While last year’s food trends were influenced by pandemic-related restaurant closures and shifts in consumer behaviour, the prospects for 2022 are a lot brighter. Discovering new ingredients and cuisines, whether at home or abroad, is very much on the agenda, as chefs and producers step up to the plate with new openings and cutting-edge products to try. And if one thing ties many of the current trends together, it’s an awareness of the need to lessen food’s impact on the environment, while still offering up incredible things to eat.
- Alternative milk
Given the exponential rise of oat milk sales in recent years, predicting the next big alternative milk could be big business. Waitrose is backing potato milk and began offering a variety produced by Swedish brand Dug in February 2022. It’s said to work well in coffee and, crucially, has a much lower carbon footprint than oat milk – potatoes are twice as efficient to grow than oats in terms of land and water use. Other contenders for non-dairy supremacy include blended milks such as pea and oat, as well as banana, hemp, cashew and coconut.
Calvados, the centuries-old apple brandy made in the orchards of Normandy, has been given a bit of a makeover in recent years. It’s shedding its stuffy, traditional image and a new generation of drinkers are discovering its charms. The market has been shaken up greatly by newcomer Avallen, which touts modern, colourful packaging and green credentials, claiming that every bottle it produces is carbon negative. East London bar Coupette, meanwhile, has teamed up with cider producer Maison Sassy to create its own-brand calvados, which it’s putting to use in cocktails.
A fungus — Aspergillus oryzae — commonly used in Japanese cuisine, koji is responsible for fermenting soybeans into soy sauce and miso paste, for example, as well hundreds of other applications. Top chefs have used koji behind the scenes for years, but now it’s in the spotlight as a star ingredient on restaurant menus in New York and London, as well as in new food products, such as koji bacon in the US.
- Filipino food: phase two
Filipino cuisine has been on the verge of breaking into the mainstream in the UK for a few years now — National Geographic Traveller Food tipped it as a cuisine to try in 2019 (read the article here). And now a recent spate of restaurant openings has put it firmly back in the spotlight. Whereas previously you’d have to scour London’s suburbs for places that serve Filipino food, the latest batch are right in the heart of the capital. There’s Budgie Montoya’s Sarap Filipino Bistro in Mayfair, and two Soho establishments: Kasa and Kin, an all-day cafe and bakery; and Ramo Ramen, a Filipino-inspired ramen joint. Meanwhile, Bongbong’s Manila Kanteen, one of the early flag-wavers for Filipino food, has moved from Bethnal Green to Covent Garden.
- Vegan chocolate
Plant-based chocolate is nothing new, but it’s now moving from the specialist to the mainstream. Lindt launched two new vegan bars in January this year, following in the footsteps of Nestlé’s vegan KitKat and Hershey’s oat-milk bars, both of which appeared in 2021. At the more premium end of the scale, luxe chocolate brand Firetree has introduced five vegan varieties, while doughnut maker Crosstown is venturing into chocolate bars, too, with three vegan flavours including yuzu with passion fruit.
Baijiu, a Chinese alcoholic drink distilled mainly from sorghum, might be unfamiliar to most, but it’s actually the world’s bestselling, most-consumed spirit. This is largely due to a very healthy domestic market where the drink has been produced and enjoyed for hundreds of years. But now China’s major distilleries have their sights set on international consumers. Luzhou Laojiao, the oldest continuously operating distillery in China, recently launched a new brand, Ming River, exclusively for the Western market. This has inspired Western distilleries to try their hand at making baijiu: Buffalo Trace released a variety in 2021, while, in the UK, craft distillers such as VIP Jiu 8 and Baijiu Society are making their own versions, as well as Baijiu-flavoured beers, to bring the drink to a whole new audience.
- High-end vegan
The rise of vegan food products and restaurants shows no sign of slowing, and many Michelin-starred chefs have begun turning their attention to plant-based menus, offering the same level of intricate fine dining, but without the animal products. In London, Alexis Gauthier presents fine-dining vegan menus at his eponymous Soho restaurant Gauthier Soho as well as his new outpost, 123V, while American plant-based food pioneer Matthew Kenney recently opened a new outpost in Selfridges, Adesse. In 2021, ONA, near Bordeaux, became the first all-vegan restaurant in France to win a Michelin star, and Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park in New York reopened as a vegan-only destination. Not everyone’s convinced, however. When Humm attempted to do the same at his London restaurant, Davies and Brook in Claridge’s, the hotel refused and the Swiss-born chef decided to leave.
- Tinned fish
Colourful cans of preserved tinned fish have long been an integral part of food culture in countries such as Spain and Portugal — and they could soon be more common in the UK, too. One of the country’s best-known seafood chefs, Mitch Tonks, has recently launched a range of British tinned fish under his own Rockfish brand, including Brixham Cuttlefish and Lyme Bay Mussels. Meanwhile, online specialist The Tinned Fish Market is selling the best cans from the continent in gift boxes or via monthly subscriptions.
One particular variety of edible sea greens could become more common in 2022. Kelp, a fast-growing seaweed, is the standout ocean crop to watch, lauded for both its nutritional and environmental benefits, as it removes carbon and toxins from the sea as it grows. It’s versatile, too, and has already been used by US start-up Akua to make burgers, pasta and dried jerky.
- Udon noodles
You can be sure that a nascent food trend is here to stay when the global big players get involved. London’s then-fledgling burger scene was given a big stamp of approval with the arrival of Shake Shack and Five Guys in 2013, for example. Now it’s the turn of Japanese udon noodles, with the UK launch of two huge chains, Murugame Udon and Kineya, both of which have hundreds of sites globally. The brands now run very popular restaurants in London that serve bowls of hearty noodle soups, and have plans to expand rapidly across the UK.
- Climate counting
Consumers might be used to seeing nutritional information on pre-packaged foods, and now they’re being invited to make choices that are beneficial to the planet’s health as well as their own. In 2021, a new ‘traffic light’ trial scheme was announced to rank the climate impact of supermarket food products, with major retailers such as M&S and Sainsbury’s signing up; a Europe-wide standard system is also in the works. Climate-friendly ratings are also found at restaurants including Chipotle, which offers a sustainability tracker for its ingredients, and Italian pasta chain Miscusi, which recently launched in London and is rewarding customers for making greener choices when ordering — the most climate-friendly dishes earn diners extra loyalty points to use on future visits.
Deceptively simple Japanese skewers of meat or vegetables cooked over charcoal, yakitori is enjoying increasing popularity, with several specialist spots springing up in London. These include the very well received Humble Chicken in Soho and Junsei in Marylebone, both of which offer hearts, gizzard, neck and skin alongside more regular cuts of chicken. Other new openings include Apothecary in Shoreditch and Yatay in Soho.