Insects and Pink Cocoa Are Among 2018's Food Trends

Next year's hot stuff also includes tater tots and Korean pizza, according to a new list of predictions.


Anneli Star Josselin Rufus

A brand-new list of predictions for 2018's hottest culinary trends has just been released by the award-winning consulting firm af&co. This year's panel of expert trendspotters included East Bayites Carolyn Wente, CEO of Livermore's Wente Vineyards, and Wente's sommelier Jorge Tinoco. Also on the team was ex-Chez Panisse Café chef (and world-famous author, teacher, and restaurateur) Joyce Goldstein.

So what should we all watch out for — or beat the crowd and start eating, using, making, and serving right now?

Insects, say the experts. Also XO Sauce, pandan, paletas, za'atar, sumac, shakshuka, koji, tahini, aquavit, vermouth, mezcal, nopales, synthesized proteins, and sardines. 

Also: vividly and even weirdly colored foods such as jet-black charcoal lemonade and hot-pink hot cocoa. 

Also: Korean and Japanese pizza. Millennials' childhood faves such as chicken nuggets, tater tots, edible cookie dough, Cheetos, and Fruity Pebbles-topped ice cream. Regional Chinese and Mexican cuisines. Nostalgic fare such as deviled eggs and beef Wellington. 

According to the team, Israeli cuisine will be 2018's "cuisine of the year"; Washington DC will be 2018's culinary "city of the year"; chicken (roasted, rotisseried, and fried) will be 2018's "dish of the year"; and "fine-casual" dining — such as that at Tender Greens in Berkeley and Walnut Creek and at Oakland's forthcoming Roam Artisan Burgers — will be the "concept of the year."

Depicted above is two trends in one treat: an updated post-Pop Tart at the Tender Greens location in Walnut Creek.

In this tenth edition of the company's annual Trends Report, the team also predicts that restaurants will offer more meatless items, employ more creative waste-production methods, and offer more private dining rooms.

They'll also feature more swizzle sticks, logo-branded pens, and bandana-clad servers. 

“Hold on tight, folks, because it’s time to dig in and embrace the craziness,” said af&co founder Andrew Freeman, who has been named One of the Most Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality Marketing by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International.

Restaurants, Freeman said, "have learned that they must constantly adapt to appeal to millennials and other growing target demographics due to the ever-shortening attention spans in the digital age.”

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