First Quarter Food Trends: Welcome to the Woke Age of Food

30 April, 2018

What an exciting time to be in food. At our sister site Flavour Feed, our job is to track and report trends in real time, as they are happening on the global stage. From what is being sold at markets in Istanbul to what the health set is sipping and snacking on in LA, our contacts and contributors allow us to package the very essence of the present and future of food.

And what we have been experiencing from the first quarter food trends of 2018 is a real movement towards a healing age of food. For too long we have misused our oceans, lands and bodies and have favoured elaborate or highly processed products instead of embracing the magic of natural food. But the zeitgeist is shifting to primal patterns and intuitive ways of working, seeking guidance from ancient wisdom, and operating with a real sense of freedom, equality and non-judgement.

In this very spirit, last week we opened the Flavour Feed platform to the public. So that means restaurateurs, industry professionals, enthusiastic home cooks, journalists, trends teams, travellers, PRs, and anyone with a passion for food can access our compelling content. Welcome to the woke age of food.

Biodegradable beer packaging. Cheers to that! Photo credit: Saltwater Brewery

Pointless Plastics

If 2017 was the year of tackling food waste, then 2018 is the year of battling plastics. And rightly so: it is predicted that by 2050 more plastic will live in the sea than fish – a shift that is due to cause dire ecological rifts. And with the food world as one of the major culprits of plastic packaging production, innovators are stepping forward to help change this scary statistic.

We are witnessing an exciting surge in sustainable food packaging and a clamp-down on use, both goaded by the Last Straw Initiative and the #pointlessplastics campaign which are working to eliminate single-use plastics. And this sea change is being supported by big business, like Nestlé and McDonalds, with the EU planning to move sustainable packaging into legislation. Bamboo straws at the ready.

Playing with fire at Smoking Goat in Soho. Photo credit: Smoking Goat

Playing with the Elements

A million miles away from water baths, modern chefs are feeling a call to return to our food-making origins. This means embracing unfiltered, elemental cooking: open fire with bare hands, feeling the earth through foraging, closely aligning with the seasons, and working hand in hand with hyper-local producers.

Neil Rankin’s Temper, Sabor from ex-Barrafina team Nieves Barragán Mohacho and José Etura, and Brat from Tom Parry of Kitty Fisher’s fame are all case in point, and have been making headlines with their fiery kitchen concoctions.

Healthy dirty vegan deliciousness from Gizzi Erskine’s Pure Filth. Photo credit: Pure Filth

Plant Protein

Plant-based has been a burgeoning buzzword, and in 2018 it finds real roots in the food world.

Impossible Foods, inventors of the veggie burger that bleeds, is expanding into Asia, by CHLOE., dubbed the Starbucks of veganism, has opened its first site outside of the US in London’s Covent Garden, and Ikea, purveyors of the infamous Swedish meatball, is set to launch a vegan menu. Meanwhile, discussion is opening and broadening on the role of mock meats (see The Buddhist Mock-Meats Paradox) and non-dairy milks, yoghurts and eggs are experiencing a real boon. Milkadamia flat white, anyone?

‘How many calories are in this doughnut?’ There’s an app for that. Photo credit: Callie Morgan on Unsplash

Tech for Good

Tech is often demonised as a distraction and a force that takes us away from our instincts and natural ability. But in 2018 we see tech give us real intelligence and bring us closer to our food than ever before.

Enter food-recognition software which helps us manage our diets and apps like Sano which personalises nutritional information for a totally tailored approach to health.

From farm to fridge. Photo credit: Farmer’s Fridge 

Democratising Natural Food

Healthy, natural food will no longer be a preserve of the elite as access becomes democratised.

With their unrivalled reach and delivery capabilities, there is much optimism in Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, while innovations like the healthy vending machines from Farmer’s Fridge and virtuous convenience stores like LA’s The Goods Mart work to blend wellness with our everyday consumer habits. And with the world really awakening to the fruitlessness of food waste, eating healthily and naturally is set to become the modern standard.

Spoonfuls of ancient wisdom. Photo credit: Pratiksha Mohanty on Unsplash

Ancient Food Wisdom

In total rebellion of fast-moving consumer food culture, makers and consumers are looking to mother nature and ancient theory for lessons on nutrition.

And whether you are looking at nootropics, food to fuel the mind, or Ayurvedic practice, diets tailored to your elemental body type, the common thread is a cause-and-effect-based concept of food as medicine. Look out for ancient grains like millet, hemp seeds, culinary cannabis, pickling, fermenting, charcoal and fungi coffee.

The beauty of beige. Photo credit: Julien Pianetti

Ugly Delicious

While Instagram continues to be a major player and influencer in the food world, the standard for how it is being used seems to be evolving: as users move away from polished, unrealistic studio shots in favour of authenticity.

And while some food is naturally alluring – the star shape of a just-cut grapefruit, the striped design of candy beetroot – some food just ain’t pretty. And users are saying that’s cool too. See this return to realness in Rocket and Squash’s account often celebrating beige food (potatoes, mushrooms, cream, Parmesan, pasta, butter, buns) and David Chang’s Netflix show, Ugly Delicious, which champions what it says on the tin.

Our new favourite flavour wrap: seaweed. Photo credit: Seamore

Save Our Seas

Our relationship to the sea is in a period of healing and transition. While our oceans have taken a battering due to overfishing of favoured species, seaweed and lesser-known varieties of fish remain in plentiful supply.

So 2018 will see obscure fish and sea vegetables being used for everyday dishes: like seaweed pasta and tortillas and gurnard fish and chips. While fish-free seafood will also rise in popularity: like the remarkable fish-free tuna from The Good Catch in the US.

Bubble waffle cones, Japanese style. Photo credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Tactile Food

With Trump, Brexit and occupation and conflict all over the globe, the world has been having a bit of a rough time. So food has evolved beyond its essential function into a seemingly therapeutic role.

Consumers are getting back in touch with their senses and are soaking up the joy of colourful food and ingredients with a dynamic sense of texture. Cue ruby-pink chocolate, charcoal ice cream, jar bars and giant Japanese waffle-cone ice creams. And, in typical Millennial format, expect Instagram to become a conduit for this activity.


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