Whether a corporate event is small and intimate or large in scale, food and beverage always takes centre stage. Health, sustainability, zero-waste and innovation are driving creativity in restaurants and venue kitchens, leading to thoughtful and flavourful menu choices. Keeping up with changing tastes and trends is important for event planners to create a unique and memorable experience.
The Unilever Food Solutions Future Menu Trends Report suggests that while people are looking for options that are healthy both for them and the planet, they are also looking for adventure and surprise.
Here is a look at what’s hot in the food world this year.
1. Irresistible Vegetables
Vegetables are coming of age this year, as their promotion from side-dish to main event continues to be fuelled by increasing numbers of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diners looking for decadent, indulgent plant-based foods.
With a lower carbon footprint and a higher nutrient count, plant-centric dishes are not only cost effective and sustainable, they can also provide that all-important wow factor – especially when they make an unexpected appearance on dessert menus.
2. Modernized Comfort Food
With many seeking order and comfort in what we eat, the trend for the taste of home food is still going strong. While consumers may be looking for the familiar, they also want something more.
The reinterpretation of favourites with possible ingredient combinations, cooking methods and above all presentation will be appealing to many tastes.
3. Low-Waste Menus
Reducing food waste is high on the agenda for many different groups and corporations. No one feels good about the fact that 30 per cent of food made for human consumption is never eaten. Moving towards fin to fish, top to toe, root to leaf use of produce, as well as reverting to traditional preserving techniques like fermenting, pickling and curing, can ensure a cost-effective menu and make a huge difference to what ends up in the bin.
4. Wild and Pure
Using locally sourced ingredients that help to reduce the carbon footprint of dishes is another trend that consumers are increasingly looking for. Air miles play an important factor, with diners increasingly interested in knowing where food is coming from and how it is grown. Opting for natural, local produce often offers a huge creative taste advantage – especially if the ingredients include adventurous options like micro herbs, insects, edible flowers and sea vegetables.
5. Flavour Contrast
Contrasting flavours and mixing culinary traditions is becoming increasingly popular with diners. After the long periods of COVID restrictions, eating in a social environment again was a significant milestone. People are hungry for unique taste combinations and exciting textures and presentation. Despite lockdown being largely a thing of the past for most people in 2023, this appetite for exciting visual and taste combinations has continued.
6. Feel-Good Food
People are increasingly looking for their out-of-home meals to sync up with their growing interest in healthier eating. Feel-Good Food is about vitality. And the key to this is food diversity and balance.
The link between food, our bodies and our minds has gone beyond basic nutrition. Now that it is understood that food can impact our mood, metabolism, gut health and quality of sleep, people want to make healthy choices that still feel like an indulgence.
8. Mindful Proteins
The days when protein meant meat are well and truly over. Be it for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons, the trend is to increasingly look for protein alternatives.
Flexitarian, that is to say a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat or fish, has been a growing trend for years and today it is estimated that about one in four people identify as flexitarian. Add to that the emergence of reducetarianism – that is to say people who consciously look to reduce their intake of animal-based foods without adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet – and there really has never been a better time to get creative with new forms of protein.