A new year is here, and that means new food trends.
2021 brought us baked feta pasta (so popular it led to a nationwide shortage of feta cheese), extensive vegan options at fast food joints, eggs cooked in pesto sauce, and more air fryer hacks than we could even try in a year. It's hard to predict what recipes will go viral in 2022, but what we do know is that the year's most popular dishes will continue to be inspired by the biggest food trends of the moment.
With that in mind, here are the food trends that we predict will continue—or show up on the scene for the first time—in 2022.
Lifestyle Food Trends That Will Dominate in 2022
In 2022, there are a few food-related lifestyle trends that we don't expect to see lose any of the steam they've been gaining in the last few years.
If you thought plant-based foods were a fad, think again. The number of people who identify themselves as "vegan" in the United States has increased by an incredible 600 percent in the last three years.
As a result, we've been seeing plant-based options that have become so common, it's almost more strange to encounter a menu without them: Impossible and Beyond meats, Zeaster's vegan salmon and tuna sashimi, Good Foods' wide range of vegan comfort foods—even Gordon Ramsey, who used to decry veganism on social media, went viral in 2021 for sharing his recipe for plant-based "bacon."
In 2022, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. More and more restaurant guests are reducing their meat consumption, and restaurants need to reflect that on their menus to stay accessible to a wide variety of diners.
With that said, not everyone who's interested in eating less meat is ready to become all the way vegan. Say hello to the flexitarians—people who want meat and other animal products to be an occasional or only-on-the-weekends indulgence.
Many of today's restaurant guests—especially the younger ones—are aware of the negative impacts meat consumption can have on the environment. They also know that even just reducing your own meat consumption can have a positive impact. That's why flexitarians are also sometimes called "reducetarians."
These diners also want more vegetarian and vegan items on menus, especially on special menus, like brunch and happy hour.
Restaurant Food Trends That Are Growing in 2022
Will 2022's biggest TikTok recipe come from a restaurant? It's possible, especially for those restaurants that are on the cutting edge of the biggest trends of the year.
Ghost kitchens started their meteoric rise during the pandemic, when food delivery exploded in popularity. A ghost kitchen is an online-only, delivery-only restaurant. They're often set up in existing restaurants to offer niche delivery food (say, burgers, tacos, chicken wings, or grilled cheese sandwiches) to a delivery area that doesn't already have great options for that food.
Ghost kitchens have become more and more common because they're a great way to help restaurants—especially when they were struggling through COVID-19 closures—to increase their revenue. For example, a cafe can make the most of its flat-top grill by running a ghost kitchen that sells burgers. It doesn't cost much in supplies or overhead, and can help boost the cafe's bottom line.
In 2022, ghost kitchens are likely to continue to gain popularity, especially as it becomes more common for restaurants to narrow down their menus amid supply shortages (another ongoing trend).
It started with plastic straws, which began facing bans in some progressive cities and countries in the late 2010s. Now, faced with a wealth of more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic straws, cutlery, packaging, and more, some restaurants are breaking up with single-use plastics for good.
This trend is driven largely by guests and their own habits. Many of today's consumers are hyper-aware of the environmental impact of their choices, and more and more consumers actively seek out businesses that they can support without wavering from their personal beliefs. In 2022, this trend will continue to gain steam, and many restaurants are already looking beyond plastics to find other ways they can become as eco-friendly as possible.
It seems like everyone has a pandemic pup. Dog adoption skyrocketed during lockdowns and when offices pivoted to remote work. Our furry friends helped us get through all that time stuck at home, and now that people are beginning to go out again, they're reluctant to leave Fluffy and Fido at home.
That's why a growing trend in 2022 is dog-friendly dining—an easy shift for many restaurants to make after they already scrambled to piece together outdoor dining during the pandemic. In 2022, we predict that the most popular spots for very social dining, like brunch and happy hour, will be those where guests are encouraged to bring man's best friend along.
We've already hinted at this trend. The end of 2021 quickly became the era of supply chain disruptions—on top of the months of labor shortages that had already rocked the restaurant industry. Restaurants have been having to adapt, and many of them have done so by turning to smaller menus that require fewer ingredients and supplies.
But there's another hallmark of these pared-down menus that might give them staying power even after supply chains return to normal: They're packed with low-waste foods. Due to the shortage of, well, almost everything, restaurants have had to get creative with recipes that utilize potato skins, carrot tops, broccoli stems, and other ingredients that might have once gone in the trash.
There's a technology revolution happening in the restaurant industry.
The industry has long had a reputation for being reluctant to embrace new technology. But that's all changing as restaurant tech creates tools that help restaurants solve all kinds of problems unique to the digital world.
All-in-one tools like Popmenu can help restaurants manage their entire digital presence—from their website to social media, and from digital market and remarketing efforts to a one-of-a-kind, interactive online menu—with just one platform. That also means just one monthly fee (that never goes up, guaranteed).
Food Trends That Are Taking Off in 2022
And finally, there are trending foods and ingredients themselves. These are the foods we expect to see all over restaurant menus this year—but also in people's home kitchens.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Beer
While nationwide alcohol sales ticked upward during 2020, we're now seeing that trend going in reverse. More and more consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are choosing to drink less alcohol, leading to a growing demand for non-alcoholic beers and spirits.
We've already seen a number of high-end, no-ABV spirits hit the market, and craft mocktails are popping up on happy hour menus all over the country. So far, non-alcoholic beer hasn't taken off in the U.S. like it has in Europe—mostly due to a lack of flavorful options—but now that more and more breweries are experimenting with alcohol-free brews to meet increasing demand, this is a trend we expect to see more of in 2022.
Move over, happy hour. Search trends online indicate that there's another special food occasion that's about to take over 2022: High tea.
The afternoon social hour over tea and snacks is already very popular in much of the world—but never really caught on in the U.S. But Pinterest combed through data about what its users have been pinning lately to predict that high tea will be big come 2022—the site saw huge increases in pins related to "tea party aesthetic," "drinking tea pose," "butterfly pea tea," "vintage tea party," and "high tea food ideas."
Mushrooms are coming into 2022 already having a big moment. These protein-packed umami bombs have been increasing in popularity as more restaurants have pivoted to offering plant-based plates. Now, mushrooms are showing up in all kinds of creative preparations (mushroom jerky, anyone?).
Considering the healthy properties and versatility of this particular food, we don't expect the mushroom trend to die down in 2022—in fact, we only expect to eat more fungi than ever.
Sparkling Cold Brew
Cold brew has been a steadily rising trend for years now, seeing a 371 percent increase in sales—from just $8.1 million to $38.1 million—from 2015 to 2017. Now, restaurants, bars, and cafes are getting more creative about their cold brew creations, and there's one that's taking the world by storm.
Sparkling cold brew is already incredibly popular in Istanbul. But it's so good, we see it taking over the rest of the world, including the U.S., in 2022.
Yuzu is a deliciously tart, slightly sour citrus fruit that's native to Asia—and very popular in all kinds of Asian cuisine. But how sure are we that Yuzu is going to become a common—and very popular—presence in the U.S. in 2022? Pretty sure, based on some of the yuzu cocktails and flavored sparkling waters we're already seeing available.
If you still aren't convinced that Yuzu will be spreading everywhere next year, look at Whole Foods, which is betting on the Yuzu trend with plans to introduce a mango yuzu seasonal cake and yuzu togarashi marinade to its stores in the next year.
Another food that Whole Foods is leaning into in 2022 is moringa.
"Often called the 'miracle tree,' moringa is traditionally used as an herbal remedy in India, Africa and beyond. Moringa leaves have plenty of nutrients, and these fast-growing, drought-resistant trees have been used as a source of food to fight malnutrition in certain parts of the world," the grocer said in a press release. "It can be found in powder form and added to make magic in smoothies, sauces and baked goods."
Considering how health conscious many foodies have become, it seems like a good bet that moringa will be the next "super food" to take over TikTok.
Peanut butter alternatives, like almond and cashew butters, were the hottest trend a few years back. But in 2022, there's a new nut butter that's poised to take over: Sunflower butter, or sunbutter for short.
A delicious, creamy, and salty treat, sunbutter is also filled with protein, healthy fats, Vitamin E, and magnesium. Store bought versions are already popping up in major grocery stores, though it's easy to make your own at home if you have a food processor or high-speed blender.
Lending even more evidence to the case that sunflower seed butter is going to be huge in 2022 is Ben and Jerry's. The chain recently released four new non-dairy flavors that are made with sunbutter: Creme Brulée Cookie, Change The Whirled, “Milk” & Cookies, and Mint Chocolate Cookie.
When most people think about potatoes, their first thought is probably not milk. But potato milk is already here, and it's already making a splash.
For years, eco-conscious consumers have been looking for dairy-free milk alternatives that are easy on the environment (unlike a lot of nut milks, which require an outsized amount of water to produce). That's led to the popularity of oat milk, and in 2022, potato milk. Food company DUG already produces a potato milk that's available in Europe and China, and we're betting on starting to see options in the U.S. within the next year.
Which 2022 Trends Will You Embrace?
One thing is for sure: 2022 will come with more new food trends than most restaurants can embrace in just one year. That's why it's important to lean into the ones that will have the most impact on your business—and your bottom line.
In 2022, that's restaurant technology. It's how so many independent restaurants are owning their relationships with their guests, from first impression to final bite. Ready to see for yourself? Schedule a free Popmenu demo today.