Top 10 Food Trends to Know in 2016

From “old-world” ingredients and new vino vehicles to emerging flavors and uncommon cuts of meat, we’ve pinpointed 10 top food trends to watch in 2016.

Caitlin Riley produces James Beard award-winning video content for Whole Foods Market and has logged thousands of miles in search of great stories about food, drink and other tasty parts of life.

2016 is fast approaching and with it comes a slew of resolutions. If you’re like me, you probably have too many to count, but hopefully one of them is to try as many new foods, drinks and ingredients as possible. Sure, eating should be about tradition and celebration, but it should also be about adventure, discovery, delight, surprise — and food that knocks your socks off.

I’m lucky to be part of a group at Whole Foods Market whose goal is to discover, research and stay on top of culinary and health trends. We’re constantly partnering with and bouncing ideas off our buyers while exploring new producers, vendors, restaurants and flavors.

After much discussion, deliberation and eating, we’ve compiled our top 10 list of food trends to know for 2016. Read ‘em and eat!

Bowl of Veggie Noodles

1. Plant-Based Everything

Remember when veggies were relegated to the side of the plate? Now they’re exalted, becoming the stars of the culinary show, especially in the eyes of chefs. Whether it’s cauliflower “steaks,” mashed veggies beyond potatoes, or spiralized veggie noodles, plants are replacing meat on the plate and becoming signature entrees in their own right.

The movement to “eat your veggies” goes way beyond the produce aisles. Plants are popping up in unexpected places — from vegan nut-based cheeses and yogurts to ice pops. Plants have found their way into body care products, vitamins and skincare, too, with superfoods such as broccoli, kale and acai as key ingredients in vitamin supplements, and quinoa protein being used in hair care products.

Try the Trend

Citrus-Roasted Paiche in Collard Wraps

Citrus-Roasted Paiche in Collard Wraps Recipe opens in a new tab

2. Uncommon Meat Cuts and Seafood

Lesser-known meat cuts and seafood options are making their way from restaurant menus and local obscurity into mainstream American kitchens.

Heightened awareness around food waste, renewed interest in artisan butchers and a host of other factors has lead to the return of nose-to-tail cooking and appreciation for uncommon cuts of meat such as top sirloin, pork T-bone chop and Denver cut steaks.

Offbeat — and more sustainable — seafood species such as Responsibly Farmed opens in a new tab paiche and blue catfish are making a dinnertime debut, easing pressure on popular picks such as salmon, tuna and shrimp.

Try the Trend:

Wine in a Can

3. Wine in Cans

Forget screw caps, now it’s pop tops — yes, wine in a can, for picnics, camping trips and poolside lounging. Cans are the perfect delivery mechanism for wine. They’re recyclable, light and safe, and they chill quickly. Grab a can and stay classy.

Try the Trend:

  • Infinite Monkey Theorem wines

  • Presto Prosecco Sparkling wine (find them at Whole Foods Market stores this spring)

Kimchi Burgers

Kimchi Burgers Recipe opens in a new tab

4. Fermented Food and Drink

Looking to support a healthy digestive system? Live, cultured and fermented foods are natural sources of probiotics. Tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and gochujang dominate the list of “it” fermented foods. We’re swigging flavorful beverages such as drinking vinegars, switchel, kombucha and kefir with wild abandon. The DIY movement surrounding probiotics is huge as the home fermentation craze grows. Remember when you were embarrassed to talk about your gut health? Now many people take a probiotic or is slinging the latest flavor of kombucha. Bottom line: Probiotics are here to stay as digestive health and fermented flavor become top of mind.

Try the Trend:

  • Wildbrine Chiogga Beet Kraut

  • ProBugs Organic Whole Milk Kefir

Bowl of Eggs

5. More Non-GMO Foods

In North America, more than 70% of packaged foods contain GMOs. As shoppers demand more transparency in their food, the non-GMO movement will continue to gain momentum. Growth and innovation in animal protein products will be especially strong, thanks to the recent development and approval of additional non-GMO verification methods for animal feed. Keep an eye out for eggs, chicken, pork and more from animals fed non-GMO verified feed.

Try the Trend

  • Nature Fed Cage-Free Eggs

  • Creminelli Ham

  • Fork in the Road Sausages

Bowls of Yogurt and Fruit

6. Grass-Fed Dairy and Protein Supplements

The graze craze is on! With new grass-fed dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter and cheese joining fresh and packaged meat snacks made from grass-fed beef, it’s no longer a niche offering for health fanatics or Paleo devotees.

Grass-fed dairy cows eat grasses and forages (no supplemental grain), which impacts the taste of their milk. The flavor profile of products made with their milk actually changes throughout the year depending on the season and the type of forages on which the cows have been grazing.

Taste the Trend:

  • Sweet Red Grass-Fed Cheddars

  • Organic Valley Grassmilk Yogurt

  • Whole Foods Market™ Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder

7.  Dehydrated Foods

When you think of dehydrated foods, wilderness survival or late-night truck stop snacks might come to mind. But think again. Dehydrated foods make for convenient, healthier, less sugary snacking and help preserve foods and concentrate their flavors. Dehydration has never been more popular with chefs — in restaurants you’ll find jerky on charcuterie boards, dehydrated veggies in salads and dried fruit slices accenting desserts. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and parsnip chips are the new kale chips. And jerkies have kicked up their flavors and variety with sophisticated salmon, bison and chicken snacks.

Try the Trend:

  • Made-in-house meat jerky (coming soon to your local Whole Foods Market store)

  • Wildbrine Kimchi Crisps

  • Whole Catch® Salmon Jerky

Quick Bread

8. Gluten-Free Flours

Whether they have an allergy or just want to expand their flour horizons, people are going nuts for gluten-free flours from legumes, ancient grains and, um… nuts. The gluten-free offerings have exploded in recent years, and dishes made with alternative flours such as millet, almond meal, teff and coconut flour are yielding yummy results. Grain-free cooking and baking is trending on Instagram and a big favorite in Paleo circles, too, so the demand for these flours is, well, on the rise. Want to make chickpea flour crepes? Coconut flour muffins? Almond meal encrusted tilapia? Snag a bag of pre-packaged mix, or head to the bulk section and buy as little — or as much — as you want!

Taste the Trend:

  • Chickpea flour

  • Amaranth flour

  • Coconut flour

Bowl of Noodles

9.  Flavors from the East

The old days of bland meat and potatoes are gone, as U.S. demographics and palates are shifting and our taste buds are boldly exploring the East: Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. We’re open to hotter spices, new textures and tastes (umami, anyone?), and a greater variety of ethnic food. With kimchi (Korea), seaweed (Japan), sambal (Southeast Asia) and labneh (Middle East), we can experience the world through our intrepid taste buds.

Try the Trend:

  • Saffron Road Korean Tacos

  • 365 Everyday Value® Organic Sweet Sabi Mustard (coming soon to Whole Foods Market stores!)

  • 365 Everyday Value® Organic Thai Curry Cashews

Bowl of Popcorn

10. Heirloom Beyond the Tomato

You’ve probably heard of the word “heirloom,” before but have been wondering what it really means. Heirloom crops are essentially “old-world” plant breeds that existed long before conventional growing and breeding practices dominated U.S. agriculture, which means their distinct flavors and traits have been preserved for centuries. Until recently, finding heirloom ingredients — including the now mainstream heirloom tomatoes — in a national supermarket was a novelty. Now, packaged products with heirloom ingredients (think rice, tea, popcorn, cocoa and peppermint) are popping up in Whole Foods Market’s grocery aisle, and everyone is gobbling them up.

Try the Trend:

  • Tiny But Mighty Heirloom Popcorn

  • Madécasse Chocolate Discs

  • Seely Mint Patties

Have you tried any of these foods? If so, what are the cool and interesting ways that you’re using them? Are there any under-the-radar ingredients not included here that you think will be the next big thing? Leave us a comment, and let us know what you think!
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