2012 Top 10 food trends include "heirloom foods"

Feb. 17, 2012 | by Darrel Suderman

In addition to the Top 5 food trends for 2012 that I discussed in my previous blog, here's my prediction for trend concepts No. 6 through 10.

Again, I call them "opportunities" because they will only become trends if someone with vision picks them up and runs with them to the consumer marketplace – whether that be restaurants, convenience stores, or retail grocers. Listing Arancini last time resulted in a response email from a company in Italy that specializes in Arancini products.

Heirloom Foods

Heirloom foods are rapidly becoming a popular concept. I was first exposed to heirloom vegetables last spring shopping for tomatoes at my local Home Depot store. And sure enough, I purchased a few heirloom tomato plants and enjoyed the fruit from these keepsake plants throughout the summer. But then I discovered that a couple of seed companies now offer over 1,000 heirloom seeds. You can grow heirloom peppers, eggplants, lettuce, spinach, etc. In addition, you can grow heirloom flowers, herbs, and "micro-greens." I am sure we will soon be offered heirloom pork, beef and chicken on restaurant menus. This topic has been fun to discuss with my Johnson & Wales culinary students.

Heirloom foods have almost become a religion to their early pioneers. You can even purchase to plant "certified" seeds, using the same terminology used by "certified organic" products. And the marketing seems endless with the slew of terms like "granny's heirloom seeds," "rare seeds," "ancient seeds," "down-to-earth seeds," "historical seeds," and even "organic heirloom plants."

Did I say "organic?" Yes! Because I predict that retail grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes will soon be promoting "heirloom organic" food products – count on it because that's how the marketing process works. That's enough on heirloom foods for now, but I will have a lot to say about them in 2012.

Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza is an oven-baked, flat, round bread typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese, and various toppings. It originated in Italy from Neapolitan cuisine. Neapolitan cuisine has ancient historical roots that date back to the Greco-Roman period, which was enriched over the centuries by the influence of the different cultures that controlled that area of the world. Some of the ingredients from Neapolitan cuisine that may carry over to Neapolitan pizza include tomatoes (think Neapolitan Heirloom Tomatoes), vegetables (including broccoli and zucchini), cheeses (like the ricotta di fuscella, ricotta fresca, mozzarella di bufala, fiordilatte and provoloni).

The current pizza concept 'stretch' in the pizza business is artisan pizza, so don't expect Neapolitan pizza from a major restaurant chain. Because smaller, local pizzerias lead the way in innovation, don't expect to see a major marketing campaign from the largest pizza chains. They are risk adverse.

Burgers Topped with an Egg

Why not top your favorite burger with an egg? Many local burger restaurants are doing just that. Sure it's a trend, but why not? It adds a point of marketing differentiation, and adds a shot of protein. You can grill the egg inside the ground meat, or cook the egg separately and slap it on top of the burger. The egg also bridges the menu daypart gap between breakfast and lunch called "Breaklunch." And while you're at it, why not roll an egg inside a southern buttermilk biscuit and bake it in the convection oven? It's hand-held, and easy to eat in the car.

Nordic Cuisine

Nordic cuisine or "New Nordic Cuisine," is one of the next culinary trends because of its healthy connotations. Chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi of Copenhagen's groundbreaking Noma restaurant are creating a brilliant and provocative new kind of Nordic cuisine. A meal at Noma has been described as a flurry of precisely composed dishes that incorporate both familiar and wholly exotic ingredients, like musk ox or wild plants (in warm months, the cooks make frequent expeditions to the woods and the beaches, sometimes foraging with a naturalist for herbs and seaweeds). Redzepi says, "The taste of Noma is light, subtle. Clean. The flavor shouldn't hit you in the face — you have to taste the food and find the flavors yourself."

Exotic Fish

With the populations of familiar fish species diminishing, you can expect to see creative chefs offer a variety of exotic fish like Fugu (Japanese Puffer fish) and Paiche (fresh from the Amazon). And since their population and distribution is limited, don't expect to see the fish on every restaurant that you frequent across America.

Please contact me at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com or follow the Food Innovation Institute website (www.foodbevbiz.com) for more information on our 2012 Food Innovation Workshop listing at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colorado – and our "on-site" food innovation ideation workshops.

Topics: Burger/Steak/BBQ , Food & Beverage , Health & Nutrition , Operations Management , Trends / Statistics

Darrel Suderman / Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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