Industry News | December 3, 2013

NRA Rounds Up Hottest Culinary Trends of 2014

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The National Restaurant Association (NRA) each year prepares its What’s Hot culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to find which food and beverage items will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014.

The top 10 food trends for 2014 are:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Environmental sustainability
4. Healthful kids' meals
5. Gluten-free cuisine
6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
7. Children's nutrition
8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Farm/estate branded items

 “Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “True trends, as opposed to temporary fads, show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” says Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, ACF national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

The What’s Hot in 2014 survey also found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition, and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items. The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque, and eggs benedict.

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

 Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition. Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

Also included in the What’s Hot in 2014 survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one-third (33 percent) said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.

When it comes to technology trends, the chefs ranked menus on tablet computers as the top trend, followed by smartphone apps for consumers (ordering, reservations, daily deals, etc.), smartphone apps for chefs (recipes, table management, POS tracking, etc.), mobile payment, and social media marketing.

The NRA surveyed 1,283 American Culinary Federation members October through November 2013, asking them to rate 258 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2014.