The year on a plate: a look at 2017’s incoming food trends in the Americas

As demographics' tastes and expectations change, so too will the businesses that serve them be expected to react, says Oliver Griffin

As we all know, food — like fashion, music, and geopolitics — moves in trends. Ingredients, cuisines and ethical eating fashions ebb and flow like the oceans. This will be no different in 2017. Food will be influenced by availability, a focus on health, and the flow of migration throughout the world.

Here are just a few examples of the trends set to rock restaurants across the Americas this year.

New cuisines

Over the next 12 months, caterers and restauranteurs should expect to see an influx of new cuisines. This will be attributed, in part, to the on-going refugee crisis in the Middle East.

“With all the world events and migrations of population due to global turmoil, there will continue to be more and more ethnic influences across all countries,” says Karen Malody FCSI, a management advisory services (MAS) consultant based in Oregon, US. “Especially Middle-eastern flavor influences that go beyond hummus.”

Of course, given those “world events”, this will mean an increase in Syrian food, one of the oldest cooking traditions in the world. With an influx of refugees being welcomed across the Americas, Syrian cuisine will surely start to leave an impression across the continent.

Goodbye, meat

Ok, so meat isn’t going to disappear completely, but it is going to start being less popular among omnivorous consumers.

“More and more omnivores will gravitate to a more plant-based diet,” explains Connecticut, US-based consultant John Turenne FCSI, president of Sustainable Food Systems. “Not only is it considered a healthier choice for our own wellbeing, but the consumption of less meat has proven to have significant environmental benefits.”

Malody agrees with him. “We will continue to see an emphasis on vegetables, legumes, pulses and grains,” she adds. “This is due to two simultaneous facts; protein prices continuously rising and also because plant-based, healthier eating will continue to be of high importance [to customers].”

Start thinking about your alternative protein sources, basically.

QSR in Latin America

Across Latin America, the QSR sector will see McDonald’s, Subway and Starbucks dominate across the continent. According to William Taunton FCSI, a Santiago-based consultant and president of FCSI Worldwide, popularity will be assured by incorporating local tastes onto proven menus.

Taunton says, “The food type in Latin America is quite different between countries [but] there are some common concepts many chains accommodate on their menus to be more local in — for example — Argentina, Brazil, Peru or Mexico.”

Peru-sing the options

When Latin and South America aren’t dining on all-American QSR options, the go-to choice is increasingly Peruvian cuisine. “Local foods from Peru right now is a trend in many countries,” Taunton adds.

While, as a continent, Latin American food is often unfairly overlooked, Peruvian cuisine has enjoyed something of a global fascination that is now going to bed down across South America. While specialities such as fish ceviche take the spotlight, homely dishes such as lomo saltado — a homey dish that uses steak strips as the main ingredient — will start to increase in popularity.

Keep clean, stay real 

With terms like ‘healthy’ and ‘nutritional’ turning customers off, those working in the industry can expect to see a focus shift towards terms like ‘real’ and ‘clean’ instead.

“In my opinion, the terms healthy and nutritional should be used less often,” Turenne adds. “We will be focused more on ‘real’ and ‘clean’ foods, and foods with less additives and ingredients.”

This means using ingredients in their most natural state; think wholewheat, organic — and sustainably — reared meats, and natural sweeteners, all in moderation. This will also play into people’s increasing concern about wasting less food.

“Reducing and eliminating food waste will continue to be an oft-discussed focus in operations,” Malody finishes. “This is due not only to operators wanting to be socially responsible, but also because the necessity of controlling food costs.”

Oliver Griffin