Spices such as harissa, za’atar and cardamom will gain popularity in 2018. 

Plant-based foods will continue to be on trend in 2018, but new labeling rules and undiscovered flavors also will make an impact, according to the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel. 

“The panel is predicting more algae and other plant-based proteins and products meant to reduce food waste, as well as growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called goth foods,” said Denise Purcell, head of content, S.F.A. 

Ms. Purcell added that a deeper demand for flavor exploration is still strong, as evidenced by the growing interest in regional foods from around the world.

In addition, the convergence of macro trends will create opportunities for food manufacturers. According to the panel, trends such as sustainability and wellness combined with consumers’ demand for convenience and flavor adventure will drive product development in the following year. 

The panel draws perspectives from retail, food service, strategic marketing and culinary education and includes Ken Blanchette, director of sourcing, FreshDirect; Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., professor of culinary arts and food science, Drexel University; Kara Nielsen, vice-president, trends and marketing, CCD Innovation; Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, founders, Midnight Market; Alison Tozzi Liu, editorial director, James Beard Foundation; and Elly Truesdell, local senior coordinator of local brands, product innovation and development, Whole Foods Market.

It has outlined the top 10 trends that will make an impact in 2018.

Plant-based foods

Plant-based foods increasingly are creeping on to store shelves as consumers look for nutritious snacking options. Snacks such as Organic Chickpea Puffs from Hippeas, Santa Monica, Calif., or Cassava Crunch chips from Plant Snacks, Needham, Mass., exemplify this growing need. Ms. Vasquez noted that 2018 will bring more plant-based convenience foods too as consumers veer away from traditional on-the-go snacks. This makes packaging an important factor to consider during product development.

Cassava chips
Cassava Crunch chips by Plant Snacks offers consumers a plant-based snack option.

Goth food
Possibly a reaction to the saturation of rainbow and unicorn foods, black foods are poised to break out in 2018, the panel noted. But it’s not as easy as dying products darker, consumers want health benefits with their goth foods, too. Some bakers are using activated charcoal, an ingredient that is gaining superfood status, to produce healthier pizza crusts.

Upcycled products 
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw out more than 400 lbs of food per person per year. Hoping to circumvent this growing problem, food manufacturers are looking for ways to upcycle items. Making products with ingredients and scraps that would have otherwise been discarded have the potential to find a large consumer base. Bakers and snack makers like ReGrained, San Francisco, are finding success in this market by baking with grains from breweries that already have been used to brew beer.  

Filipino cuisine

Although many Americans are familiar with a variety of Asian cuisines, Filipino cuisine remains a mystery to many. Its complex flavors and sour notes may have scared off consumers in the past, but changing attitudes have stimulated interest. Bakers can look to traditional baked foods such as cassava cakes and bibingka to find inspiration and tap into this trend while snack makers can incorporate traditional flavors into products.