We Asked A ‘Flavor Lab’ To Tell Us About The Next Big Food Trends

When times get tough, there’s one comfort that we can all cling to: food. Because food doesn’t try to take away human rights. Food is simply there to help us celebrate the greatest moments in our lives. What would a birthday, holiday, or anniversary be without the stuff? A lonely, tepid affair, that’s what.

In celebration of the fleeting joy food brought us this year and in anticipation of all the wonderful times it will bring us in 2017, I spoke to Dana Peck of the innovative flavor lab, Pilot R & D, about what trends we’ll see in the year to come. She’s an expert in that. At Pilot R &D they seek to take the creativity, innovation, and craftsmanship of the best Michelin star restaurants in the world and deliver it to a much broader audience. So Peck works on the frontier of all the latest food advances and trends. And according to her, we’ll definitely see some interesting movements coming to play in 2017.

1. Clean Labels Will Be Important.


We’re already seeing a push towards “clean label” foods. And that’s a trend that’s not going anywhere, Peck told me. Though the term “clean label” can be vague (and mean different things to different people) it basically means that people will be looking for whole ingredient foods on their labels with less chemicals and preservatives. Look for that trend will continue to expand and grow.

However Peck warns that people shouldn’t confuse “clean labels” with foods that are vegan or gluten free. “There are people who are vegan because they are interested in eating more plants or whole ingredients and want to stay away from a bunch of other ingredients,” she said, “but in order to make vegan cheese and gluten-free bread, you also have to use ingredients that those people ordinarily wouldn’t want to touch.”

So remember “vegan” doesn’t necessarily mean fewer ingredients.

2. Poké Will (Still) Be All The Rage.

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“We’re seeing a Poké craze!” Peck said when I asked her what foods will be big next year. Poké is a traditional Hawaiian specialty that has been huge on the west coast for a few years now. It’s raw, diced (usually) tuna marinated with soy and sesame and can be served as a salad or over rice. In Hawaii, it’s a casual dish, one that you’d grab on the fly, but be prepared to see upscale twists to this simple, delicious fare as more and more restaurants spring up and add it to the menu.

If you’re not in California or Hawaii, get ready to see poké spread your direction.

3. We’ll See More Root Veggies Become Chips.


“Instead of corn and potatoes,” Peck said, “we are seeing people use more root vegetables and winter roots so we’re seeing broccoli chips and lotus root chips and carrot chips and I think we’re going to continue to see that trend with things like parsnip chips.”

(Note: we have no object to chips of any kind.)

4. Savory Will Be Big In Non-Traditional Ways.


“In general,” Peck said, “I’m pleasantly surprised to see that people are more interested in savory in what were more traditional sweet categories. That’s been really nice. Even if you look now in the snack and chip aisle that was dominated by cheddar, barbecue, and ranch, we’re starting to see people willing to break out of that shell a little bit more and you have things like Tikka Masala or Korean barbecue.”

And chips aren’t the only food leaning towards more savory flavors. Peck continued, “Fage is making a savory yogurt now. And there’s a lot of people in the bar category, who traditionally have chocolate or apple or banana bars and now we’re seeing people willing to open up and look at more savory profiles for those products.”

So look out for granola bars with things like white beans, rosemary, or bacon. They’re coming!

5. The Way We Look At GMO’s Will Change


Peck thinks that as we learn more about GMO’s we’re going to have to change the way we think about them. She looks forward to opening up the conversation to foods we’ve been shying away from. “I think in the last couple of years we’ve seen a lot of food trends that have been reactionary,” Peck said. “And maybe some of them, fear-based, and I think that we’re going to start to see pull-back on some of that as consumers get increasingly educated about the products. I think we’re going to start to allow certain ingredients back into the fold.”

Because modifying a crop can help, can even be necessary (considering our population), if done properly.

6. Fermented Drinks Will Be All The Rage

“I think (fermented products) are an increasing food trend that we’re going to see more and more,” Peck said. “We’ve seen a little bit of that with kombucha, but I think we’re going to start seeing it in many more places.” She believes that the trend will run towards more tonics and elixirs in fine dining, especially ones using fermented plants as a base.

So put down your pumpkin spiced latte and grab a fermented pumpkin cocktail!

7. Every Scrap Will Be Used.


“We’ve started to see some people come up with, and start selling chips made out of the pressed solids from the juices they make,” Peck said. “Or people using scraps from whatever product they’re making and rolling that back into that product,” she continued, “Or we see start-ups now that are (taking) ugly, imperfect produce and coming up with new uses on that. That’s always something that we’ve always been fixated on because as chefs in restaurants we hate to waste. We’re always looking for ways to use every scrap and it’s cool to see that mentality start to come into play in the packaged goods space.”

The game is changing friends and, when talking to Peck, it’s easy to see that the future (of food) looks bright.