Trending Now: An Early Look At 3 Top Trends to Watch in 2021

Trend predictions from the experts, usually flooding in around this time of year, are a bit slower this time around. We’re not surprised, at a time when so much about what the future will look like in 6 months time could be summed up with a (shrug emoji).

That said, Technomic’s annual trend predictions are out, and featured some ideas that resonated with us, too. Among their top 7 trends were these 3:

“Menu Cleansing”

This means both streamlining and optimizing, reducing menu item counts as well as SKUs. But especially early in the year, expect a focus on foods for wellness, immunity and the environment. Plant-based fare fits right into this, with built-in advantages for carbon-footprint and the environment.

Barilla’s take: much more on this from our chefs in the Test Kitchen, but the double-pyramid for health and sustainability offers a helpful framework for “clean” innovation. With pasta at the foundation, and focusing on vegetables and legumes with small amounts of animal proteins, there are lots of inspiration points for this kind of R&D.

“Revisiting the Big 3 International Hotspots”

Italian, Mexican and Chinese food have long been the top ethnic cuisines in America, almost to the point that they don’t even feel “ethnic” anymore! But as menu streamlining happens, and family budgets tighten, these “tried and true” cuisines are well positioned to “survive the veto vote” among families ordering food for home consumption, as Technomic puts it. But just sticking to the classics won’t do – we all need some new twists to keep us interested. In the world of Italian foods, think the salmoriglio condiment, all manner of “cellos” in cocktails, and taking classic dishes like cacio e pepe or carbonara in new directions.

Barilla’s take: regional Italian flavors offer an instant dash of differentiation, newness and interest to already immensely popular cuisine. In addition, Italian is well suited to be a takeout/delivery cuisine, or even a meal-kit. Especially in the near term, these formats will be essential for restaurant operator survival. (link to regional Italian content on the site)

“New-mami Flavor Exploration”

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about umami, the “5th flavor” carrying savoriness to balance sour, salty, bitter and sweet. Technomic’s take is that operators will use umami ingredients and flavor builds to enhance comfort-food appeal. They cite nontraditional fruit vinegars (beyond apple cider), new mushrooms (e.g., candy cap, enokitake, etc.), protein swaps (e.g., fish/seafood meatballs or ragus, etc.), eggs on eggs, tomato jam, tamari sauce and trendy umami components from such as kosho, seaweed, fish and soy sauces and gochujang.

Barilla’s take: umami and pasta are a combination as old as parmesan! Aged cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes are already mainstays of the pasta menu. But even more intense umami builders are ripe for exploration too – think bottarga, uni, anchovy. And Asian cuisine’s rich umami pantry lends itself well to pasta too – from gochujang to koji and soy butter.