Acai berries. Chia seeds. Kale. Coconut water. Fat.
Before you start singing the childhood tune, "one of these things is not like the other," think again. Yes, you read that correctly--fat is the latest in a long line of up-and-coming foods predicted to trend in 2016.
According to CCD Innovation, a company that tracks and dissects culinary trends, "Consumers are getting over fat phobia, thanks to a renewed understanding of the role natural, animal-based fats play in maintaining wellness."
Full-fat dairy, once the dirtiest of words, has been sneakily making a comeback. Think Bulletproof coffee, a coffee blended with a specific butter and oil that has enjoyed an almost cult-like following since 2009. The American Butter Institute has witnessed massive success with their butter campaign as sales recently reached a 40-year-high. Other great sources of popular fatty foods are those that contain monounsaturated fats, such as salmon and olive oil.
So, how does the proverbial fat rise to the top? Food trends are measured in several ways. One popular way is for independent companies and associations to release their own reports, drawing on the advice and research of chefs and other culinary professionals. Campbell Soup Company relies on an annual Culinary TrendScape report, which lists top food themes as predicted by an internal research team. The National Restaurant Association also releases an annual survey of 1,575 chefs who have an eye turned toward hot trends.
Respected "foodies" combine with the proliferation of social and other media outlets to help propel certain foods and trends into the spotlight. Typically, a new item will appear first in an innovative chef's kitchen, an ethnic restaurant or has been created by a small food company owner. If the item gains popularity, it will start showing up on food truck menus, blogs, in high-end cooking stores and in some casual food chains. Recipe websites will follow suit showcasing the new food item until lastly it shows up in fast food restaurants (check out Chick-fil-A's new kale-broccolini salad) and on grocery store shelves.
Even though a typical food trend tends to run its course after about 18 months to two years, you'll know when a food has gone from a rarity to the real deal when it moves from cutting-edge restaurant menus and into the mainstream (think: gluten).
While celery may never see its day, trend-setting foodies should keep their eyes on these items in 2016:
Probiotics: Fun fact: The millions of microbes and bacteria that live in our guts need to be fed on the regular to keep us healthy and happy—and possibly help ward off a slew of illnesses, from colds and weight gain to bad skin and bloating. Thanks to the growing presence of probiotics in our foods, our intestines can now relax. Cultivate your own gut environment by eating probiotic foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, soft cheeses, kefir and miso.
Sea Vegetables: "Vegetables" once only found in the sea are making their way to your grocery store and onto restaurant menus in the form of pastas, soups, salads and snack foods. Kelp is low in cholesterol and high in fiber and other nutrients. Another 30+ varieties of edible sea veggies are known for having anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.
Creative Coffees: Move over lattes, there are far cooler drinks coming to your town. Cold brew, nitro coffee and siphon coffee are the latest vaguely-descriptive, yet delicious coffee drinks popping up on trendy coffeehouse menus from Houston to New York City.
Cauliflower: Once thought of as simply a breadstick or pizza crust substitute, this chameleon of cruciferous vegetables has been transformed into dishes such as rice and steaks. It is low in calories, fat free and contains plenty of anti-inflammatory goodness—eat up!
Ancient Grains: Quinoa can finally take a backseat to some oldie-but-goodie grains. Try farro--which is calcium-rich and stuffed full of protein, fiber, magnesium and B vitamins--for its earthy flavor and chewy texture. Millet is another great grain to try that can help regulate blood pressure and improve heart health. Other grains making waves include teff, amaranth, spelt, kaniwa and freekah.
Spiralized Vegetables: Is it time to toss your pasta in favor of "zoodles"? To turn veggies such as zucchini, carrots and squash into "noodles," use a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. Top the thin veggie strips with marinara or other sauce, use in salads or casseroles, or in an Asian-inspired dish.
Ugly Produce: From Trader Joe's ex-president's Daily Table retail store to online startups such as Imperfect Produce, companies are finding ways to save imperfect produce from the landfill. Next time you see a totally twisted turnip, be sure not to judge it by its appearance.
Smoke and Fire: Not just for meat anymore, new foods subjected to smoking and charring include fruits, vegetables, butters, condiments and cocktails. Smoke can add flavor and depth to any dish and, as our palates expand, so will this trend.
Crickets: Already common to the street-food stalls of Asia, insects have been slowly crawling their way into North American cuisine and are set to make a big leap onto your plate in 2016. Inexpensive, made of 65% protein, low in fat and good for sustainable farming, crickets can already be found in protein bars and are showing up as a flour substitute.