ROCKVILLE, MD. — While so many trend forecasters focus on finding the next new sriracha or matcha, Packaged Facts in its latest report highlights creative culinary twists on classic kitchen staples. Think beets, black pepper and brown butter.

David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts
David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts

“Culinary trends in 2018 will be inspired by familiar comforts from our childhoods but with artisanal, indulgent, and downright delicious reimaginings that satisfy the appetites of traditionalists and foodies alike,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

The farm-to-table movement has sparked renewed interest in locally grown ingredients, and across the country chefs are showcasing these standards in new ways. Cauliflower, for example, continues to rise on restaurant menus as a versatile vegetable in a variety of applications, from soups to sandwich fillings to “steaks.” Its year-round availability, neutral flavor and nutritional chops have propelled it into a “restaurant and retail superstar,” according to Packaged Facts.

Sweet potatoes are seen in a variety of internationally inspired dishes.

A longtime mainstay of Southern soul food, sweet potatoes appear in a variety of internationally inspired dishes, including Mexican tacos, Italian pasta and Japanese cocktails.

“A lot of these ingredients are superfoods,” Mr. Sprinkle noted in an interview with Food Business News. “That is a very powerful concept in the consumer market because there is this ongoing tension in our food ideology, that we want natural whole foods, that apple-a-day mentality … but at the same time there’s this countertrend to want highly scientific, highly functional foods that are engineered to have a medicinal boost. Superfoods are a powerful concept because they at least in our minds smooth out that contrast. Superfood is a natural food that naturally has that special boost we associate with functional foods.”

Chuck E. Cheese offered macaroni and cheese on a pizza.

A number of foods featured in the report, however, are far from functional; they’re downright indulgent. Macaroni and cheese, meatballs and eggs Benedict are among the traditional comfort foods being reimagined on restaurant menus.

“Macaroni and cheese has never remotely gone out of style, so you’re seeing increasingly creative versions of it,” Mr. Sprinkle said.

Eggs Benedict, which typically features poached eggs and Canadian bacon on an English muffin topped with Hollandaise sauce, has been updated to include crab cakes, potato latkes or prime rib.

The Barbacoa Benedict at First Watch, a daytime-only restaurant concept with more than 300 locations, features a pair of poached eggs on toasted ciabatta with seasoned, braised beef, hollandaise, sliced avocado and cilantro.

“When we want comfort, we want extreme comfort; when we want health, we want extreme health,” Mr. Sprinkle said. “Different products make sense to us at different times of the day. What’s important, whether it’s macaroni and cheese and meatballs on one extreme or cauliflower steaks and beets in a salad on the other, is that they have really clear positioning in relation to those different needs.”

Click for a slideshow of eight culinary trends featured in Packaged Facts’ report.