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Top 10 food trends for 2017

We’ve scoured the food and restaurant scene and spoken to our experts to reveal the next tastes and trends that are set to dominate eating habits in 2017. One thing that looks certain is that health and nutrition will govern our food choices this year as we all look to strengthen our minds and bodies to live healthier, happier and longer.

“We’re more conscious now of our health and how what we eat and drink affects us in the short, medium and long term,” says Charles Banks, co-founder and director of the global food trends and ideas agency, The Food People. “Rather than waiting until things have gone wrong to fix them, we are more proactive in our approach to health and this is being reflected in our food choices now and into the future.” Here’s what we’ll be eating from January.

1. Aubergines as carbs

Recent research from Waitrose reveals that we’re fast becoming a fan of the aubergine, with the supermarket reporting an 18% increase in sales in November. According to their report, more of us are opting to replace carbohydrates like burger buns, chips and pasta for the cleaner and leaner aubergine. If lasagne is on the menu for 2017, try substituting pasta sheets for slices of this purple wonder. Packed full of anthocyanins, they have been linked to better heart health. 

2. Foodie meal kits

With many of us time-strapped but still wanting to eat freshly cooked meals, gourmet meal kits offered by companies like Hello Fresh and Gousto allow for the perfect compromise of “fast” food without sacrificing key elements such as nutrition or recipe personalisation. Ingredients come pre-measured and prepped and there’s minimal mess and waste. It’s a trend that The Food People think will run. “Globally this trend is predicted to see huge growth,” says Charles. “We’re also seeing a lot of diversification within this sector too, such as vegan kits and mindful food boxes.”

3. Power to the plants

Vegetables like chickpeas and corn are set to trend as meat substitutes next year as more of us go meatless. “Our analysis shows that in the last 12 months there has been an increase in vegetables featuring in main meals on menus in the UK,” reveals Charles. “Some countries have also seen vegetable butchers popping up in a bid to get customers to think about vegetables in different ways.” With this rise in vegetable consumption, expect to see more innovative veggie based products like vegetable yoghurts lining the supermarket shelves. According to Waitrose’s trend report, yoghurts made from carrot, beetroot and sweet potato have proved an unexpected hit in the US with the craze set to take off in Britain from January.

4. Cactus hydration

Just when we thought the buzz around coconut water had fizzled out, the demand for healthy hydration sees some new drinks continuing to trend in 2017. According to supermarket giants Waitrose, the prickly pear cactus is growing in popularity with an increasing number of us opting for this berry-tasting drink as an alternative to other juices. Packed with betalains, cacti have anti-inflammatory properties and help fight cell damage – perfect for those New Year skincare plans.

5.Wake and cake

According to the Sterling Rice Group’s culinary trends report, we could be having our cake and eating it at the breakfast table this year, following a recent study published by the journal Appetite. According to the study, ‘habitual’ chocolate intake could be linked to better cognitive function, echoing the results of another study from Tel Aviv University that reported eating dessert after breakfast could help people lose weight. If you do opt for chocolate at breakfast, go for the dark variety. Thanks to its theobromine content, studies have found dark chocolate to be beneficial for heart health as well as helping to remedy those pesky tickly coughs.

6.Seaweed is the new kale

Baum and Whiteman’s food and beverage trends report predicts that seaweed will play a starring role on our dinner plates with the growing popularity of ramen and noodle broths. Look out for its hidden unami hit as chefs look to incorporate this sea vegetable into a range of dishes from poultry to pasta. Seaweed is best known for its content of a nutrient that tends to be missing in most foods: iodine. This super nutrient provides crucial support to the thyroid gland, which helps keep our hormones, mood and energy levels in check. Iodine is also an effective antioxidant and has been shown to play a huge role in preventing breast diseases.

7. Watermelon madness

It’s not just cacti that are looking popular for 2017. With Beyonce’s recent investment in cold-pressed watermelon juice firm, WTRMLN WTR, watermelon juice could become a regular in our glasses this year too. Brimming with lycopene, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, watermelons have been shown to ease sore muscles and help the heart recover after exercise. One for the gym bottle then.

8. Back to the old school

According to Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends report, traditional and retro-inspired products are going to be all the rage this year as manufacturers look to blend the elements of history and tradition into their new food and drink offerings - think grandma’s cooking but with a modern twist. Authentic flavours and traditional foods are predicted to feature heavily in our eating habits, providing a basis to expand on familiar recipes. “The growing shift is towards naturalness and simplicity,” explains Charles. “Health is the new wealth and this is reflected in our food choices as we look to eat and cook whole foods to obtain their naturally present goodness.”

9. Scentsational drinking

There’s no doubting that our sense of smell plays a huge role in stimulating our food and drink cravings, and the folks at Hotel Café Royal have put this phenomena into practice with their launch of 10 new cocktails. Teaming up with fragrance brand Givenchy, the hotel has married the world of scents and flavours creating 10 fragrance-infused cocktails, each with their own distinct scent, colour and taste. Simply pick your favourite scent from those kept behind the bar before being supplied with the corresponding cocktail. Experts believe these botanical bevvies could be a trend that continues on into 2017. Bottoms up!

10. Flexibility without compromise

In 2016 we saw the rise of new eating regimes like the Pegan diet and Sirt foods, but this year is going to be all about taking a flexible approach to our eating habits. “We’re in an era now where we can dip in and out of certain lifestyles, diets and approaches to managing our health,” explains Charles. “One month we may decide to follow a vegan diet and the next perhaps opt for gluten free. So in 2017 we’re going to see a much more relaxed attitude towards eating habits with more free-from food choices.” And we can look forward to an improved free-free food offering to boot. “Gone are the days of dire free-from food choices,” says Charles. “As consumers we’re much less willing to compromise on what a healthy or free-from food should look and taste like and retailers are responding to this with healthier food options becoming much more appealing.”

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