2018 : The Top Trends

This is the most wonderful time of the year! We must admit we look forward to this as much as baseball spring training or what the feature flavor at Culvers is (no joke – this is a big one). We are talking about the top food and culinary trend lists that come about each year from industry market analysts like Sterling-Rice, Mintel and Baum+Whiteman or the impactful call-outs of grocer, Whole Foods. Regardless of their origin, 2018’s food industry trend predictions focus on consistent macro trends revolving around the consumers’ evolving palate, technology, health and wellness and more.

Meet the macro trends we expect will influence your product innovation in 2018.

Health + Wellness –

Plant-based –  Whole Foods predicts seaweeds like spirulina will replace tortillas in your next fish taco. And over at Baum+ Whiteman, they’re predicting the development of plant-based restaurant chains, lab-grown proteins, increased usage of vegan cheeses and the eventual emergence of fermented non-dairy cheeses. All of this news is cause for celebration for the 83% of consumers adding plant-based proteins to their diets.1

No alcohol cocktails – Nation’s Restaurant News believes the idea of health-driven mocktails showcasing unique juices, house-made sparkling waters will be seen in restaurants. Whole Foods predicts brands like Sap! sparkling maple and birch waters will make a splash with consumers looking to add a little fizz to celebrations without the need for spirits.

Technology – Mention ordering pizza and Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa will recall where you ordered it last and if there was pepperoni or prosciutto on your pie. Walk into Panera and order your meal at a kiosk. Checking out a restaurant Facebook page? Users can immediately order direct from Facebook and have their meal delivered via Doordash, Grubhub or another willing delivery company. Baum+Whiteman also reports a cashless trend in restaurants accepting payment via phone or card only to eliminate lines at order counters. Will we be heading to a wait-staff free environment? On an interesting note, artificial intelligence has recently been used by Google to perfect a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Feeding ingredients into a program that developed the amounts of ingredients given parameters, such as gluten-free for example, resulted in a chef-quality cookie.2

We can’t talk tech without touching on food photography trends. How about bright bold food that is also healthy? Packaged Facts is expecting vibrant colored natural foods and botanicals to be a hit and especially “Instagrammable.” Foods colored with the ever-popular beet or recipes showcasing the standout purple cauliflower are sure to grace plates and social media.

Consumers’ Palates Progress – Filipino cuisine, Indian street foods, Middle Eastern flavors from Persia, Syria or Lebanese are all making a bigger impact stateside via food trucks, fast casual outposts, and restaurants. Whole Foods expects dishes like eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce (shakshuka) or a grilling cheese from Cyprus (halloumi) to woo consumers with their savory flavor profiles.

Move Over Kale! – Could it really be the end of kale? Not likely but the green darling’s star has finally dimmed and experts expect these ingredients and categories to earn a place on plates and packaged goods:

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee – The consumer obsession with coffee is far from over. As coffee continues to make its way across many different products, it is expected we will see even more in 2018. And National Restaurant News says the cold brew trend will ramp up further with flavors like lavender.

Functional ‘Shrooms – You know we know our way around a mushroom or two and Whole Foods agrees reishi, chaga, cordyceps are worth watching. Check it out to learn about more about these adaptogens.

Umami for Breakfast – Say umami and we sit up and take notice. The notion that New Yorkers are eating jianbing, a Chinese breakfast crepe loaded with egg, pickled veggies, hoisin and chili sauce, had us at umami. Bye-bye cronut.

And a few more to chew on:

Cauliflower – whether roasted or used in a non-dairy mac n’ cheese sauce, this 2017 obsession is showing no sign of slowing down.

Comfort Foods – meatballs/macaroni and cheese, tacos 2.0, new twists on eggs benedict – yes please!

Mediterranean ingredients like olives, figs, eggplant, and tahini will star on even more menus.

New puffed and popped snacks like cassava chips, pasta chips, fava chips and more.


Have a trend worthy application that might need an influx of some real food ingredients? Nikken’s team is here to help.



  1. Baum+Whiteman, 2018.
  2. http://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/05/eric-schmidt-google-used-ai-to-create-the-perfect-cookie-recipe.html