Food trends for 2013: What’s the next kale?

JUDY HEVRDEIS AND BILL DALEY
Chicago Tribune
Modified: January 23, 2013 at 4:16 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013
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photo - Crispy kale sits atop the greens heap now and may be joined by Brussels sprouts and more in 2013. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Crispy kale sits atop the greens heap now and may be joined by Brussels sprouts and more in 2013. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

2013 is the year of the snake, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. But in food circles, it just might be the year of the roast chicken or Asian noodles.

Molecular gastronomy, fancy cupcakes, Korean tacos? So, so 2012.

The new year is always the time when prognosticators of all stripes decide what’s in, what’s out and, most intriguing of all, what’s next. Will we eat more Asian-influenced sandwiches and less Asian fusion? More Latin American flair, with a focus on Peru and Brazil? What influence will the economy, the growing number of farmers markets and our time-crunched lives have on what we eat?

“We are always looking for new versions of things that we already know,” says Harry Balzer, who has been watching what America eats for more than 30 years as a senior analyst with NPD market researchers. “We’re explorers, but we’re not Christopher Columbus.

“Where are the things that could have the greatest impact? They’re in the things that we eat the most often,” he says: sandwiches, vegetables and fruit.

Here’s our forecast based on the buzz among prognosticators we talked with:

Heirloom chicken: Like heirloom turkeys and heritage pigs before it, now may be chicken’s turn to get attention. “We’ll begin calling chicken by their varieties and, maybe, begin noticing the difference in flavors,” says Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant and trend spotter. In fact, Bret Thorn, senior food editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, said it’s here, pointing to an emerging class of high-quality fast-casual restaurants like Bantam & Biddy in Atlanta that celebrate heritage chicken.

Good, and good for you: “Vegetables will continue to move to the center of the plate, catering to vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, foodies and nutrition-conscious carnivores alike,” says David Sprinkle, research director of consumer market researcher Packaged Facts.

Kale sits atop the greens heap now (you ate lots of crispy chips last year, didn’t you?) and may be joined by Brussels sprouts and more. “It’s not always easy to convince a consumer, especially a mainstream consumer, that a vegetable dish is going to have flavor and interest and innovation,” says Mary Chapman of Technomic, a food service research and consulting firm. “But then you look at a menu like the Cheesecake Factory that has kale on one of their salads (and patrons think), ‘Maybe I would be willing to try it there, and then I know what to do with it.’”

Baobab, a coconut-size fruit loaded with vitamin C, fiber and calcium, could be the next superfruit, predicts Josh Schonwald, author of “The Taste of Tomorrow.”

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