Trending Now: Food and Flavor Predictions for 2016

You’d have to be living under a rock to miss the barrage of food trend predictions from the experts and pundits over the past few months. You may have seen that it’s the year of the cucumber! And it’s also the year of the pulse! (Pulses are lentils, beans and chickpeas.)  Each year at Barilla we sift through the noise and look for points of consensus and core principles that make the most sense.

First, the economic indicators all look quite positive for the foodservice industry in the year ahead; disposable incomes are up, unemployment is down around 5%, and gas prices are as low as they’ve been in a decade. It’s not perfect, with minimum wage pressure and a labor shortage expected to challenge foodservice operators, but pent up demand for foodservice should continue to be fulfilled in 2016.

Reading the collective tea leaves from Datassential, Mintel and Technomic, among others, there were some common predictions from the experts. For a roundup of trend stories, see “Good to Know.” And watch for more trend updates in future editions right here!

Spicy: Everyone agrees that consumers are craving fiery foods. Sriracha’s ascendance was only the tip of the iceberg! Expect more spicy menu items, everything from Italian calabrian chilies to Korean gochujang and Moroccan harissa.

Barilla insight: Spicy pasta dishes, from hot & spicy mac and cheeses and spicy Mexican-flavored pastas to authentic Italian fare with ‘Nduja (a spicy sausage from southern Italy), calabrian chilies or even red pepper flakes, are a great way to capitalize on this trend and keep Italian food contemporary and relevant.

Here are some of our favorite spicy pasta dishes:

Charred & Burnt: It’s an evolution of the popular smoky BBQ, and a love affair with live-fire cooking. Give consumers the “burnt ends” and get aggressive with cooking techniques for everything from vegetables to cocktail garnishes.

Barilla insight: Using charred and burnt, roasted and toasted flavors are a natural fit with whole grain pastas, and one of our keys for successful flavor pairing.  Especially when combined with vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or winter squashes, it’s a match made in heaven.

Here are some of our favorite dishes using this technique:

Vegetables at the Center: When consumer interest in sustainability and health meets the ever-climbing prices for proteins like beef, it’s time for vegetables and produce in general to take a star turn. We first noticed this trend in 2015, and expect demand to grow in the year ahead. Restaurants are finding success featuring produce with protein as a complement, using spicy and fire-cooking techniques to great effect.

Barilla insight: Pasta is a natural platform for “Veg-Centric” offerings, providing a cost-effective and familiar base that makes a vegetable focused dish more substantial.

Here are some of our favorite veg-centric pasta dishes: