LONG READ: Top Food Trends of the Decade

LONG READ: Top Food Trends of the Decade

Here’s what trended on our ’gram and our taste buds throughout the 2010s

by:  
Jeniffer Chiat  Jeniffer Chiat  on 20 Dec '19


Over the years, food trends have come and gone. While some have stuck around for good, there are many that have either faded out or that we wish would just die an honourable death. The 2010s were no different, and thanks to the birth of Instagram in 2010, #foodporn became available to the masses and everyone seemed to become a foodie overnight! Thus, most food trends of the 2010s have been aesthetically pleasing and perfect for the ’gram.

Here are our favourite food trends of the past decade and our verdict on whether or not we’ll see them in the 2020s:


Avocado toast

Avocado toast

Photo credit: NOC


What is it? Literally avocado on toast. The avocado is often smashed and sometimes comes with additional toppings.

How did it trend? Every millennial’s kryptonite, the seemingly innocuous avocado toast spurred on quite the controversy when Australian millionaire and real-estate mogul Tim Gurner stated that the reason millennials will never be able to afford to purchase property is because they waste their money on fancy coffee and avocado toast. And, yes, paying upwards of HK$100 may seem excessive for what is quite often just avocado on toast, but we’re pretty sure that multiple recessions and the financial and housing crisis affect the ability to purchase property far more than the sweet, innocent avocado. The avocado has now become a satirical symbol for millennial luxury.

Where can you get it? We particularly love Foodie Forks 2019 Readers’ Choice Best Café winner NOC’s version, which is also topped with ricotta and pomegranate. For more avocado-topped toasts, check out our all-day breakfast top list.

Staying power? We believe avocado toast will be with us until the end of days. It’s delicious, simple and full of healthy fats – take that, Tim! However, we foresee other OTT avocado trends such as avocado burgers, avocado coffee and avocado desserts fading out once people realise that avocado does not, in fact, go with everything.


Unicorn foods

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

The infamous Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino


What is it? Unicorn foods are also called “rainbow” foods – not only referring to the mythical horse with a horn but also to their magical rainbow colour scheme.

How did it trend? Unicorns have taken the world by storm in the form of home decor, stationery and, of course, food. Unicorn foods appeared in the form of rainbow bagels, rainbow cakes, actual unicorn cakes (with horns), cookies, ice cream and the notorious Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. Meant to change flavours and colours as you stir it, this drink caused quite the stir (pun intended) on the Internet – especially once the nutritional stats were released, which state that this sweet drink made colourful with a multitude of sugary syrups contains a whopping 500 calories, 76 grams of sugar (more than a can of Coke) and 18g of fat!

Where can you get it? KALA Toast at The Peak does a mean rainbow cheese toastie, while Vive Cake Boutique makes impressive signature “uni-cone” cakes. Sadly (or thankfully?), the Unicorn Frappuccino never made it to Hong Kong.

Staying power? While these creations are no doubt beautiful and magical, with the rise in conscious and healthy eating, we don’t see these excessively sugary eats lasting. However, many chefs are experimenting with natural colourants (algae, matcha, beetroot, turmeric and charcoal are popular ones), so maybe there’s still hope for our unicorn friends!


Açai bowls

Açai bowl

Photo credit: Bear’s Lab


What is it? Pronounced “ah-sah-ee”, these creamy breakfasts are basically smoothies in a bowl and are thus often referred to as smoothie bowls. They’re usually made with a base of açai, chia or matcha powder and topped with generous portions of fruit.

How did it trend? Originating in Brazil, açai bowls became popular in the USA (and subsequently everywhere else) thanks to their bright, colourful appearance and healthy toppings. Much like how the athleisure fashion trend has significantly grown in the past decade (thanks to influencers and celebrities posing for pictures in leggings and sports bras), açai bowls are the perfect addition to your #fitnessblogger look. They’re also vegetarian, can easily be made vegan and are inherently gluten free, so they fit well into most diets.

Where can you get it? We love Bear’s Lab, which only uses natural ingredients, and Genie Juicery, which has implemented awesome zero-waste policies.

Staying power? While açai bowls are loaded with healthy nutrients, they can also be loaded with calories and sugar. We don’t see them dying our per se, but consumers may rethink their portion sizes and become even more conscious of the ingredients used in their picturesque breakfasts.


Alternative meats

Impossible Burger

Photo credit: Beef & Liberty


What is it? Popularised by brands like Impossible, Beyond and Omnipork, alternative meats are plant-based meat substitutes that aim to mimic the texture, flavour and protein contents of their animal counterparts.

How did it trend? Alternative meats are something that we at Foodie have explored in great detail over the past few years at our annual Food’s Future Summit. Consumers all over the world have become more conscious about what we eat and how our dietary habits affect the environment. However, there are many of us who still love the taste and texture of meat. Impossible and Beyond burgers became increasingly popular thanks to their incredible similarities to beef patties. Many popular restaurants and restaurant chains have added these burgers and other alternative-meat creations to their menus. Omnipork took Hong Kong by storm when it partnered with big restaurant names (such as cha chaan teng giant Tsui Wah) and brought plant-based proteins to an entirely new audience. We also celebrated the launch of JUST Egg (plant-based egg) and Avant Meats (HK’s first-ever cell-based protein company) at our 2018 and 2019 Summits.

Where can you get it? The list continues to grow, and there are many spots where you can find Impossible, Beyond and Omnipork in Hong Kong and Macau.

Staying power? Recently, these alternative-meat brands came under fire for being highly processed. This has caused many to rethink the health benefits of these products. However, it is undeniable that these alternative meats are tasty and better for the environment. Food scientists are constantly making new discoveries, so who knows – maybe eventually these eats will be as natural as veggies.


Unique flavours of ice cream & gelato

White Rabbit ice cream

White Rabbit ice cream at Igloo Dessert Bar


What is it? Gone are the days of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Now we have an endless array of ice-cream and gelato flavours from which to choose. How about charcoal, Ovaltine or olive oil flavours for your icy treats?

How did it trend? We’ve always enjoyed a unique ice-cream flavour, but in the past few years, we’ve seen some crazy concoctions. Notably, “goth” ice cream began trending on IG in 2016, getting its pitch-black colour from the addition of activated charcoal. In March 2019, we found out that a shop in the USA was serving White Rabbit ice cream (named after a nostalgic milk-based candy). We shared this on our IG and were contacted by Igloo Dessert Bar, who were making White Rabbit ice cream right here in Hong Kong! We DIYed a White Rabbit cup and headed down to the Central Star Ferry pier, where we discovered a whole range of delicious and nostalgic flavours at Igloo. Our IG post and video went viral, while Igloo went on to win our Foodie Forks 2019 Readers’ Choice Best Desserts award. Talk about a happy ending!

Where can you get it? Duh, Igloo. We also love the inventive flavours at Emack & Bolios and Oddies Foodies (and their wild egg waffles). Newly opened vegan ice-cream shop DAMA at K11 MUSEA serves up delicious and unique natural flavours like dragon fruit and durian.

Staying power? Everyone loves a bit of variety, and what’s not to like about ice cream that reminds you of a nostalgic flavour or beloved dessert? However, we don’t understand the charcoal craze – it has no flavour and a strange, chalky texture, and nutritionists have denounced any claims of its health benefits in food.


Matcha-flavoured everything

Yum Cha dim sum

Photo credit: Yum Cha


What is it? Matcha is a finely ground powder made of Japanese green tea leaves. What started as tea transformed into lattes and is now a popular flavouring for both desserts and savoury dishes.

How did it trend? While matcha tea has been sipped for centuries in Japan, it saw a global resurgence in both the East and West, with matcha becoming the trendy drink du jour. It’s possible that Starbucks may actually be the reason for its renewed popularity. Its slightly sweet, complex and astringent taste caused quite the addiction (or maybe it’s the intense caffeine content), and now matcha is more than a drink and is a popular flavouring for cakes, ice cream, pancakes and more. Pure matcha powder is more bitter than sweet and therefore lends itself well to savoury dishes too.

Where can you get it? We’re suckers for Yum Cha’s ridiculously cute molten matcha custard buns. For serious matcha lovers, we recommend the matcha soufflé pancakes from the recently opened Japanese import Micasadeco. For a standard, strong matcha latte, head over to Studio Caffeine.

Staying power? The strong and often bitter flavour of matcha means that it’s not for everyone. But we sure do love this gorgeous green powder, and it’s another great option as a natural colourant. It is important to remember that matcha has a very high caffeine content – around the same amount as coffee – so if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may be best to give it a miss.


Fermented F&B

Image titleTaboocha x TREEHOUSE Pink Lemon-Aid Kombucha


What is it? Fermenting food means allowing bacteria and yeast to break down carbs in order to preserve it. Popular fermented foods and drinks include kombucha, kimchi, olives and sourdough bread.

How did it trend? Certain fermented foods, such as olives, cheese, kimchi and sauerkraut, have been around for ages. However, more and more restaurants are using fermentation as a means to preserve foods for longer and enhance their health benefits. Kombucha, a sweetened, slightly alcoholic fermented tea, really blew up in the 2010s owing to its supposed health benefit of aiding digestion. Health-focused, vegan and vegetarian restaurants were quick to jump on the kombucha train and began offering a wide variety of flavours.

Where can you get it? Popular vegetarian restaurants such as TREEHOUSE and MANA! serve up a variety of kombucha and other fermented eats. For a healthy dose of kimchi, head to literally any Korean restaurant.

Staying power? Fermentation is a game changer in the zero-waste movement as it can significantly reduce food waste. We truly believe this is the way of the future. But it is also a complicated and often expensive process, so it is not used by the masses just yet. HakkoBako, which we learned about at the Food’s Future Summit 2019, is a a smart fermentation device company that could make the fermentation process simple and open it up to large-scale use. We’ll certainly keep you posted about this in 2020!


Milk alternatives

Oatly! oat milk

What is it? Dairy-free alternatives to milk. Soy milk, almond milk and oat milk are just a few of the popular alternatives.

How did it trend? Whether you are dairy free for health or ethical reasons (based on the environmental impact of the dairy industry), millions of people rejoiced when milk alternatives became available to the masses, allowing everyone to enjoy a latte or milkshake. Lactose intolerance is particularly prevalent in East Asia, with an estimated 70–100% of people showing little to no tolerance towards dairy products. It is estimated that 65% of the human population suffer from lactose intolerance, so, quite honestly, this was a long time coming.

Where can you get it? Great news! Oatly, soy milk and other milk substitutes are easy to find at pretty much all coffee shops these days. You can also purchase soy milk at nearly any grocery store in town, and Oatly is available at your local PARKnSHOP.

Staying power? Did you just see those statistics? Milk alternatives are here for good!


Kale

Kale

Photo credit: Sustenir Agriculture


What is it? Kale is a leafy green vegetable that’s used frequently in salads.

How did it trend? Although kale has been around for close to 2,000 years, the kale craze really did seem to come out of nowhere. It’s so popular now that Beyoncé has worn a sweatshirt stitched with the word “kale”. So how did this all start? Turns out, the American Kale Organisation actually hired a PR expert to “make kale cool again”. Well, it worked! Suddenly, everyone from your mum to Gwyneth Paltrow was harping on about the nutritional benefits of kale (high in vitamins A, C, B6, K and E, plus iron, calcium and potassium – the list goes on).

Where can you get it? You can find kale at many supermarkets including Marks & Spencer and Market Place. Singaporean agritech start-up Sustenir recently launched their hydroponic farming facility in Tuen Mun, and we’re sure they’ll soon be stocking many restaurants and shops with their “kinky kale”.

Staying power? Kale is actually pretty tasty (far more than boring iceberg lettuce), can be eaten cooked or raw (or salted and turned into kale chips) and its full of nutritional benefits. In with the kale, out with the iceberg!


Elaborate cocktails & low- and zero-alcohol drinks

VEA’s mocktails

Photo credit: VEA Restaurant & Lounge


What is it? Cocktails that make use of elaborate presentation in the form of props, smoke or molecular mixology. Low- and zero-alcohol cocktails are simply drinks that mimic the taste of alcoholic drinks (such as cocktails, wine or beer) without (or with very little) alcohol content.

How did it trend? The sober-curious movement has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with many choosing to give up alcohol to improve their mental and/or physical health. On the other hand, alcoholic cocktails got a serious level up with the increased popularity of mixology (the art of cocktail creation). Mixologists became far more creative in their use of flavours and textures (think popcorn, lavender and even garlic!), and now cocktails are often served with a touch of theatrics. The resurgence of the speakeasy (hidden bars that were used to cover up alcohol consumption and sales during the Prohibition period of the 1920s) has also contributed to the sophistication and allure of cocktail drinking.

Where can you get it? Some of our favourite mixology bars include the Ashley Sutton–designed J.Boroski, Foodie Forks 2018 Best New Bar winner The Old Man and Foodie Forks 2019 Best New Bar winner Terrible Baby. Serving up both incredible cocktails and alcohol-free mocktails, we highly recommend Quinary, VEA and Origin (all headed by mixologist Antonio Lai). In recent big news, Heineken launched a zero-alcohol beer!

Staying power? Elaborate cocktails are certainly not to everyone’s taste (some people just prefer a G&T or beer) and they’re often very overpriced. However, there is certainly enough of a market interest to keep them going. While we agree that the creations can sometimes be excessive, we love a quirky cocktail! As for the sober-curious movement, we certainly see this growing as a healthy lifestyle choice.


Poké bowls

Poké bowl

Photo credit: Pololi


What is it? Poké is a Hawaiian dish made with raw fish. Poké bowls often include a base of rice or salad and may be topped with sesame seeds, soy sauce and/or chilli sauce – kind of like deconstructed sushi.

How did it trend? From around 2012 onwards, poké became a beloved dish far beyond Hawaii. While California kicked off the poké trend, it gained strength via Instagram thanks to, once again, its colourful and bright aesthetic and healthy contents. It is a particularly satisfying and refreshing dish to eat in the summer months (which we all know are unbearable in Hong Kong) as it is served cool.

Where can you get it? You can get your poké fix at the awesome, Instagrammable Pololi or Pokéworld in Sheung Wan and Kwun Tong.

Staying power? Poké bowls are delicious, very healthy and can be eaten on the go. Made with sustainable seafood, they can be ecofriendly too. Looks like we found ourselves a winner!


Cold-brew and science-experiment-style coffee

Cold-brew coffee

Photo credit: The Coffee Academics


What is it? Cold brewing is the process of steeping coffee grounds in water at a cool temperature for an extended period – like an iced coffee, but not. It can also be defused with nitrogen to make nitro cold-brew coffee (fizzy cold coffee). There’s also siphon brewing, where two chambers that use vapor pressure and gravity produce coffee, dripping one slow drip at a time.

How did it trend? We are now in what coffee aficionados are calling the “third wave coffee” age. The first wave occurred around 1960, when coffee become more widely accessible, and the second wave saw the birth of chain cafés like Starbucks. The third wave sees a desire for higher-quality java and appreciation for coffee. Gone are the old, tired ways of growing or making coffee; baristas now need to be far more educated on coffee flavour profiles, innovative (or science-fiction-style) brewing methods and sustainability of the beans.

Where can you get it? Most speciality coffee shops have cold brews on the menu. Nitro cold-brew and siphon brews are less common but are increasingly becoming more popular. Coffee connoisseurs over at The Coffee Academics, NOC and Hazel & Hershey will be more than happy to answer your third wave coffee questions. They also have the option of fantastic cappuccinos and Americanos if scientific coffee isn’t your thing.

Staying power? Some believe we’ll be heading into the fourth coffee wave soon (we’re not sure exactly what that will entail). Honestly, we prefer to stick to the classics and don’t understand paying HK$70 plus for these fancy coffees (but, again, this is why we can’t afford to buy our own home). However, education on the sustainability and origins of coffees is very important, and we’re sure this will continue.


Keto and gluten-free diets

Gluten-free bagels from Infiniti C

Gluten-free bagels from Infiniti C


What is it? The keto diet is a type of carbohydrate-restricted (less than 50g of carbs per day) diet that favours fat and protein. It is predominately used as a weight-loss diet. Gluten-free diets exclude gluten (a mixture of proteins found in wheat). These diets are necessary for those suffering from coeliac disease.

How did it trend? Used originally to treat epileptic patients, the keto diet went mainstream when studies were published that claimed keto could prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. In 2013, podcaster Tim Ferriss posted a video on his blog detailing the positive effects of keto. His one-million-plus followers took notice, and more and more lifestyle gurus began promoting keto. Many people quickly adopted the keto diet as a means of rapid weight loss. Gluten-free diets began trending thanks to a number of books that demonised gluten, as well as many celebrities who advocated the diet as a means of weight loss. There is, however, no conclusive evidence of gluten having negative health effects on anyone who has not been diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

Where can you get it? We’re obsessed with the light and fluffy gluten-free, keto and vegan cakes at Infiniti C, as well as the dense gluten-free cheesecake at Café 8. Restaurants KALE and Habitū offer tasty dishes using cauliflower rice (another trend, along with cauliflower pizza crust, that developed thanks to low-carb diets).

Staying power? There is not enough scientific evidence to prove that the keto diet is safe for long-term use, but it has found great results in patients with type 2 diabetes and cancer. Personally, we’re carb obsessed and believe in the many health benefits of fibrous grains. Scientists and nutritionists keep emphasising that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, so it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor before pursuing the keto diet. The same goes for a gluten-free diet. If you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, go ahead and follow a gluten-free diet. If not, it is more than likely unnecessary.


Cronuts

Cronuts

Photo credit: Dominique Ansel Bakery


What is it? A crossover between two of the greatest baked goods of all time: the croissant and the doughnut. The cronut is shaped like a doughnut but is made with flaky croissant pastry with flavoured cream inside, sprinkled with sugar.

How did it trend? The cronut was invented in 2013 by French pastry chef Dominique Ansel. On the same night that the cronut was introduced, a blogger from Grub Street (New York magazine’s online restaurant blog) reported on the cronut, and it went viral. A few days later, a queue of over 100 people could be seen outside Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. The popularity of the cronut lead to Ansel trademarking the name. Similar creations have since developed but have failed to reach cronut-level popularity. Let’s not even talk about the cruffin...

Where can you get it? The cronut god himself is set to open his first Hong Kong shop called Dang Wen Li. According to their Facebook page, they’ll be open at Harbour City early next year!

Staying power? While other croissant mash-ups have crashed and burned, the cronut still seems to attract a considerable amount of interest. It is a delectable pastry that combines two of our favourite treats, so what’s not to like?


Here’s to an exciting new decade of foodie fads!


Did we capture your favourite/least favourite trends of the past decade? Let us know on Facebook!


Jeniffer Chiat

Jeniffer Chiat

Digital Content Manager | Hummus where the heart is