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What will be the top food trends of 2022?

what-will-be-the-top-food-trends-of-2022?

Dalgona candy with umbrella shape being cut out with a toothpick

Photo: Chung Sung-Jun (Getty Images)

In late 2020, there was one food trend looming on the horizon: chicken wings. With the fast food chicken sandwich craze in full swing, we predicted that 2021 would be the year of the chicken wing instead of just the chicken breast, since wings are highly portable, easy to cook in a small space, and easy to sell in scalable quantities. Turns out we were right, weren’t we? Chicken wing concepts popped up all over the place, and restaurants even started experiencing shortages. America, what will we devour next?

Below are our predictions for which foods, drinks, and concepts are poised to be the top culinary trends of 2022. Do you think our predictions are way off? Let us know what we’re missing in the comments.

Popcorn

Popcorn with bacon on top

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle (Getty Images)

Popcorn

This one might sound hilariously antiquated. Popcorn has, after all, already been woven into the fabric of American society for the better part of 200 years (and across the globe thousands of years before that). But according to Information Resources, Inc., a market research firm that looked at retail data for 2021, popcorn sales grew an impressive 9% this year and are expected to continue apace in 2022.

One likely reason for the popcorn boom is the increase in at-home streaming while movie theaters remained shuttered, but that doesn’t entirely account for the explosion of new popcorn-based snack products. As industry publication Candy & Snack Today explains, popcorn is the perfect low-calorie “canvas” upon which brands can layer other flavors, creating a variety of appealing products that are both seasonal (like chocolate mint) and trendy (like hibiscus). Popcorn cake, anyone?

Interactive Food

Screenshot from Jelly Belly Beanboozled commercial

Jelly Belly’s “Beanboozled” flavor guessing game
Screenshot: Jelly Belly / YouTube

Interactive food

After watching Squid Game, everyone wanted to know where they could get their hands on the dalgona candy featured in the show. For the uninitiated, dalgona is a Korean candy made from sugar and baking soda that has shapes such as stars and umbrellas stamped into it; if you can carve the shape free from the brittle sugar treat without breaking it, you win. Dalgona sales are surging in the wake of the popular Netflix drama, and it’s reasonable to assume that the industry might try to “gamify” popular foods by making them more activity-based.

We already saw this over the past year, to some extent: hot cocoa bombs are a fun way to enjoy a classic winter beverage, and Jelly Belly has continued turning its grossest flavors into a marketing opportunity known as “Beanboozled,” a confectionery version of Russian roulette. These gimmicks turn snacks into memorable moments, which every brand wants to seize upon—not to mention these foods are highly Instagrammable, hashtaggable, and otherwise full of viral potential. Why wouldn’t we see more of them soon?

4 / 10

Celebrity fast food collaborations

Celebrity fast food collaborations

A long queue of cars form at a McDonald’s drive-thru during the launching of the BTS Meal.

A long queue of cars form at a McDonald’s drive-thru during the launching of the BTS Meal.
Photo: Ezra Acayan / Stringer (Getty Images)

Celebrity fast food collaborations

First came the Travis Scott meal at McDonald’s (sicko sauce not included), then J Balvin, followed by BTS, then Saweetie. More recently, Megan Thee Stallion debuted her signature “hottie sauce” at Popeyes. These celebrity collaborations are an easy cash grab for both the restaurant chain and the celebrity. On the surface, the initial attraction of these meals is the idea that you get to eat like the stars. On the flip side, the celebrities might be thinking, “See? I’m so relatable I eat fast food, too!”

Most notable are the customizations the celebrities specify to make the meal “theirs.” Those touches of personality are what set the meals apart, considering the meals are generally full of items already available on the menu. For the Travis Scott meal, the signature detail was swapping ketchup for barbecue sauce with the fries, and for BTS it was adding Sweet Chili and Cajun dipping sauces (not previously available in the US). The question isn’t whether celebrity collaborations continue in 2022—the real question is, who will be next?

More boozeless cocktails

mocktail menu

Photo: Gado (Getty Images)

More boozeless cocktails

Non-alcoholic cocktails are showing no signs of slowing down. Booze-free bars, old and new, are starting to shine, and non-alcoholic cocktails are getting better than ever. Maybe it’s a result of heavy pandemic drinking habits, or people are being more mindful of their alcohol intake, but whatever the reason, be prepared to see more non-alcoholic drinks hitting the shelves.

It’s not juices or sodas, either; these are complex components to drinks to sip on a special occasion or to relax after a long day. Non-alcoholic cocktails can be delicious, and the interest in them is only growing.

6 / 10

Environmentally friendly food

Environmentally friendly food

cell cultured chicken in singapore

Photo: NICHOLAS YEO/AFP (Getty Images)

Environmentally friendly food

Climate concerns are on the rise, and the way we view and produce our food is becoming more important than ever. Meatless products have taken the market by storm (it seems like 2021 was the year of plant-based chicken), but cell-cultured meat, especially seafood, has been in the works from a handful of different companies. Meat production is especially environmentally taxing in multiple ways, so it’s likely we’ll only see more of these alternative products for sale in the coming year, as technology gets better and production scales.

But it’s not just meat. Crops that have a heavy environmental impact are also being reconsidered, like coffee and chocolate. Beanless coffee is already being sold, so anything considered taxing on the environment is ripe for innovation. You’ll see the results of those considerations in the coming year, if not decades to come.

Cottage foods

Person's hand rolling famian bing

Photo: GREG BAKER/AFP (Getty Images)

Cottage foods

Not to be confused with cottagecore, the term cottage foods refers to homemade foods like pickles, jams, and cookies, registered with the government and approved for public sale. (Think farmers’ market vendors.) During the height of the pandemic, we saw home cooks and bakers take cottage foods to the next level, launching at-home businesses via Instagram.

If this year was any indication, more and more talented cooks and bakers will launch independent operations in 2022, leaning into the flexibility and creativity their own kitchens provide.

Filipino flavors

Ube ice cream in a bowl

Photo: Jestin Korsgaard (Getty Images)

Filipino flavors

Late last year, Bettina Makalintal wrote that New York City was in the middle of a “Filipino pop-up renaissance.” Since then, we’ve see Filipino flavors around every corner. We’re chugging lattes made with ube, the scrumptious Filipino purple yam; we’re digging into macaroni and cheese ice cream, which is reminiscent of Filipino keso ice cream. Filipino sweets are rich and earthy, while their savory counterparts are bright, often garlicky, and always satisfying. With any luck, Filipino food will keep riding high long past 2022.

9 / 10

Robots and digital dining

Robots and digital dining

Robot serving pizza

Photo: Chung Sung-Jun (Getty Images)

Robots and digital dining

Throughout 2021 due to both staffing shortages and an interest in decreasing in-person human interaction (aka germ spreading), grocery stores, food delivery services, and restaurants turned to robots. AIs became our baristas, our servers, and one tiny bot even brought us beer whenever we called its name. Well, it seems like both the staffing shortage and our aversion to being face-to-face are continuing into 2022 and technology is only getting more and more advanced.

Along with physical robots being introduced into more culinary spaces, both in front and back of house, it’s likely that we’ll see more innovations in contactless ordering in the form of more QR codes, specialty apps, and things like food lockers for both restaurants and grocery stores. In 2022 we can keep an eye on how these now common practices become more personalized and warm as diners and customers search for that pre-pandemic personal interaction.

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