Predicting Food Trends Using Sustainable Resources

21/01/2016 11:37:36

Food trends can be hard to predict but there are hundreds of resources out there to give clues as to what is going to be big over the coming year. Sustainability in one form or another seems to be high on the list.

Firstly I think it is useful to try and define what sustainable means. I have trawled dozens of websites aimed both at consumers and the catering trade here and abroad, as well as reading government reports and industry magazines and the following is a list of criteria that come up repeatedly;

  • Seasonality
  • Low environmental impact
  • Animal welfare
  • Reduction in use of non-renewable resources
  • Fairtrade
  • Viable for farmers and producers
  • Reduction of wastage
  • Supporting bio diversity
  • Local sourcing

As every year starts, there are a number of predictions on what will feature on menus and in shopping baskets and what the trends will be over the coming months. The information may come from a market research company, social media or bodies such as the Sustainable Food Trust and the Soil Association. A few things that seem to be generating interest are ancient grains, seaweeds, organic produce in general, a continued interest in foraged foods and an increase in restaurants and hotels growing their own produce.

More and more hotels and restaurants are acquiring land or forming partnerships with growers to provide fresh produce direct to the kitchen, with the highly perishable items such as herbs, salads and soft fruits being popular choices. Roof gardens, community gardens and charity projects are all producing sustainable food that is ending up in restaurant kitchens.

There is no comprehensive list of ‘ancient' grains, but the category generally includes amaranth, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, kamut, millet, spelt, teff and quinoa. In the 2015-2016 Great Taste Book, featuring 237 products all awarded one or more stars in the awards, there are 5 products obviously using grains on this list. This increase in usage will probably be enhanced by the continuing real bread renaissance.

Many of the more niche trends may only spread slowly throughout 2016 but sustainability as a whole will, I believe, continue to gain importance and at a relatively fast pace. It is not by any means a new phenomenon but there is plenty of evidence for its growing importance to consumers, caterers and retailers.

There are many more that can be added to the list but these seem to be the main factors to take into account when trying to judge if a food is sustainable. For the end user, whether that is a caterer or consumer, it is hard to unravel the facts and make a decision. Is a tomato grown in the UK from a greenhouse heated with oil better or worse on the sustainable scale than one grown outdoors but transported from abroad? Whatever the correct answer is to that type of question, one thing we can be sure of is that buying local, seasonal food that has been grown with thought and care for welfare and the environment and is sold at a price viable for all concerned will tick many of the boxes.

One trend that seems to be gaining pace is the use of indoor cultivation units such as the Urban Cultivator supplied in the UK by Continental Chef Supplies. These are units that look like a glass fronted fridge but are in fact a growing system for micro greens and micro herbs. Simon Hulstone at the Michelin starred Elephant Restaurant in Torquay is a fan, saying that using the Urban Cultivator has brought a new dimension to his cookery. Simon is also one of the many chefs who has a farm at the heart of his operation, with 69 acres producing seasonal fruit, herbs, vegetables and flowers as well as pigs, turkeys, sheep and hens.The Urban Cultivator has also been shortlisted in the Caterer product excellence awards.

By Russell Brown, Creative About Cuisine

Photos provided by Creative About Cuisine