Trending Now: Food and Flavor Predictions for 2017

Here in the Barilla test kitchen, we couldn’t help but notice that the annual onslaught of food trend predictions from the experts and pundits over the past few months are even crazier than usual. Everyone has an opinion about what we will or should be eating in 2017! Each year at Barilla, we try to sift through the noise and look for points of consensus and core principles that make the most sense.

First, the economic indicators all look positive for the foodservice industry in the year ahead; disposable incomes are up, unemployment is down below 5%, and gas prices are as low as they’ve been in a decade. But there are clear winners and losers in trying to capture today’s consumer traffic and sales. National broad-menu chains and family-dining restaurants have been suffering the most, while independents and fast-casual concepts are connecting successfully with a younger “foodie” consumer.

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

2016-Modern-Casual-254Waste-Not? We Want More! There’s a lot of buzz around food waste, from using more of the proteins and vegetables that come in the back door, to using “ugly” produce, to pickling and preserving to extend the life of foods and capture the peak of the season. The hot frontier though is the concept of “upcycling,” which uses previously discarded trim and peelings in new ways to get them on the plate and out of the garbage bin. Think carrot tops, mushroom stumps, broccoli leaves, carrot and potato peels, and you’re on the right track. As this is both a better-for-the-planet and better-bottom-line movement, expect to see more of this in 2017 and the years beyond.

Barilla insight: As with so many trends, pasta is an ideal platform to carry and build a plate for creative use of “upcycled” produce. What about a carrot-top pesto, vegetarian Bolognese with fine-ground vegetable trim and mushrooms, or thickening sauces with pureed vegetables?

mediumcookingspicesThis Year’s Global Flavors Are… This category is always fun to watch, as the experts lobby for all manner of cuisines du jour. Filipino cuisine was a popular choice, with its compelling blend of Asian and Latin influences, and mix of BBQ cooking techniques and comfort-foods like noodles and rice dishes. It’s not hard to see why American palates could fall for the flavors of the Philippines.

Another likely suggestion is an extension of American’s long love affair with Mediterranean cuisines. Italian remains the most popular cuisine on American menus, and Spain’s small plates culture has changed the way we eat. But now new flavors from North Africa and the Middle East are on the rise, led by spicy condiments like Morocco’s harissa and chermoula, Yemen’s zhug or the fragrant aromatics of Eygpt’s ras al hanout and dukkah. Use of live fire techniques and alternative meats like lamb and goat are also part of the popularity.

Barilla insight: Pasta is a natural choice to help make less familiar flavors approachable and a comfortable order for the guest, while allowing their exotic appeal to take hold. Start with what you already have in the kitchen, and adapt a traditional Filipino noodle dish by using pasta in place of rice noodles. Make a slow-cooked sugo rich with Moroccan spices, and pair it with fettucine or bucatini. Elevate a street food like halal chicken with orzo.