If 2015 was the year of eating local, 2016 brought with it new concepts and terms to the plate, and we may never be the same.
#1. Meal kits. Was there anyone this year who didn’t consider buying a meal kit? From the start of the year, the dinner-in-a-box idea appealed to people who wanted to feel like they were cooking, but didn’t have the time or creativity to invest. The packages contained every ingredient measured out in perfect portions. At about $8-$12 per serving, the boxes are often cheaper than take-out for a family of four. Companies like Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh recognized our growing love of fresh food and Instagram-worthy cooking. The options for varying diets only continue to grow.
#2. 3D food printers. In April, the second 3D Food Printing Conference was held in Venlo, The Netherlands. The conference wrapped up with a demonstration of a wholly 3D printed dinner for six, catered by the world’s first 3D printed food restaurant, Food Ink. (Now touring). The Dutch designed “byFlow” food printer demonstrated its skills printing foods including caviar, hummus, chocolate, meat, pizza dough and goat cheese. And since no proper 3D meal could be served with a traditional table setting, byFlow created napkin-rings, cutlery, porcelain plates and ceramic vases. The technology has been around a few years, but it became a buzz worthy this year as a number of companies raced to create better consistency in the food products.
#3. Values… not just value. Customers were all about investigating restaurant policies on GMOs, animal welfare, employee wages, sustainability and non-additive clean-eating options.
#4. Restaurant wages. When ethics and economics are called into question, you’re in for one hot issue. In 1968, a minimum wage earner was able to stay out of poverty. Thanks in part to the grassroots movement “Fight for 15”, some cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle now pay beyond the federal standard, but many others are fighting for their cities or states to raise as well. At election time, AZ, CO, Maine and Washington all voted to raise wages to $12 an hour, although President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice in Andrew F. Puzder to lead the Department of Labor has some thinking it’s unlikely we’ll see a federal wage hike in the next four years. Puzder previously opposed the Obama administration’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25.
#5. Poké. Ubiquitous in Hawaii surf shacks, gas stations and beyond, Poké began to get plated in upscale restaurants from coast to coast this year. Pronounced POKE-AY, traditional poké is made of chunks of tuna marinated in soy and sesame. Tuna can be substituted for pretty much anything chunked because the term “poké” in Hawaiian means “to section, slice or cut.”
#6. Kombucha. The origins of this sugar-sweetened, fizzy, fermented tea aren’t clear—some estimate the Chinese drink is as old as 2000 years, while some think it’s closer to 200—but it likely hit your local trendy cafe at some point this year. In November, PepsiCo acquired Kevita, a small kombucha company for around 200 million, so even if it hasn’t you’re unlikely to miss it in the coming year.
#7. Kimchi. America’s taste for foods from afar continues to grow. This past year, you probably came across kimchi for the very first time. This traditional fermented dish of vegetables and spicy seasonings is so popular in South Korean cuisine, the average person will eat 40 pounds of kimchi annually. American restaurants were picking up the new topping, and home cooks were experimenting with kimchi as an exotic egg omelet or burger topping—or even PB&J… and kimchi.
#8. Tumeric. The bright spice that gives curry its yellow color came to the forefront this year as part of the growing healthy lifestyle movement. Among it’s medicinal superpowers are anti-infamation, antioxidants, brain boosting, heart disease lowering, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s preventing, and age and depression fighting.
#9. Clean eating. The clean eating crazed gained popularity in part thanks to the social media hashtags #cleaneating and #eatclean. While it began as a way to support eating whole, natural, minimally packaged foods—as opposed to the processed varieties—things got fuzzy when some companies tried to claim so-called healthy foods were better. Agave? No better for you than any other type of sugar. Cold-pressed juice? Really just concentrated sugar.