2012 Food Trends

Every year experts try to predict what the new popular trends among foodies will be. Below are 12 Food Trends for 2012 that are on currently the rise!

1. Salt – Forget Morton. If it’s not Himalayan or Northwest Indian Salish-inspired, alder-smoked, it’s so 20th century. Salt is in chocolate, on caramels, and sailing off store shelves. It’s the finishing touch to multiple dishes. At The Spice House in Chicago, popular salts include Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt, Chardonnay Oak Smoked Sea Salt, Truffle Salt, Vulcan’s Fire Salt, and Hickory Smoke Salt. Be sure to check out ethnic grocery stores and spice shops for specialty salts this year!

2. Artisan Chocolate – Small producers who carefully source their cocoa beans are turning out chocolate bars that can cost as much as a mega-bag of M&M’s, but offer much bolder flavors. These bars are often all-natural and cater to grown-up tastes. This year, start thinking of gourmet chocolate with flavors like hibiscus, hemp seed, Indian curry, and bacon. Chicago-based Vosges Haut-Chocolat offers a variety of delicious exotic chocolates including flavors like Cherry Rooibos, Blood Orange Caramel, Oaxaca Chili, and Black Pearl Ginger Wasabi.

3. Korean is the New Thai – The spicy, robust tastes of Korean cuisine are the latest Asian food to sweep the country. With consumers becoming more open and curious about new spices and flavors, Korean cuisine is growing in popularity. From kimchi (fermented cabbage) to spicy BBQ, there are plenty of Korean recipes and restaurants to explore this new year.

4. QR’s on Packaging – Look for Quick Response codes on food packaging this year. These fractal-looking squares that are readable by cell phone are showing up in ads right and left and will be popping up more and more on food packages. They’re a way for the industry to get more info out to consumers than they can fit on a package. Wines, especially, are a prime market because they can offer information about suggested food pairing and even videos about the winemakers.

5. Seaweed for Lunch – Seaweed is becoming one of the hottest trends in the lunchroom. Nori seaweed (a type of red algae seaweed) is most commonly used for wrapping sushi. However it is making a new appearance as a light and crispy snack. Roasted, salted, flavored and sold in lunch-box sized packages that keep it crisp, nori is a great alterative to potato chips. Seaweed is also a great source of iron and vitamin B12 – two vitamins that that are commonly difficult to obtain by vegetarians and vegans.

6. Gluten-free gets respect – The craze for all things gluten-free is turning up some better-tasting options for those who need to avoid this wheat protein. New gluten-free flour options are becoming more readily available including almond meal, hazelnut meal, coconut flour, and even yam flour. Check out Bob’s Red Mill as a great resource for these gluten-free options.

7. DIY Comes to Food – The public fascination with how our food is made is becoming more apparent. Do-it-yourself food kits contain all the ingredients and detailed instructions, making the novice a pro in the kitchen. From homemade cheese kits and yogurt starter cultures to dehydrating your own beef jerky and brewing kombucha tea, this do-it-yourself trend is on the rise for 2012!

8. The Butcher is Back – Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about where their meat comes and how it was raised. There has been a resurgence of interest in heritage animals, game meats, and locally raised meat and poultry. When consumers are paying good money for their meat, they want someone who really knows what they are talking about – whether it be the farmer at your local farmers market explaining how the animal was raised or the butcher at your supermarket speaking knowledgeably about how to prepare a specific cut. Take time this year to focus on the quality of meat you are purchasing and make friends with your farmer or butcher. Check out Eat Wild to find local meat and poultry near you!

9. Food Trucks – Food trucks are the hot new thing in cities across America. These “roach coaches” that were once the haunt of construction workers  have now become high end, gourmet kitchens on wheels that sell crème caramel, Thai food and hand-made creations as good as anything served in the finest restaurants are now available on wheels at a lower price. Check out ChicagoFoodTrucks.com to find a local food truck near you!

10. Drugstores as Food Stores – With so much eating on the go, drugstores have become a common grocery stop for people. Stores are looking beyond shelf stable snack foods and cookies and drug stores like Walgreens are beginning to branch out with more fresh and prepared to-go foods offering healthier options for your busy lifestyle!

11. Mindful Snacks – Snacks today don’t have to simply taste good, they also have to be good for you. Store shelves are starting to sport an array of chips and other snack foods with inventive, healthier ingredients. Sweet potatoes are big, lentils in the form of crisp cakes are popular, and now you can even buy crunchy kale chips as a healthy on-the-go snack!

12. In a Pickle – Finally, the lowly American pickle is staging a big comeback. There’s old-fashioned chow-chow pickle relish, artisan cucumber pickles and a host of other cultured products that have been fermented in lactic acid. Pickled peppers, pickled burdock root, pickled golden raisins, and artisan sauerkraut are gaining in popularity. Look for products using high-quality vinegar, artisan salts and organic produce that set themselves apart from your typical gherkins.

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