10 Food Trends for the Next Decade: Family Dinners, Less Booze and More

By Elizabeth G. Dunn

1. Booze will lose traction.

Alcohol consumption has been falling in the U.S. for years (quarantine blips and binges notwithstanding). A more mindful, health-conscious generation of drinkers will continue to drive a shift away from Martinis and Manhattans toward low- and no-alcohol choices. Think aperitif culture, adaptogen-infused mocktails, non-alcoholic spirits, session beers and low-ABV wines.

2. Families will eat—and cook—together more often.

A silver lining of pandemic lockdown: It enabled many families to eat together nightly, with kids pitching in with the cooking out of necessity. As remote work becomes more prevalent, the ritual will continue, advancing a whole generation’s kitchen skills for the long haul. Media company America’s Test Kitchen reports sales of its kids’ cookbooks have doubled in recent months; Rica Allannic, a top cookbook agent, said there are many more titles focused on young cooks now in the pipeline.

3. Regionalism will heat up.

Eurocentric dining has been on the wane in America, making way for different culinary perspectives. Diners will dig even further into hyperspecific food concepts, those driven by authentic personal narrative and/or a highly particular cultural context. Harbingers: the restaurant Benne on Eagle in Asheville, N.C., which celebrates African influences on Appalachian cuisine; or the recent pop-up dinners put on by New York’s Junzi Kitchen, where chef Lucas Sin collaborates with fellow chefs to cook the food of the Chinese diaspora.

4. Restaurants will wear many hats.

All-day cafes were just the start: Following on Covid-era business pivots, restaurants will continue to find new ways to serve their communities, extending their purview beyond sit-down dining to offerings like meal kits, cooking classes, wine clubs and food retail. Marguerite Mariscal, CEO of the restaurant group Momofuku, sees chefs playing a curator role, as valued by diners for assembling a take-home box of artisanal groceries and house-made products as for cooking a hot meal.

5. Zero-waste will be all-important.

Waste-consciousness will go mainstream, with consumers demanding better biodegradable delivery packaging, composting at home and buying from burgeoning waste-reducing grocers such as Imperfect Foods. Organizations like Zero Foodprint and Rethink will grow, working with restaurants on a larger scale to reduce their carbon footprints and connect extra food with community need.

6. Plants will rule.

The shift away from animal protein isn’t a fad but, rather, a far-reaching cultural phenomenon. Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes will improve and proliferate. Meanwhile, Elle Simone, executive director of America’s Test Kitchen, sees a growing interest in actual veggies propelling the plant-centric cuisines of the Middle East and Eastern India into the spotlight.

7. Heterogeneity will be the new normal.

Restaurants and food brands will be headed by a more diverse group of chefs, entrepreneurs and executives than ever before, as consumers and investors awaken to all the talented women and people of color who have been shut out of leadership positions to date. A proliferation of new flavors and ideas will follow.

8. We’ll upgrade from ‘organic’ to ‘regenerative.’

As the term “organic” continues to be diluted, evolved eaters will instead seek out ingredients labeled “regenerative”: grown and raised using methods that improve the soil, capturing carbon and encouraging biodiversity. A new Regenerative Organic Certified program, launched in August of this year, will help shoppers identify bona fide products.

9. Ethical employment practices will take root.

The farm-to-table revolution was all about the ethics surrounding how food is grown. Going forward, consumers will seek out restaurants and brands that care as much about their people as their ingredients. Employee-owned businesses such as the King Arthur Baking Company and Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods will gain cachet; the restaurants that weather the pandemic will increasingly bake a living wage for staff into their business models.

10. Comfort will be the vibe du jour.

Tumultuous times will leave us craving simpler plating, product-driven cooking and old-school recipes, both at home and in restaurants. Anna Polonsky, founder of the restaurant design and strategy firm Polonsky and Friends, said she sees tablecloths making a comeback—as in grandmothers’ linens, not ultra-high-end ones—along with rounder edges, cozy fabrics, handmade ceramics, comfortable seating and softer lighting. Her take: “In a chaotic world, all one wants is stability.”


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