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Predictions for Food and Flavor in 2020

Updated: Feb 25

What is the next cauliflower? Are diners done with kale? What is labneh? Do you ever find yourself anxious when you don't know what a new menu item is? The Pretty Fork compiled a list of top food trends from expert sources in the food industry over the last few months, and we developed our own predictions for 2020.

2020 will be a year for eating global but eating local. This means getting global flavors from specific regions of the world and sourcing them locally. This includes proteins like Mangalitsa pork raised on Orcas Island, a hairy pig typically raised in Hungary that's known as the Kobe beef of pork and regulated like the Champagne in France. As diners know more about where food has been sourced, it has created a preference for not only a local label but a story and a purpose.


Here is our outlook for the flavors of the future:


Global influences

We are seeing more region-specific flavors going big and entering restaurants as diners travel and try new delicious food around the world. Regional characteristics we see showing up include Indian, New Mexican, Latin American, Eastern Europe, West African, & Pacific Rim. One might say we're going "glocal" for food this year.


Precise spice

Hot and spicy flavors are popping up everywhere. Diners are now after more than just 'hot' or 'mild' and are seeking different peppers like ancho, poblano, serrano, shishito, guajillo, and datil to name a few. Chefs are seeing that diners are looking for both heat AND flavor, and are pairing them with other tangy, sweet, or savory ingredients.


Alternative meats going mainstream

The trend for plant-based proteins hit a fever pitch in 2019 with the launch of Beyond Meat at several fast-casual dining establishments like TGI Fridays, Hardees, and Subway. Then, we had Impossible Burgers launched at Burger King and have only seen that grow from there. With these new options, we now expect a normalization of alternative meats in high-end restaurants as chefs begin to experiment. More restaurants are widening their vegetarian and vegan options to attract flexitarian and other dieting diners all across the restaurant scene, and while plant-based proteins aren't yet poised to take over vegetarian options like black bean burgers, we have something that finally looks and tastes like real meat.


Fermented flavors

Did you know fermentation is an excellent antioxidant? It's true! Fermented foods are an essential health topic today. This is for good reason as these good bacteria, particularly those in our gut, may boost immunity, make your brain work better, improve digestion, and help us maintain a healthy weight. With that, as diners become increasingly interested in regional ethnic foods, these fermented ingredients are abundant in other cuisines and have also seen a rise in popularity in restaurants.


Unique beverage pairings

Driven by Millennials, an upward trend for alcohol paired with food will appear more in 2020. Foodies are finding that by pairing the right alcohol flavors, they can match it with traditionally savory and sweet notes. This is also seen in the craft beer craze where diners are interested in seeing specific beer pairings with foods they like. On the other side of this spectrum, we are also seeing an increase in interest for non-alcoholic cocktails like shrubs adorned with rosemary, which give off delicious aromatics in a sparkly alcoholic like mouthfeel. Also, did you know that Sober bars are opening at a faster clip all across the world? You could say sobriety is having it's coming out moment as more people choose to opt-out of drinking altogether.


Affordable local dining

Many restaurants today are sure to find a local farmer, butcher or baker and make a friend out of them. Diners want locally sourced food, and they show it with their valued repeat business. Because it's no longer difficult to get a good, affordable meal with food that was grown within 90 miles, even chefs with family-friendly neighborhood restaurants can get in on the local game. Some chefs often keep p-patches in the city, work with local CSAs, or participate in coops in rural areas to help keep their hands in the ground.


Storytelling & journey

Restaurants or dishes that tell a story are increasingly preferred by diners. We posit that the trend of storytelling in restaurants was brought to life by the food truck trend as sous chefs broke off from chain restaurant jobs and opened their own mobile food experience. Think about that amazing lunch you had on that sunny afternoon downtown. You ate a triple-cheese grilled sandwich with chunky tomato soup. The owner grew up poor in rural Kansas and became a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who worked in fine-dining spots all up and down the west coast in their early 20's, then landing in Seattle for the promise of our pacific northwest culture, cuisine, and community. Stories and food go together. These people drew from what they had. Themselves. They reached deep, they were brave, and they created a movement, which brings us to our final prediction...


Finding forever locations

While its safe to say Food Trucks aren't as prolific as they used to be, they are now a respectable entryway to finding their forever locations. Look at favorites like Off the Rez, who now has a place at the Burke Museum in UW. Then we have Schmaltzy's deli opening in Fremont. They had humble beginnings with its food truck Napkin Friends, one of our favorites! We see this trend continuing as the trucks who have a memorable story generally have their food remembered more often which leads to more repeat diners. Looking back, did you know that Marination is now 10 years old?! One might call them a vanguard.


What predictions do you have for food in 2020? Let us know!

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