Trending: 2017

It’s our favorite time of year…the trend prediction season. The big reveal of food trend predictions is Christmas for food industry professionals and here at Nikken, we are always inspired and sometimes surprised by what is expected in the coming year. We could wait but these lists are so good and chock full of macro trends that we can’t resist giving our perspective now. Besides, we can always share the others later.

Take a look and you will see that the predicted shifts mean big things for our industry in how and where consumers dine and of course, what they eat.

Trend Overview

We saw some consistent themes from the trends between both lists and highlight them here:

CONNECT – You might not see it for the consumers’ faces in their screens as they walk down city streets, but they yearn to connect in person as well as online. This desire is challenging the very structure of traditional restaurant with more than a whisk as options like boxed delivery meals and pop up chef run dinner parties bring consumers together.

  The Changing Face of the Restaurant – Dubbed the “virtual restaurant”, many delivery ventures, chains and startups are looking for a share of the consumer’s dinner table. Beyond Blue Apron, Plated and more are “delivery hubs” that are nothing more than a chef and a commercial kitchen preparing dinner for a willing consumer to pick up and enjoy at home. David Chang of Momofoku has two delivery hubs called Maple and Ando and others like Pasta on Demand which relies on UberEats for its delivery are getting in on the action. The app, VizEat, allows home chefs to host themed dinner parties in their homes and charge guests for a local experience. It’s the restaurant if AirBNB designed it. Fast casuals step aside.


INDULGENCE – Consumers have always shown their propensity for all that is rich, gooey and indulgent, and the trends highlighted below certainly support an “eat dessert first” philosophy.

  Wake and Cake – Speaking of breakfast, why not include some chocolate in your next breakfast formulation? Loaded with anti-oxidants, dark chocolate is already satisfying consumers’ sugar pang in their Kind bars and Noosa yogurt and recent studies tout dessert for breakfast as the key to weight loss.3 Experts predict breakfast and brunch dessert menus –sweet!

  Oddball Ice Cream – Forget the single dip on a sugar cone or even a waffle cone. These are over-the-top creations starting with a milkshake topped with ice cream smooshed with every sugary, decadent treat possible. Called “frankenshakes” by some, these are meals in a glass hovering around 1,600 calories. At Black Tap in NYC, the Sweet and Salty takes a shake topped with ice-cream, M & M’s, peanut butter, pretzel sticks, peanut butter cups and hot fudge. Oh yeah, and whipped cream.


HEALTH – The health and wellness trend is here to stay. And these trends more than support consumers’ comfort with eating clean, balanced foods loaded with nutrients that make them feel good.

  Veggies– We have long been saying veggies would be the center of the plate and industry certainly concurs. When Tyson gets involved in Beyond Meat, who offers a plant-based burger that actually “bleeds”, it’s beyond time to take notice. Despite the paradox of the not-so-clean label of the plant based burger, 26% of consumers are eating less meat and now there’s even plant butchers like the Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis.4 Creating “ribs” or “meatballs” out of vegetables, these butchers might have meat-lovers rolling their eyes but they sure make consumers seeking alternative proteins happy.

  Bye-Bye Kale, Hello Seaweed, Ugly Veggies and Food Waste Frenzy – Could it be that the reign of kale has finally come to a glorious conclusion? Kale had its day and it’s being slowly edged out by sea veggies and more. Look for seaweeds like dulse in more packaged goods and on menus everywhere. Kale is the great transitional vegetable opening consumers’ palates to a variety of greens. Chefs are turning to chard, mustard greens and more and at the same time, have become conscious of using as much of the whole vegetable including tops and stems. And maybe we owe it all to kale.

  Dosha – A component of Ayurveda – the Indian belief that the key to health and wellness is a balance of mind, body and spirit – understanding dosha is becoming more popular in America. Three doshas, or energies, exist that control circulation, metabolic and growth in the body and each of us is ruled by one or two of them. Targeting eating around dosha is the principle practiced for total health and wellness.

 Mocktail Mixology – The art of mixology isn’t just for alcoholic beverages. Healthier with the addition of muddled herbs and spices which elevates even a lemonade to treat status commanding a heftier price tag. Flavored beverages especially those that focus on preserved and fermented flavors like switchels and barrel-aged ciders resonate health and wellness with consumers and offer a taste of the exotic.


INDIVIDUALITY – American consumers have been all about customization ever since they heard “have it your way.” We are a society that wants it how we want it, when we want it and at the price we want it at and these trends confirm this philosophy.

  Changing Face of Breakfast – Now served all-day (thanks McDonald’s!) or at your favorite taco QSR, breakfast is hot, hot, hot. And the texture of breakfast has also changed; perhaps to adjust to the extended hours, creamy and soft has been edge out by spicy, crispy and fried. Sriracha fried chicken and biscuit breakfast sandwiches; avocado, eggs and chorizo on bagels are tempting diners from 6 a.m. to midnight.

  Fiscally Responsible Eating – As wholesale grocery prices have fallen, supermarkets are passing along the savings to their customers to protect their own bottom lines which leads to people eating at home more, brown bagging it to work and eating out less at lunch. As a result, restaurants are struggling and may have to consider lowering prices which doesn’t help their bottom line.


UNIQUE FLAVOR / Ingredients

  Migratory Meals – Bringing home the flavors experienced from a trip is one of life’s greatest educational opportunities as is being open-minded to try a new restaurant from another region of the world. Persia, Syrian and Afghani flavors like pomegranate, sour cherry, fenugreek and orange blossom are expected to greet consumers in unique dishes like Chicken Stew with Pomegranate and Walnut.

  Offset Spice – The components of spice blends like Southeastern Asian curry are the focus here with the idea being to use not all of them but a few for lighter, refreshed flavors. This trend also takes inspiration from sriracha’s spicy sweet flavor as a launching pad for new flavors. Think jalapeno honey or spicy Thai watermelon salad.

  Goat Get It– Consumers already love the cheese but how about the meat? Whether the meat became mainstream by a couple of famous Chicago restaurants, The Girl and The Goat and Little Goat, or the fact that it’s lean, flavorful and comfortable with sour and spice, goat is poised to become the new meat on the menu.

Let’s see where these trends go in 2017 but in the meantime, we’d love to help you add a little YUM to your applications.



  3. Ibid.
  4. Baum+Whiteman