Faux meat isn’t new, but a crop of food-science startups have drawn venture-capital attention by taking innovative approaches to the concept. Beyond Meat produces a fake chicken that has fooled some experts, as well as a “beef crumble” made with pea protein. The company’s backers include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Impossible Foods, backed by $75 million in VC funding, makes veggie burgers using what it calls “plant blood,” a liquid that causes the patties to sizzle like beef burgers. Then there’s Modern Meadow, a startup making meat from animal skin cells that recently collected $10 million in funding.
VCs are also backing Hampton Creek Foods, which produces the eggless Just Mayo and vegan cookies. San Francisco chef James Corwell has invented a process that transforms tomatoes into a substance that mimics tuna. His tomato sushi is available at several California grocers, and a Kickstarter campaign to expand the operation was successful.
More consumers are conscious not only of their food’s nutritional value but also its carbon footprint. This will make them more open-minded about alternatives.
First came juices, then came beauty products and now we have nut milk. “Cold pressed” is becoming a byword for purity and quality. Alt.Milk, a cold- pressed, sleekly branded almond milk, is the latest example, introduced to London by high-end department store Fortnum & Mason.
Cold-pressed and unprocessed foods are increasingly becoming fetishized by consumers.
The humble tin can is being reinvented as a sleek food-packaging device for gourmet stores and restaurants alike. Hong Kong gallery and dining space The Popsy Room, in Sheung Wan’s Upper Lascar Row, offers synesthetic menus that include avant-garde food presented in tins. Argentine branding agency Empatía has created cool tin-can packaging for Swedish seafood company Swish. Tincan in London’s Soho, a pop-up restaurant by architects AL_A, serves gourmet canned food from around the world.
Consumers are embracing an ironic, high-low attitude toward food. Meanwhile, creatives are redefining lowbrow foods with gourmet twists.
Healthy, ethical fast food will gain momentum in 2015 as a raft of virtuous brands appropriates junk style for the Millennial generation. Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s eagerly anticipated fast-food concept Loco’l is set to open in San Francisco and Los Angeles next year. Pitched at the same price point as other national fast-food chains, Loco’l will serve carefully sourced, seasonal food for under $6. In the U.K., O-food has a similar mission, aiming “to make the humble everyday meal a true joy for your taste buds even when time is short.” After running a successful pop-up in London’s Shoreditch, the company is understood to be eyeing a permanent location.
Loco’l is another example of how ethical businesses are being rebranded in an aspirational, hip way for younger audiences.
While 2014 was the year of hybrid foods, 2015 is the year of new alcoholic mashups as distillers and blenders take their core spirits and age them in barrels previously used for other spirits or wines. Jim Beam Kentucky Dram, described as a “premium Bourbon infused with Highland Scotch whisky,” will launch into travel retail in June 2015. It follows hybrid launches such as Grey Goose VX, which marries the brand’s vodka with a hint of cognac, and Espolòn Añejo, an añejo tequila aged in bourbon barrels.
These mashups play into the hands of adventure-seeking Millennials, who are drawn to new flavors and experiences in the beverage market.
As interest grows in sour over sweet in food and drink, more fermented products will find their way onto menus and shelves. London’s Rawduck restaurant is making all its own ferments, pickles and drinking vinegars, and elsewhere in the city, Blanch & Shock Food Design is trying out flavored vinegars such as smoked beer and celery. Chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine are experimenting with holding vegetables at certain temperatures as if they were dry-aging meat, says Michael Harlan Turkell, host of “The Food Seen” on Heritage Radio Network: “It’s developing flavor in a way we haven’t experienced in a restaurant setting before.”
Why it’s interesting: As consumers become more sophisticated and confident in their understanding of food, they’re adopting new, niche and experimental cuisines at a quicker rate.
The Japanese powdered green tea is becoming the new uber-health drink among hipsters. MatchaBar just launched in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, furnished with the usual hipster accoutrements: industrial stools, polished concrete surfaces, plants, etc. Expect more to come.
Health and health foods are being reimagined by creative brands for a savvy Millennial audience.
A shot and a beer, once considered a dive-bar order, is getting a high-end twist. Bartenders are moving beyond traditional serves—a lighter-style beer and shot of whiskey on the side, or the infamous boilermaker, where the shot is dropped into the beer—to pair high-end single-malt Scotch or local liqueurs with big, bold ales. Prepare for more elevated combinations as bartenders look to offer more personalized serves. “We’re trying to introduce it to a new kind of client: one that has discerning taste and now can elevate their drinking experience by trying different options,” says Adam Wilson, bar and beverage consultant at Modern Beverage Merchants.
In the same way that junk food has gone gourmet, creatives in the food industry are playing with high-low combinations to reinvent dishes and cocktails in fun ways.
Alternatives to glass wine bottles will grow in popularity as consumers look for more convenient options—particularly for cheaper variants— when they’re outdoors or on the go. U.K. retailers have already launched bigger pouch formats to add value, but Tim Wilson, managing director of the Wilson Drinks Report, points to supply chain savings, environmental benefits and health as key drivers that could see smaller-serve Tetra Pak cartons of wine take off in the future. “Typically, you’re looking at a 75 cL glass bottle,” he says, “but that can be too much for a one- or two-person household, so there’s a massive opportunity for smaller-serve cartons.”
Consumers are becoming increasingly open to the repackaging of goods that have historically relied on glass to communicate quality and luxury— particularly if it adds convenience, lowers cost and helps the environment.
Blame it on the Paleo thing—meat and meat-associated products have become fetishized. The next stage? Broth as the hot Paleo drink of choice. Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley of Hemsley + Hemsley in East London have a cult following, and their book, The Art of Eating Well, has been translated into three languages. Their mantra, they tell U.S. Vogue, is “Boil your bones.” “Bone broth is the often-forgotten superfood that forms the basis of nearly all our soups and stews. It’s nourishing, simple, cheap and makes everything taste amazing,” says Jasmine Hemsley. The duo highlight the nutritional value of broth, which is rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9, as well as minerals.
In New York, Brodo, a broth takeout, has introduced grass-fed beef broth infused with ginger to the East Village. See also Sally Fallon Morell’s book, Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World. New York-based skin care expert Julia March recently highlighted the beauty benefits of sipping bone broth every day.
It’s another sign of consumers’ culinary sophistication and daring, showing intelligent foodie-ism has become mainstream, and also reflects the growing influence of Paleo diets.
In response to a rising interest in meat alternatives and vegan/vegetarian food, especially among Millennials, a wave of hip restaurant concepts have appeared that depart from the earnest or hippie vibe associated with meat-free dining. This new crop offers slick branding, a youthful look and a gourmet sensibility. Till the Cows Come Home is a cool “vegetarian slow food” café housed in a shipping container in a trendy Berlin neighborhood. M.O.B., which started in Brooklyn and has expanded to Paris, comes from the founder of the Mama Shelter hotels and features bold branding, a clean industrial feel and a sense of humor. Jugofresh in Miami serves gourmet vegan food and cold-pressed juice; at the Wynwood branch, patrons listen to blasting hip-hop and sit in reclaimed church pews.
Veganism and vegetarianism are on the rise, so expect more of this. Three out of 10 respondents in a 2014 Datamonitor study across 24 countries said they are actively trying to limit their daily meat intake. “Flexitarian” eating—a mostly vegetarian diet—is becoming more common, as is the concept of cutting out meat one day a week, as suggested by the Meatless Monday and Meat Free Monday campaigns, while Mark Bittman’s “Vegan Before 6:00” idea advocates a vegan diet until 6 p.m.
Healthy and responsible eating has moved from the marginal to the mass, and healthy foods are being repositioned asaspirational. Brands that do not update their design could lose out—veganism is on the rise.