Chefs Reveal Top 100 Food Trends for 2015

List reflects what will be on restaurant menus in the year to come

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill.-- Cronuts and kale may come and go, but some more stable trends continue to establish themselves into our everyday away-from-home eating habits. For the second year, locally sourced protein and produce, environmental sustainability and healthful kids’ meals took the top four spots in the annual National Restaurant Association What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.

Gluten-free cuisine fell from the No. 5 spot down to 12, replaced by natural ingredients/minimally processed food.

The annual What’s Hot forecast comes from a survey of nearly 1,300 professional chefs—all members of the American Culinary Federation—to determine which foods, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2015. Click here to view the entire ranking of 100 food trends.

The fact that local, sustainable and health trends top the list over more flavor-driven fads shouldn’t be too surprising, given foodservice’s role in our day-to-day lives. 

“As consumers today increasingly incorporate restaurants into their daily lives, they want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA. “So, it’s only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015. Those concepts are wider lifestyle choices for many Americans in other aspects of their lives that also translate into the food space.”  

For c-stores retailers, the question is this: How do you marry these lifestyle choices with the meal occasions that hungry consumers are coming to your stores to fulfill? According to another study released earlier this year by Datassential and the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), some of the strongest eating occasions for retail-foodservice channels include the morning commute, convenient meals while running errands and “food as fuel” sustenance. While convenience, flavor and value will always be table stakes, how can you help consumers not compromise their quests for local, sustainable and/or nutritious at the same time?

The answer should definitely not be an overnight shift. Much of our industry is still trying to gain the foodservice consumer’s trust in the first place (watch for Technomic’s Donna Hood Crecca’s column on gaining this trust in January CSP). But perhaps it’s a gradual shift of operator perspective, a question to ask every time a new menu item, promotion or concept enters development: Can this help fulfill the demands for local, sustainable and/or nutritious?

Now, back to the trends. The biggest “movers and shakers” on the What’s Hot forecast—trends that increased by 5% or more—include meatless/vegetarian items, kids’ entrée salads, gourmet lemonade, vegan entrees, Asian noodles, low-calorie entrees, ramen and steamed vegetables.

What dropped 5% or more? Ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, Korean cuisine, Greek yogurt, milkshakes and kale salad.

The NRA also called out perennial favorites—items that remain on the list year over year: barbecue, Italian cuisine, fried chicken, French toast, frying, oatmeal, comfort foods, fruit desserts, pulled pork and chicken wings.

In addition to checking out the rest of the list, watch for the January issue of CSP magazine, which will feature an in-depth look at the No. 4 foodservice trend of 2015: kids’ meals.