As every year starts, there are a number of predictions on what will feature on menus and in shopping baskets and what the trends will be over the coming months. The information may come from a market research company, social media or bodies such as the Sustainable Food Trust and the Soil Association. A few things that seem to be generating interest are ancient grains, seaweeds, organic produce in general, a continued interest in foraged foods and an increase in restaurants and hotels growing their own produce.
More and more hotels and restaurants are acquiring land or forming partnerships with growers to provide fresh produce direct to the kitchen, with the highly perishable items such as herbs, salads and soft fruits being popular choices. Roof gardens, community gardens and charity projects are all producing sustainable food that is ending up in restaurant kitchens.
There is no comprehensive list of ‘ancient' grains, but the category generally includes amaranth, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, kamut, millet, spelt, teff and quinoa. In the 2015-2016 Great Taste Book, featuring 237 products all awarded one or more stars in the awards, there are 5 products obviously using grains on this list. This increase in usage will probably be enhanced by the continuing real bread renaissance.
Many of the more niche trends may only spread slowly throughout 2016 but sustainability as a whole will, I believe, continue to gain importance and at a relatively fast pace. It is not by any means a new phenomenon but there is plenty of evidence for its growing importance to consumers, caterers and retailers.