Food and beverage choices get more adventurous every year as Baum+Whiteman’s 2015 Food & Beverage Forecast predicts that items like celery root, habanero honey, vegetable yogurt and even insects are on the upswing. The international food and restaurant consulting company listed 11 F&B trends, based on three main themes: how technology is changing the way restaurants work, how basic flavors of food and drink are being manipulated, and how “authenticity” is no longer relevant.
For meeting planners looking to apply these trends to events, Michael Whiteman, president of the company, says that the trends relating to cocktails and appetizers can easily be incorporated into banquet menus. As such, here are five key highlights from the report that will inspire meeting planners to create very hip F&B options in the New Year.
- Oysters are everywhere. Because bays, inlets and tidal basins are being detoxed, farmers are reseeding old oyster beds and discovering new ones. For instance, Chesapeake Bay’s harvest grew eight-fold between 2006 and 2012. As such, the delicious delicacy is becoming more affordable, something every meeting planner loves to hear.
- New flavors, new products and mashups take place of authenticity. Root vegetables such as celery root, parsnips and kohlrabi are gaining in popularity, especially if they’re flavored with cured pork or smoked honey. Big-name chefs are experimenting with piquant honey, creating flavors with ghost chilis, habaneros and jalapenos that add lots of flavor to salad dressings, jams and jellies. Vegetable yogurts are becoming more mainstream in New York after the Barber Brothers launched a line of flavors such as butternut squash, beet, carrot and tomato. And the michelada, a beer-based drink made with lime juice and assorted sauces, spices and peppers, is becoming as varied as the Bloody Mary, as chefs create their own take on the popular Mexican beverage.
- There will be big shifts in boozing. Shareable punch bowls are back, creating a festive, communal cocktail for groups. Herbal liqueurs made from flowers, spices, citrus peels, herbs and tree bars are hip again with the newest generation. Flavored vodka is out, as whiskeys, tequilas and gins are starting to be flavored with cinnamon, apples, ginger and vanilla. Plus, soda fountain drinks such as milk shakes and ice cream floats are getting spiked with booze for a delicious dessert cocktail, an ideal way to transition from dinner to post-event drinks.
- Attendees look for alternatives to soda. Concerned by the amount of sugar and harmful chemicals in soda, more and more attendees are looking for cucumber and coconut waters for a sweet refreshment during meetings. Juicing continues to be popular, as hotels are even adding lifestyle juice bars for on-the-go travelers. Artisan sodas are also on the rise, as long as they’re made in house with fresh ingredients.
- Insects could provide protein. While the conversation about eating bugs is just beginning, Baum+Whiteman predicts that it will not go away any time soon. In fact, greenhouse gases could be reduced if we find creative ways to eat these creepy crawlers. Insect protein bars are already being made. Vij, an Indian restaurant in Vancouver, is also doing its part by selling a pizza-like paratha with crickets on top. Cricket powder, ladybug flour and grasshopper pasta are all possibilities for a greener F&B menu in the future.