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2012 Food Trends & Predictions

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Amuse bouche, complimentary served bite-size “snacks” wet your palate and offer more value for the money

“Goodbye Thai food and burgers,” says Executive Chef Craig Mason of The National Conference Center. He states those crazes have come and gone. Last year, I’d say his predictions were like hitting the bull’s-eye in a game of darts. Mason’s 2011 Food Predictions included more quasi-meal places like Chipotle would appear on the map and Chefs would prepare food with less seasonings, sticking to the basics – salt, pepper and garlic. Executive Chef Craig Mason’s 2012 food predictions are a list of commodities and concepts he views as popular in the next year:

  • Farm-to-table and more of it – Mason predicts a continuation of the current farm-to-table movement. He says local will begin to make strides towards becoming “the normal,” and almost expected. He doesn’t necessarily believe organic will be the standard in consumers’ food purchasing but foresees shopping at farmers markets to grow in popularity.
  • Flavored Vinegars – “We’ll see it more in restaurants first,” Mason explains, “Weird flavored vinegars, such as pomegranate vinegars, house-made vegetables and fruit pickles will be among those to start the movement.” Watch out for the follow up in grocery stores.
  • More heirloom food – You’ll begin to see fruits and vegetables that aren’t common or have disappeared from the produce section. Among those uncommon fruits and vegetables, Mason says will be honey crisp apples. 
  • All about value! – People spending money on dining out will be looking for the best experience with their money. He states, “People want to go out and be seen. The intrinsic need to go and be seen is human nature, but people will be looking for more value for their money in terms of service experience.” One trend the Executive Chef foresees, more restaurants incorporating amuse bouche, which Mason describes as little “snacks” to wet the appetite and awaken your taste-buds. Unique, up-scale establishments typically serve these single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres; but in 2012, you may see them in places offering more value and experience for your money.
  • Imported wines – In 2011, Mason predicted an emphasis on local wine, but in 2012 Mason says there’s going to a high demand for higher-quality, value-priced wines from places like Spain and South America. He also believes the market should anticipate a high demand for natural wines that entailed minimalistic farming, meaning the farmers spray when they have to spray, rather than spraying everyday.
  • The explosion of special diets – Mason says there’s already a confusion of preference versus dietary restrictions. In 2012, consumers will be even more caught-up in diary-free, gluten-free, soy-free, rice-free menu options as a personal preference, rather than a dietary restriction.
  •  A great whole-grain explosion - Not only will 2012 see the trend in special diets but Mason predicts diners will begin to see different grain varieties on the menu. Quinoa will be a staple on many menus, barley will begin to replace rice and whole-wheat pizza will be a new menu addition for pizza-lovers.
  • More atmosphere – The Chef who enjoys grilling outdoors, predicts (and probably has secret wishes) that new restaurants will cater to people who enjoy a fun atmosphere. Mason says, “2012 will be the year of leaving behind the stuffy restaurants and sitting outside in a fun atmosphere, a place where people can have great food in jeans.” He also says beer gardens will become more popular.
  • Small chocolate treats – Dessert-lovers will see a resurgence of chocolate in main-stream dining. Tiny desserts such as chocolate truffles on a smaller dish will become the new trend.

How will these meal trends affect your events in 2012? Would you add anything to this list; if so, what would it be?