Food Predictions for 2018

mushroom mainIn January of every year, Shelf Life Advice delights (or horrifies) its readers by posting an article predicting food trends for the new year. In past years, we warned the public about bacon being thrown into almost everything and sriracha (a hot sauce made with chili pepper, vinegar, garlic, and salt, named after a city in Thailand where it may have originated) trying to replace salt as the default seasoning. of choice.

The year of bacon, I recall rushing out to purchase Burger King's bacon chocolate ice cream sundae just so I could take one bite, write about it for Shelf Life Advice, and then discard the rest.  Surprise!  I actually liked it, though I still haven't fallen in love with salty chocolate candy.


Last year, I recall saying "ugh!" when I heard that restaurants were going to be replacing familiar, unthreatening comfort food like mashed potatoes with riced (that is, finely shredded) cauliflower.  To my amazement, I liked the new almost mashed cauliflower (very tasty when mixed with sour cream and spices).  So, keep in mind the message of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham and be open to trying new flavors new food combinations, and even new ways of revising your diet.


Let's begin by talking about what foods we expect to see more of--in restaurants, supermarkets,

our friends' dinner parties, and perhaps eventually even in our own homes. Most of the following predictions come from the scientists who serve on this site's Advisory Board and teach at American universities, based upon what they know about innovations created by chefs, companies that produce new foods or ingredients, international sources that produce flavors considered exotic to the American cuisine, and the immigrant influence that has always added diversity to the American kitchen.  


After covering specific foods, we'll move on to the latest attitudes toward food--public concerns about health, ethics, and the survival of planet Earth.


[EDITOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the Robert M. Kerr Food and & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC).  This Shelf Life Advice article owes much to a piece written by Communications Graduate Assistant Melanie Jackson, with input from scientists at Oklahoma State University. Check out Melanie's article "FAPC selects 10 top food trends for 2018." And thanks to a member of the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board, Dr. Timothy Bowser, for calling our  attention to Melanie's work and summarizing it for us.]




In no particular order, intending no greater importance to the items listed first or last, here are some foods and ingredients you can expect to see emphasized this year.


Mushrooms:  Nothing new here, you may think.  There are thousands of different types of mushrooms and few are poisonous.  They're eaten all over the world, and you've probably enjoyed them in omelets, salads, soups, casseroles, on top of steaks and burgers, and so on.  But now, (says the FAPC,) mushroom flavors may show up in your coffee, cocoa, and ice cream, not to mention your soap and shampoo.  (See the "sources" list below for a link to info on types of mushrooms and ways to prepare them.)


Marijuana:  As recreational marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, it may cross your path as an ingredient you are served. In an article entitled "Marijuana or Cannabis in Food And Drink," contrasts the experience of eating marijuana versus smoking it.  If you're planning to chew it rather than smoke it, we recommend getting acquainted with the effects.  For example, when it's in your food, it may take "anywhere from 20 minutes to 4-5 hours for the effects to set in." If there's no immediate effect, the author tells those who try it not to be impatient and eat more.  Doing that could make a person "sick confused, unable to walk" and poorly coordinated.  The above article also contains tips on how to cook with cannabis. Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter sees this as a growing trend, especially in California, where recreational pot has just become legal.  If you can't reach the above cannabis article, there are several others online with recipes. 


Shelf Life Advice urges you to TELL your dinner guests if you're serving something that contains cannabis.  Some may choose to abstain.  (I would.)


Plant-based "meats" and lab-made meats:  We all know that some of the animals we enjoy for dinner have brief, unpleasant lives, painful deaths and, a devastating effect on the environment. Two solutions to these problems that are being pursued simultaneously are 1) producing food that tastes like traditional burgers or chicken but is actually made with plant protein; and 2) producing meat in a lab, for example, a chicken breast grown from chicken cells or ground beef from the cells of animals.  Scientists are getting better at reproducing the "right" flavor and texture of animal meats, though it's easier to make pseudo-chicken than pseudo-steak. The search for alternative sources rather than raising and slaughtering animals is attracting more start-ups.  And nowadays, in addition to vegetarians, we have semi-vegetarians (called flexitarians), folks who eat animal products only occasionally.


Perhaps the most well-known brand of plant-based protein products (including breakfast patties and sausages) is Morning Star.  Two newer ones are the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger.  To find out more, check out the home pages of these innovative companies.


One company that's working on real lab-made meats developed from the cells of animals is Memphis Meats, supported by Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and many other donors with wealth to spare.  You're welcome to join them if you wish to promote this ethical venture.


Middle-Eastern Foods: This year many Americans may be introduced to Moroccan and Persian specialties such as shakshuka and sumac-spiced foods.  (Sumac is dominated by an intense sour flavor.) Wikipedia describes both of these dishes.


Tacos: This year, we're going to enjoy a greater variety of tacos than ever before.  They'll be available for breakfast, for dessert, and even wrapped in seaweed. However, traditional tacos we know and love will still be on menus.


Floral scents and tastes: It doesn't surprise us to find flowers in our alcoholic drinks, but this year you may also be served lavender lattes and pink hibiscus tea. Flowers and petals may also appear in solid edibles. 






Four meals a day--or more: Folks are eating more often and perhaps with no large main meal. Experts say that four meals a day is becoming the new norm. For me, four meals a day is near starvation mode. In addition to the traditional three, I commonly eat a mid-morning snack, a mid-afternoon snack, and an evening snack. (In case you're wondering, I weigh 110  lbs.) That's six meals.  It seems like Americans are turning into all day nibblers. Here's how the FAPC article explains it:" This trend is not about trying to eat more food in a day, but rather adapting eating schedules to fit busy lifestyles."  But I've noted that many seniors, especially those that dine alone, like nibbling, too. One 87-year-old told me, "I don't eat meals; I graze."


Breakfast for lunch, dinner, or snacking: All-day breakfast is on the menu at McDonald's, in many coffee shops, and regularly served in many homes. The breakfast sandwich (which was unheard of in my youth) can now be eaten anytime.  My home boasts two sandwich makers that are standing by, ready to grill any time of the day or night.


Photogenic foods:  Have you noticed that a lot of Facebook postings are of attractive food?  Decorative presentation leads us to post these photos of restaurant edibles or drinkables and

our own creative cooking.  Restaurants that have artistic chefs get a lot of free publicity.


Food waste: Voices opposing food waste keep getting louder. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains why:  In the U.S., "...more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, about 21 percent of the waste stream.  Reducing food waste will help the United States address climate change as 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills." In the baseline year of 2010, the amount of food that went uneaten at the retail and consumer levels was 31 percent of the food supply" (133 billion pounds, worth $161.6 billion). The EPA is encouraging individuals, businesses, organizations, religious groups,--in short, everyone--to take this initiative seriously. 


Pre-prep meals (meal kits) that make cooking dinner quicker: Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter commented upon the many companies that find recipes, do the grocery shopping, and send customers all they need to make a gourmet meal.  For busy people who want to serve a spouse or family a rather fancy meal but haven't the time for recipe-hunting and searching for some exotic ingredients to add novelty to the meal, there's Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, Green Chef (using only organic ingredients) and other such companies.  Consumer Reports published a long article that compared the most well-known names in this industry. Dr. Cutter asks, "How will these businesses affect grocery sales and delivery?" Although these meals aren't cheap, consumers save a little because packages give them just the amount of food or ingredients needed for a particular recipe If they found the same recipe themselves and  purchased a bag or bottle of each ingredient, they would likely wind up with more ingredients than they needed and eventually add the excess to the landfill. Food scientists worry that these packages containing perishable items may be sitting on consumers' porches and be unrefrigerated long enough for pathogens to grow.  Another concern is whether there's too much salt in some of these recipes for them to be healthy. However, the home chef doesn't have to follow the recipe exactly.


Greater concern about GMOs: Food scientist Dr. Karin Allen says that the USDA will be calling attention to GMOs as it moves forward on its proposed rule concerning the labeling of GMO-modified foods.  This is part of the public push for greater transparency about how foods are created and handled.


Ethics and eating: Consumer concerns about many food-related matters are based upon ethics as well as practical considerations, such as keeping ourselves and our planet in good health.  There's much news coverage about opposition to GMOs and support of organic edibles,.  More and more consumers are asking for information about what's in their food, whether it's really safe, where it was grown or raised, and how animals that we eat are treated before and when they're sacrificed for our dinner. 


Sounds like another interesting year gastronomically speaking, full of verbal food fights and novel eating.  Enjoy!



Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


Catherine Nettles Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science "FAPC selects top 10 food trends for 2018" "Meal Delivery Services Put Dinner on Your Doorstep" "Sustainable Management of Food  United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal"  "Portabella Mushrooms and their Relatives: How to Handle them"


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