How does an obscure flavor featured one day in a trendy, high-end cocktail become a leading component of grocery-store barbecue sauce the next year?
Food trends inevitably shape what we eat on a daily basis. James Beard Award winner Sax (Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, 2009) explores how food trends start, why they matter, and how they grow and move through our culture. He breaks down four types of trends: cultural, agriculture-based, chef-driven and health-based, with anecdotes and examples of cupcakes, china black rice, chia seeds and Greek yogurt. “Trends are the process of a feedback loop,” writes the author, “of competition between talents, and they are a balance between following the herd, pleasing customers, and letting creativity flow.” Sax also describes how trends take off in our culture through food events and awards, trend forecasting and marketing efforts. “[T]he increased competitiveness of the grocery business coupled with the rapid spread of foodie culture has sent the big grocers deeper into the world of specialty foods,” he writes, accelerating the trajectory of food trends. So why do food trends even matter? Sax argues they “can deepen and expand our culture beyond the plate.” The rise of food trucks in Washington, D.C., illustrates how trends have the “ability to change laws and behaviors by the sheer nature of their popularity.” By taking undervalued products, such as pork belly and bacon, and raising their value, food trends represent capitalism at its finest. Sax notes that, due to food media and an increasingly popular foodie culture, “food trends are springing up quicker and moving faster than they ever did before.” He also examines the impact of such trendsetters as Momofuku, Whole Foods and Magnolia Bakery.
Sax has done his homework—and probably put on a few pounds. A solid overview of trendsetting foods brought to life with colorful examples.