more creative, vegetable-​centric sandwiches and center-​of-​the-​plate items will be evident. Winter squash, turnips, specialty mushrooms and greens of all sorts are predicted to gain in popularity along with huckleberries, gooseberries and cloudberries. In greater competition with foodservice, frozen food manufacturers will find more ways to add value via extra vegetables.

Updated takes on classic desserts will continued to be featured, with tall layer cakes growing in popularity. Interest in pies will shift to miniature versions, with varietal and less familiar fruit pies showcased. Butterscotch, pear, lemon and lime, and corn will be among the dessert ingredients gaining traction.

"Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2012" also predicts that growth in farmers markets will slow due to over-​saturation in key urban markets and, more generally, insufficient infrastructure to satisfy the growing demand for locally grown, directly marketed food. More locally grown food will be available and promoted through conventional supermarkets as well as portable, single-​serve ready-​to-​eat fresh fruit and vegetable snacks. At the same time, an increase in agritourism will get more Americans visiting farms and taking cooking classes, while sustainable urbanism tours will inform and educate about raising chickens in the city, composting, and beekeeping. More approaches to the direct marketing of DIY food crafts will also be tested and tried, with the added benefit that new trends will likely be spurred by one-​off small products catching attention via social media.

[Source:  "Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2012."  Packaged Facts.  20 Jan. 2012.  Web.  9 Feb. 2012.]