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National Restaurant Association - What’s Hot Culinary Forecast

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What’s Hot Culinary Forecast

CBD and cannabis-infused food and beverages are among the top trends for 2019, along with zero-waste cooking, globally inspired dishes and vegetable-forward cuisine. American Culinary Federation chefs identified the trends for the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot survey.

The annual survey asks chefs to identify food and beverage trends for the coming year. Chefs ranked 140 items — from all-day breakfast to zero-waste cooking — as “hot,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite.” The resulting What’s Hot list gives a preview of the food, beverages and culinary themes that will be the talk of 2019.

Nearly 77 percent of the chefs ranked cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the No. 1 trend, and 76 percent of them tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular. Chefs who participated in the survey said infusing foods with the ingredients could create unique cuisine opportunities and potential new markets for experiential dining occasions. Seventy percent ranked zero-waste cooking as the third most popular trend.

“The Association’s 2019 What’s Hot report reflects contemporary consumer cravings in tandem with emerging societal dining trends,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “We’re seeing a more eco-friendly perspective and greater emphasis on global flavors/cuisines as well as enhanced availability of healthful items/children’s meals and the exploration of new food sourcing options.”  

The survey indicates that Americans crave foods that not only nourish them but also help sustain the planet. Plant-based and veggie centric foods are no longer just for vegetarians. In fact, three of the 15 hottest items are plant-based sausages/burgers, veggie-centric/vegetable forward cuisine and plant-based proteins. Hyper-local sourcing, including restaurants that grow produce in their own gardens, also made the Top 10 list:

  1. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused drinks.
  2. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused food.
  3. Zero-waste cooking.
  4. Globally inspired breakfast dishes.
  5. Global flavors in kids' meals.
  6. Hyper-local.
  7. New cuts of meat.
  8. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine.
  9. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts.
  10. Craft/artisan/locally produced spirits.

Zero-waste cooking, which transforms food scraps, damaged produce and leftovers into culinary delights, ranks third on the list of overall trends for 2019 and second in the culinary concepts category. Chefs are taking a second look at items they trashed in the past — using coffee grinds to flavor homemade ice cream and showcasing cabbage butts in crowd-pleasing stir-fries.

Global flavors also ranked highly, with the trend heating up from last year. Globally inspired breakfast dishes claimed the fourth spot on the survey, followed by global flavors in kids’ meals.  

In category after category, global flavors shine. The Israeli soda gazoz ranks second in the non-alcoholic beverage category. Thai-rolled ice cream placed first among sweets. African cuisines, condiments and spices trended across several categories, including items that originated in North, West and East Africa (Ethiopia). Chefs identified North African cuisine (think tajine and fuul) as today’s “hottest” global flavor.  

New cuts of meat, such as shoulder tender, oyster steak or Merlot cut, cooled some after nabbing the top spot for the past two years. As for “yesterday’s news,” chefs ranked overnight oats, anise-flavored cocktails and pretzels in desserts as trends that have come and gone.

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