This year, the National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 1,600 professional chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation, to tap into their insights about what foods, beverages, and culinary themes will be hot in 2016. Before I reveal their beverage predictions, here are the top 20 food trends for 2016 as predicted by America’s chefs:
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
- Locally grown produce
- Hyper-local sourcing
- Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
- Environmental sustainability
- Healthful kids' meals
- New cuts of meat
- Sustainable seafood
- House-made/artisan ice cream
- Ethnic condiments/spices
- Authentic ethnic cuisine
- Farm/estate branded items
- Artisan butchery
- Ancient grains
- Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
- Fresh/house-made sausage
- House-made/artisan pickles
- Food waste reduction/management
- Street food/food trucks
While none of the beverage trend predictions made the top 20, there are still some important forecasts on which the chefs reached a consensus.
In beverage alcohol, they predicted craft and artisan spirits, locally produced beer, wine and spirits, house-brewed beer, non-traditional liquors, and craft beer would be the hottest emerging trends on menus in 2016. For cocktails and cocktail ingredients, the chefs foresee on-site barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails, regional signature cocktails, food and beer pairings, and edible cocktails as the top 5 next big things.
Chefs have forecasted that the hot trends in non-alcohol beverages will be house-made or artisan soft drinks, gourmet lemonade, specialty iced tea, “mocktails,” and coconut water.
House-made/artisan soft drinks and house-brewed beer received the biggest bump in this year’s survey. Regional signature cocktails and food paired with spirits or cocktails were also mentioned among top 10 alcohol trends.
“True trends evolve over time, especially when it comes to lifestyle-based choices that extend into other areas of our everyday life,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning, but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions. No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry.”