This year we traveled to the West Coast of America for our yearly shot of food inspiration and interesting food trends. In this blog we share some of our key insights on how food and eating are evolving in food minded Seattle and San Francisco.
Food trend #1 Informal, high Q eateries
Top class chefs are opening a second venue that offer super popular dishes for a lower price and lower service. In most of these outlets guests order at the bar from a small menu with few options that are made of high quality ingredients and have great flavour designs. For example, we tasted the best roasted sprouts ever at RT Rotisserie, topped with a Caesar dressing they let our taste buds flabbergasted. RT Rotisserie is the informal eatery of top restaurant Rich Table. On the other side we see food trucks entering the restaurant scene. Once voted as the best food truck of the world, Signor Sisig now serves it’s Filipino dishes in a bricks and mortar outlet.
Food trend #2 Etnic Blends
Signor Sisig’s success can also be explained by it’s ability to blend into American eating culture. Their recipes are not 100% authentic Filipino, as they have given the dishes a Latino twist. Many restaurants use the BWS (Bowl, Wrap, Salad) formats and creatively fill them with all ingredients and cuisines imaginable. Stonemill Matcha is another example of blending. It is a café entirely build upon the Japanese green powder tea. They sell a lot of Matcha drinks in the style of lattes and cappuccino’s. Inauthentic Japanese, but beloved by Americans. Their pastry and dishes blend Japanes ingredients with USA formats like Miso Granola, Matcha puff pastry and Yuzu meringue pie. Designed by the famous pastry chef Mikiko Yui. Americans are not shy of making intense flavour combinations, many of the things we tasted were high in sweetness, salt, sourness, umami and hotness. Only the bitter tones were barely there.
Food trend #3 High tech food
People in the West are in for the new. That spirit has been here since the cowboys in the Wild West arrived and is still there. It is also the reason why tech companies prosper in Silicon Valley. With the fertile lands nearby and some great universities, the perfect ecosystem for new food companies is here. Today we see many food start-ups around San Francisco. Often based on new technology. For example, we visited Corbion, producer of Thrive® Algae Oil. The company makes culinary oil and a baking “butter” out of microalgae. These products have far better health and sustainability specifications than traditional oil and fats. This area is also the birth ground of cellular agriculture companies Perfect Day and Clara Foods. They make milk and egg proteins with help of micro-organisms and without cows and chickens. Next to that we see data driven companies starting to act in the field of food and trying to contribute to better health and sustainability. We had a great discussion with Google’s director of the food@work program Michiel Bakker and innovation manager food@google Ennis Olson and their purpose of doing so.
Food trend #4 Eatertaining factories
From San Francisco’s famous Tartine Manufactory, Dandelion chocolate to Seattle Starbucks Roastery, we see a growing number of shops and restaurants that place the making of the food at heart. Little factories are arising in the outlets, giving clients insight into the making off. At Seattle’s Beecher’s cheese café, guests can enjoy a cheese sandwich while overlooking the dairy and see how the milk is curdled, cut and pressed into cheese. The same cheese they enjoy on their grilled sandwich, mac & cheese or cheese rich soup. And what a nice idea anyway: a cheese restaurant! Although we Dutch are famous cheese makers, we do not have restaurants build upon cheese with all kind of creative cheese menu options. Yeah, Americans definitely know how to build business out of one product or brand.
Food trend #5 Nomadic food
Modern Americans expect food available anywhere, anytime. Packed in a way that it is easy to transport (sad about the enormous amount of plastics!), we see all kinds of businesses capitalizing on this trend from food trucks, enormous salad bars at supermarkets to the cashier less grab and go shop from Amazon Go. Narrative is another popular lunch place offering ultra healthy food. Here you can order your lunch in advance and pick your ready-to-eat lunch directly by showing the app. Gluten free and vegan options are everywhere mixed in the menu offerings with a remarkable natural ease. While here in the Netherlands we see those ‘free from’ options as difficult exceptions or as a category on its own. In America they fluently mix in the total. When your meal at a restaurant is too much to finish, it is very common to ask for a doggy bag and take it home. A nice way to combat food waste.
Curious to hear our whole Wild West food story? Please contact us and we can discuss how you can benefit by building stronger brands, innovating and growing your food business.
Many thanks to food writers and bloggers Mackenzie Schieck (Seattle) and Amy Sherman (San Francisco), Jill Kaufmann (Corbion, Thrive®), Michiel Bakker and Ennis Olson (Google).