Monday, February 26, 2024

2024 food trends: nutty grain, cheese cocktails and the humble pavlova

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Food trend experts predict a range of products about to have an international culinary moment.
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New Zealand cropping farmers growing buckwheat are likely to be among the winners if 2024’s predicted food trends come to pass.

At the other end of the wholesomeness spectrum, cocktails featuring cheese are also set to surge in popularity this year. 

The usual flurry of new year’s predictions on food trends have buckwheat appearing consistently as consumers latch onto the value of its high protein content and good fibre content.

United States-based food analysis company AF & Co highlights how the crop’s flour, made from a seed rather than a grain, is being embraced by pastry chefs not only for its gluten-free nature but also its subtle nutty, earthy flavour. 

It is seen as a win-win for health and taste, given its high protein content.

Nick Walters, director and founder of Pure NZ Buckwheat in Canterbury, said his company is experiencing extremely positive growth, with demand easily matching supply from the company’s 700ha of crop, putting him on the hunt for more growers.

“The NZ domestic market is very small, but we are experiencing growth all over the show including our key export market to Japan.” 

While predictions are for wider uses, he said the bulk of their production continues to go into Japanese soba noodles. 

In Japan the NZ-sourced product is held in high regard for its consistently good quality, putting it almost on an equal footing to local product there, and ahead of Russia-sourced alternatives.

In New York’s cutting-edge restaurants, buckwheat is now an ingredient in soba ice cream, while upmarket bakeries are selling caramel chocolate cookies made with toasted buckwheat.

The growth in buckwheat matches a growing concern over food processing. 

The New York Times predicts the term “ultra-processed” will continue to rise as a toxic phrase among  consumers. 

Mintel Food and Drink associate director Megan Stanton said processing methods linked to attributes like tradition, health and naturalness hold greater appeal. 

This includes processes like stone-ground flour, cold-pressed oil and fermented dairy products, giving them the endorsement as “clean label” foods.

This awareness is underpinned by Gen Xers, those currently in their mid-40s to late 50s, who are pioneering a new approach to healthy ageing, seeking products that can help extend active lifespans. 

A Mintel report notes this generation tends to be forgotten, overshadowed by Boomers and younger Millennials, but is a sector that accounts for the most significant share of food and drink spend in most markets globally.

As for the cheese cocktail, it follows Chinese surge in demand for cheese in many things, including the coffee that Fonterra has capitalised upon.

In March last year Fonterra highlighted the success of a raw cheese latte the company helped Chinese café company Luckin Coffee perfect, as Chinese interest in coffee drinking surged.

Now AF & Co has 2024 featuring cocktails with cheese as an ingredient. 

The range in use extends from sweet creamy cheese foam garnish to hard cheese grated on top of cocktails, adding savoury and fatty flavours to the flavour base. 

Trendy NR bar in New York is currently serving the Blue Cheese Martini, made with vodka, sauvignon blanc, blue cheese and fig.

As NZ’s free trade agreement with South Korea enters its final tariff wind-down with zero tariffs imminent  by 2030, Korean cuisine is picked to continue surging in popularity.

AF & Co names Korean food the “cuisine of the year” as awareness of all things Korean explodes, thanks to the likes of the show Squid Games, and K-pop’s popularity. 

The cuisine’s breadth of dishes, which include cheese topped hot pots, do-it-yourself barbeques and high-end steakhouses, has added to its wide appeal, the report states.

But to the relief of traditionalists, AF & Co also picks out the humble pavlova as “dessert of the year”. The report recognises its blurred Australian-NZ heritage, citing it as a “classic combination” of sweetness and tangy fruit topping flavours.

Meantime social media is continuing to grow in its impact upon consumers’ food choices. 

AF & Co predicts the influencer industry will grow by another US$5 billion ($8bn) by year’s end, amounting to a $US21bn sector with influencers increasingly seeking a premium on products they endorse. 

To match this, their videos and content are growing in quality, and expectations will be on brands to spend more on partnerships with them.

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