An A-Z of food trends from the NFU Mutual

NFU Mutul’s Darren Seward takes a look at how food producers are answering demands for new trend sensations

British cuisine is among the best in the world thanks to our willingness to embrace cultural imports alongside our more traditional British fare.

Our food and drink sector specialist, Darren Seward said: “As a commercial insurer supporting industries throughout the whole farm to fork chain, we believe there’s no other country which has welcomed more diverse and exciting culinary influences. We also know our home-grown produce is second to none which is why there is such great demand for local food and drink.”

Our A to Z of current food and drink trends shows just how varied our national palette can be and demonstrates the many opportunities for ambitious manufacturers which can predict the next big thing:

A – African

In 2018 it seems the British can’t get enough of West African staples such as jollof (a rice dish with tomato paste and spices) and kelewele (Ghanaian food made of fried plantains). These aren’t the sole preserve of trendy city eateries either — you can pick up plenty of these ingredients in most major supermarkets too.

B – Butter

Sales of butter are on the rise in the UK thanks to consumer demands for more natural, less processed foods. But no longer are the only options salted or unsalted — sweet, savoury, herby and spicy, there’s never been more options to spread on to your artisanal bread.

C – Charcuterie

Our continental cousins have long dominated the market for cured meats but things have changed in recent times. Britain has seen an explosion in native charcuterie businesses thanks to the rich abundance of quality meats that we produce.

D – DIY meal kits

Healthy, enticing meals delivered to your door with just some self-assembly required, what’s not to love? For those who are lacking time or inspiration, being able to select new and exciting meals online, while still having the satisfaction of preparing a meal from scratch, is an innovation growing in popularity.

E – Extra meal

In its food and drink trend predictions for 2018, Waitrose suggests people are eating more frequently each day. However, this ‘fourth meal’ isn’t about consuming more but about having little and often. An extra meal might come as a bedtime snack or a mid-afternoon energy boost all designed to fit with our increasingly hectic lifestyles.

F – Flavoured vodka

Gin has become established as a tipple of choice here for those looking for variety but vodka is catching up. Vodka made from milk, vodka with fruity undertones, and vodka with a peppery punch have all proven popular demonstrating a versatility that wouldn’t have been imagined a few short years ago.

G – Gut-friendly

We’re more aware than ever that what we eat and drink can have a big impact on how we look and feel. So it makes sense that fermented, gut-friendly foods are currently on-trend — think Korean specialities like kombucha and kimchi, as well as sauerkraut from Eastern Europe and tempeh from Indonesia.

H – Healthy snacking

Snacks no longer exist simply as a guilty treat to satisfy salt or sugar cravings. We want nutritional bars made with rice, grains, cereals, nuts, and fruit that are both tasty AND healthy. Rows and rows of healthy snack options lining supermarket shelves show manufacturers are answering these demands.

I – Insects

The idea of munching on a grasshopper or a handful of mealworms will sound more like an endurance than a snack for most Brits, but could times be changing?

Research company Meticulous Research says the global edible insects market is growing thanks to expanding populations, high costs of animal protein, and a drive for greater environmental sustainability. Here, you can already buy your own edible insects online from UK companies like Crunchy Critters and Eat Grub.

J – Jellyfish

In parts of Asia, jellyfish are already a delicacy and there are some Chinese and Korean restaurants in the UK which have introduced them as an offering for more ambitious diners. Jellyfish are better known for their texture — crunchy, gelatinous and rubbery — rather than any strong taste.

K – Kale

Every year sees a fresh contender for the superfood crown, often being billed as the ‘new kale’. But kale has remained a staple of every health conscious person’s diet for many years now thanks to its high level of nutritious vitamins and its adaptability for use in many recipes.

L – Local

Food scandals of the past have helped shape a public appetite for produce which can demonstrate its provenance today. A growing awareness of the environmental impact of food miles is also uppermost in consumers’ minds. Food and drink manufacturers, supermarkets, and restaurants have all caught onto this and will display local credentials proudly on packaging and menus. Read more here about the rise of the ‘locavores’.

M – Mead

It’s impossible to think of mead without conjuring up images of riotous medieval banquets but there’s more to this drink than its historic reputation allows. While old cultural beliefs that drinking mead would improve creativity and virility and result in immortality can be taken with a pinch of salt, the properties of natural honey mean the drink does offer some health benefits. The US has seen a surge in mead’s popularity but here in the UK we have our own burgeoning industry. Manufacturers such as Gosnells of London and the Cornish Mead Co. are helping elevate the status of this home-grown ‘honey wine’.

N – Nootropics

Smart drugs which boost memory and concentration have been around for a few years now, with many proving controversial to say the least. But natural and herbal nootropics (i.e. smart drugs) have entered the food and drink market, offering ‘think in a drink’ and snacks to boost cognitive performance, blurring the distinction between fuel for the body and for the mind.

O – Offal

Offal or awful? Those who shudder at memories of boiled tripe may struggle to get beyond their childhood ordeals. But many top chefs have found artful ways to achieve gastronomic success — Michelin-starred highlights include fennel-dusted sweetbreads and calf’s brain custard.

P – Plant proteins

With many people adopting a more ‘flexitarian’ approach to their diets (more veggie, less meat) the need to boost protein levels has thrown a focus onto plant-based options. As a result, grains, seeds and beans which are high in proteins, for example quinoa, chia and lentils, are proving increasingly popular these days.

Q – Quark

This soft, smooth dairy product, which is somewhere between cheese and yoghurt, is particularly popular in Germany and Eastern Europe. The fact it’s creamy and low in calories has made it a popular option for dieters and its flexibility makes it adaptable to many recipes. In 2018, Nestle joined the fray by launching a range of high protein yoghurt and quark single pots targeting the more health conscious consumer.

R – Rum

Mojitos, daiquiris, mai tais, pina coladas — all hugely popular cocktails at the moment and all ones which heavily rely on rum. This may be partly behind the growing demand for rum which saw sales nearing £1bn in 2017 but there has also been a growing thirst for the higher end, aged versions of the spirit.

S – Social media-friendly

Social media users love nothing more than uploading photos of their visually appetising meals. Images of colourful and exotic feasts dominate Instagram and Pinterest, as our foods help portray aspirational lifestyles. Restaurants understand that a well-placed image can spark a wave of free publicity and chefs know we eat with our eyes first.

T – Tea

Calling tea a modern trend in Britain is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch seeing as it originally gained popularity here in the 1660s. Although overshadowed by the sheer volume of varieties of coffee in recent years, tea has been making a comeback. New infusions are opening up a world of herbal, fruit, green and speciality teas which have reignited the love affair with our national beverage.

U – Unsweetened fizzy drinks

Obesity concerns prompted the Government to bring in its sugar tax which came as a big challenge to manufacturers of fizzy pop. Consumers also want to be offered something new and producers are responding — vast arrays of flavoured, sparkling water are proving to be a popular choice for consumers who want an alternative to traditional colas and lemonades.

V – Vegan

Once considered almost as vegetarian extremism, veganism is now a mainstream lifestyle choice. Advocates claim vegan food can provide all of the healthy dietary requirements while being kinder to animals and the environment.

The latest innovation has seen realistic burgers created purely from plant-based products — the  Impossible Burger is creating a stir in the US while Beyond Burger is hoping to emulate the success here in the UK.

W – Waste not want not

We’re more aware than ever that waste is bad for the environment and this is reflected in the way we prepare our meals at home and ensure leftovers are saved for tomorrow. Restaurants are also part of the trend which commits to using all of a food source — whether it’s nose to tail, or root to shoot, efforts to transform and use the bits that were once thrown away are resulting in some interesting dishes.

X – (Generation) X

Those born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, can count themselves among the members of Generation X. And the fact that members of this generation are currently at their peak earning potential, with a larger weekly spend compared with other generations, means their tastes should play a strong part in dictating trends. Food manufacturers and those in the hospitality industry can benefit by targeting the tastes of these 30, 40 and 50 something’s.

Y – Yorkshire burrito

Traditional Sunday roast ingredients wrapped inside a Yorkshire pudding are now being served by street vendors, restaurants and supermarkets. A really positive demonstration of what can happen when cultures collide. The only question vendors inundated by customers will be asking is ‘why on earth didn’t we think of this sooner?’

Z – Zero proof

The British relationship with alcohol is a complicated one. Sometimes we drink too much and we know we need to be sensible about our consumption. But these days binge drinking is down and the number of teetotallers is rising — and those who do enjoy alcoholic drinks want quality over quality.

Today, zero proof gins, cocktails and other designated driver-friendly drinks are providing a more sophisticated and grown-up option.

The NFU Mutual offer insurance for businesses across the farm to fork chain, from small artisan producers and boutique hoteliers, to large scale food and drink manufacturers.

Contact your local NFU Mutual office for more information on 01983 897605