Trending: 2016

We are one month into 2016 (which – frankly – is a little overwhelming). The holidays are over and we are back in the groove of things. Each year, we here at Nikken look forward to the food trend predictions by a variety of industry experts. We even made our own predictions the past two years but thought it might be more fun to take a look at several of these top ten lists and see where they agree and disagree. Of course, we can’t resist offering our own perspective as well.

Here are the 2016 trend prediction lists from our favorite industry experts:


Nikken Trend Image 2016_3



So there you have it. Quite a lot going on in our industry but now we are going to boil things down and offer our take on which trends are the most impactful and what seems to be the overriding larger consumer and industry issues driving these changes.

“Doorstep Dinners” – We like this phrase coined by Food Business News. And we mean in all ways – whether consumers do the cooking themselves or it’s delivered fully cooked. Grocery stores and restaurants alike are making it easier than ever to frequent their establishments. Whether it is via Uber’s new food delivery service or Amazon’s drone, it is easier than ever for consumers to get the ingredients they need – FAST. Another way to do this is one of the many meal prep delivery options out there like Blue Apron or Plated. Healthy, unique and flavorful meals remove the “what’s for dinner?” plaguing consumers on a daily basis because they’ll already have a plan.

Ethnic Flavors – As long as consumers travel, chefs experiment and food TV has viewers, consumers will be obsessed with ethnic flavors. It is one trend that shows little sign of ending but always changes to a different country or region. This time around African flavors are expected to tantalize consumers taste buds and rile up their wanderlust. The National Restaurant Association predicts African flavors to be their #1 hot trend this year, with 20% more chefs expecting bigger growth than in 2015. And Technomic’s labeling the prevalence and newly evolved awareness of ethnic condiments like North African dukka or harrisa or Korean gochujang, “the Sriracha effect” is on point. Watching sriracha find a spot in American fridges next to the ketchup and yellow mustard has been mind-blowing.

Street Food – Whether a result of the pace of consumer’s lifestyles, their weariness of traditional QSR offerings, their willingness to experiment with ethnic flavors or the sundry of TV shows glamorizing food trucks, street foods have become more than just a lunchtime quick, cheap snack. Street food is impacting American menus IN the restaurant as consumers are increasingly being tempted with street food inspired menus full of ethnically flavored small plates like dumplings, tacos or lettuce wraps. Quite a reversal of roles…

Burnt – Call it charred, toasted, roasted, smoked, or just plain burnt but that campfire flavor seems to be fueling a lot of creativity on the menu and in the kitchen. Our local STL favorite, Pastaria, has a charred Brussels sprouts, mozzarella, béchamel and preserved lemon pizza that sends us over the moon. There’s nothing like a little smoke to keep things interesting.

QSR’s Turned UP – The fast casual boom has definitely incited a reaction from their faster cousins. QSR’s are broadening dayparts (think McDonald’s serving breakfast all day), serving alcohol (Taco Bell), allowing more consumer customization and focusing on décor and the overall dining experience. There even is a new category: QSR Plus. Coined by Technomic, QSR Plus concepts are focused on “elevating quality, freshness, and service perceptions” from typical QSR’s towards more fast casual as QSR Plus concepts Chik-fil-A and Potbelly have.7

DRIVERS – The drivers behind consumers’ food and dining choices are quite revealing about their lifestyles.

Health – First and foremost for most consumers is health. Eating healthy is perceived by consumers as a way to manage their overall health and 88% of consumers are willing to pay more for healthy foods.8 This is a driver that is only going to become more important.

Customization – Consumers want their food the way they want it and gravitate towards products and options that offer customization. One only has to look at the recent success of new fast casual pizza concepts, like Blaze or Pie Five, to explain this driver.

Convenience – The delivery services of meal plans like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh or grocery services like Peapod offer the consumer flexibility and convenience. Busy lifestyles depend on it.

Technology backlash – Smart phone use is at an all time high but the desire for consumers to experience handcrafted, artisan products balances out the dependence on technology. There is a high level of respect by consumers for chefs and companies willing to handcraft just about anything.

Boredom – Call it the need to be entertained or to experience just about everything but the desire to try different ethnic flavors gives consumers the chance to shake things up at home and when dining out. Ethnic flavors and products define the expression “variety is the spice of life.”


Nikken ingredients adjust to any trend, ethnic or otherwise. Our real food ingredients not only satisfy consumer labeling demands but also deliver the umami taste they desire. Our technical team is ready to help you in your next trend driven application. Contact us today.



  1. Sterling Rice Group
  2. Whole Foods
  3. Baum+ Whiteman:
  4. Technomic
  5. NRA
  6. Food and Wine:
  7. Technomic.
  8. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Health & Wellness Survey