The Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel Predicts: What’s Hot In Food For 2018

Nov. 16, 2017

NEW YORK, NY (November 15, 2017) Food innovation is running at an all-time high and the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel has named what they believe will be hot trends in 2018. 

The panel draws perspectives from retail, foodservice, strategic marketing, and culinary education, and includes Ken Blanchette, FreshDirect; Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University; Kara Nielsen, CCD Innovation; Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market; Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation; and Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market. 

“Macro trends like sustainability and health are converging in the 2018 trends,” says Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “The Panel is predicting more algae and other plant-based proteins and products meant to reduce food waste, as well as growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called ‘goth’ foods. But, while a lot of these trends speak to health and better-for-you choices, consumers’ demand for deeper flavor exploration is still strong, as evidenced by the interest in Filipino and regional Middle Eastern foods.” 

Here are the Trendspotters’ predictions for the top 10 food trends of 2018: 

1.    Plant-based foods. Plant-based options are proliferating in many categories beyond meat substitutes. Segments like cheese and frozen desserts are enjoying growth in plant-based subcategories. As for meat alternatives, algae is winning fans. 2018 will bring more plant-based convenience foods too. 

2.    Upcycled products. As consumers become more aware of how much food is wasted in the U.S., upcycled products made of ingredients and scraps that would have otherwise been discarded, will hold bigger appeal. We're already seeing pressed juice made from imperfect fruit, chips made from fruit pulp, and snack bars made from spent grain from the beermaking process. Expect more to hit the market in the coming year. 

3.    Filipino cuisine. Often overshadowed by other Asian cuisines, the foods of the Philippines have not yet captured a broad U.S. audience. That's shifting, as American palates have become more sophisticated and attuned to the complex flavors and bitter or sour notes of Filipino dishes. Chefs and tastemakers are taking to this cuisine that infuses Asian and Latin flavors, and #filipinofoodmovement, founded in 2012 to create awareness and appreciation of Filipino culinary arts, is a growing force. 

4.    Goth food. Possibly a reaction to the 2017's deluge of rainbow and unicorn foods, black is the new black. Activated charcoal—produced by heating coconut shells to extremely high temperatures until they are carbonized—is gaining superfood status for its reported detoxifying attributes and is being used as a surprising twist in everything from pizza crust to lemonade to ice cream. We'll see it spread in the coming year.  

5.    Alt-Sweet. With sugar topping the list of dietary watch-outs, consumers continue to look to alternative sweeteners for lower glycemic impact, fewer added-sugar calories, and intriguing sweet flavors as well as sustainable footprints. Syrups made from dates, sorghum, and even yacon and sun root will join monk fruit on the market as emerging options for sweet. 

6.    Product labeling 2.0. More is more when it comes to product labeling. Consumers will seek greater on-label visibility into the farms, ingredient sources, and supply chain of each item in their shopping basket. GMO transparency is among the most prioritized details, but shoppers want new depths of information across the spectrum, including Fair Trade certification, responsible production, and no animal testing. 

7.    Root to stem. Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking—utilizing the entire fruit or vegetable, including things like stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. 

8.    Cannabis cuisine. As more states legalize recreational marijuana, the varieties of pot-enhanced food and beverage will increase. Look out for continued interest and acceptance in a host of snacks, treats, and beverages with a little something extra.* 

(*The Specialty Food Association recognizes that Federal law prohibits the possession, sale or distribution of marijuana, but its sale and use is declared legal under some state laws. In recognizing cannabis as a food trend, the SFA in no way endorses or encourages activities which are in violation of state or Federal law.) 

9.    A (deeper) feast from the Middle East. Foods like hummus, pita, and falafel were easy entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional differences, and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian, and Lebanese influences rising to the top. 

10. The rise of traditional bread. Although much attention has been placed on gluten-free options in recent years, the traditional side of bakery has also been elevated by the same sourcing and fine-tuned production processes we see with proteins and vegetables. Bakers are using local grains, milling the day before baking, and incorporating long proofing times, re-inventing what good bread means. 

Additionally, the Trendspotter Panel says we'll see even more: 

·       cricket flour and non-grain sustainable proteins; 

·       fermented foods; 

·       cocktail mixers and bitters for home use; 

·       savory flavors where one would expect sweet; 

·       pasture-raised animals for welfare, better health, and taste; 

·       bananas transformed into milks, snacks, frozen desserts, and flours and baking mixes. 

Also on the radar: Eating for beauty with products like collagen-infused foods; moringa as the new superfood; mushrooms (extracts, powdered, or whole) as a functional ingredient in everything from chocolate to lattes. 

The Trendspotter Panel will reconvene at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco from January 21-23. The Winter Fancy Food Show is a trade-only show. More information can be found at 

About the Trendspotter Panel: 

Kenneth BlanchetteFreshDirect   

Blanchette is director of sourcing for online grocer FreshDirect where he travels the world curating products. On recent sourcing trips through Italy, Blanchette selected Olio Novello, farm- and field-specific tomatoes in Campania, and DOP prosciutto and roasted meats from Emilia-Romagna. 

Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University   

Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., is professor of culinary arts & food science at Drexel University. He oversees Drexel Food Lab, a good food R&D lab. He is the author or editor of six books including “Barbecue: A Global History” (with Megan Elias). He can also be found behind his tuba. 

Kara Nielsen, CCD Innovation 

Kara Nielsen is a food and beverage trend expert with over a decade of experience translating trends for strategic brand growth and innovative product development. She is vice president, trends & marketing at CCD Innovation, a strategic food and beverage innovation agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was a trendologist for many years earlier in her career. She has also been involved in consumer and culinary trend content and services at Innova Market Insights, Sterling-Rice Group, and CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights. Nielsen is a frequent speaker on food trends at industry trade shows and conferences, and is quoted regularly in national and industry media. Her success at placing trends in a larger societal and cultural context comes from her background in culinary arts and restaurant hospitality as well as her Master's degree studies in Gastronomy at Boston University. 

Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market 

Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez are long-time friends and Jersey City, N.J. residents. Originally from central New Jersey, they moved to Jersey City to seek opportunity and become part of a vibrant urban community. Vasquez, the owner and chef of Chilltown Kitchen, has been featured on Food Network’s Chopped and boasts 14 years in the hospitality industry. Nieves has a background in social media marketing and currently works as an assistant property manager for Silverman. They opened Midnight Market with the vision of creating a more accessible Jersey City for small businesses and the community at large.  

Alison Tozzi Liu, James Beard Foundation 

Alison Tozzi Liu oversees publications, communications, and marketing at the James Beard Foundation. In her 12 years at JBF, she has helped grow the Foundation’s social media and multimedia programs and helped increase awareness of the James Beard Foundation across the country. 

Elly Truesdell, Whole Foods Market 

As global senior coordinator of local brands, product innovation & development, Elly Truesdell leads strategic partnerships for local purchasing programs across Whole Foods Market. Her expertise in food trends and brand development grew from eight years of leadership in purchasing and marketing at Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region. Elly made her mark by identifying and launching local products, overseeing the Northeast’s grocery program, and cultivating emerging suppliers for national distribution. When she’s not discovering new brands, she spends her time cooking, traveling, hiking, and enjoying life with friends and family. 

About the Specialty Food Association 

The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,500 members in the U.S. and abroad with resources, knowledge, and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at