Sustainability, plant-based foods and healthier fare are among the hottest culinary trends expected for 2022, according to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) as part of the group’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.
After demand for comfort food surged during the height of the pandemic, consumers are refocusing on better-for-you options, with foods that are believed to have immunity-boosting qualities and plant-based sandwiches making up three of the Top 10 Trends for 2022. Plant-based proteins are growing increasingly popular on menus and less expensive cuts of protein, such as thighs instead of wings, will have a greater presence in the year to come.
The NRA also expects menu streamlining to continue, and sustainability will continue to influence menus and how restaurants make decisions across the board. From reusable and recyclable packaging to zero-waste options, restaurants are continuing to prioritize sustainable initiatives, the report said.
“In addition to a return to health-focused menu offerings and more eco-friendly, improved off-premises packaging, all of which rated high in the top trends, we’re expecting operators to look across their menus for transformative opportunities,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. “Look for trends that fuse the traditional meal day part items with other day parts and an increasing popularity of snacking and its allied items. Also, with the popularity of cocktails-to-go during the pandemic, restaurants will look to expand both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beverage options.”
By day part, the NRA forecasts that breakfast trends will include non-traditional breakfast proteins, plant-based breakfast sandwiches and egg-based bowls. For lunch, plant-based sandwiches, globally inspired salads and grain-based bowls are expected, while for dinner, NRA is forecasting demand for less-expensive chicken and beef cuts and plant-based burgers. Global spices are expected to continue to expand in demand, as are alternative sweeteners and CBD-infused desserts.
The What’s Hot survey was conducted in October 2021. More than 350 professional chefs of the American Culinary Federation rated 109 food items and culinary concepts compiled by Association experts and Technomic’s Menu Research & Insights Division.