Sustainable packaging, streamlined menus to remain big in 2022

These trends are among the top 10 highlighted in the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” report.
foodservice trends
Illustration by Winsight Staff

Packaging-related trends are tops as when it comes to the trends cited in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” report—a clear indication that to-go food will continue to top chefs’ priorities in 2022.

In the annual culinary survey, released Tuesday, packaging that’s sustainable, maintains food quality and retains temperature were the top three overall trends, respectively. Also gaining traction is zero waste, menu streamlining and immunity-boosting/functional ingredients. 

Menus that promote the health of humans and the planet both got high marks from the professional chefs of the American Culinary Federation, who were surveyed by the Association to pinpoint the 2022 trends.

Plant-based sandwiches and alternative sweeteners rounded out the top 10. 

The report breaks further down the trends into specific categories, including dayparts, beverages, global cuisines and global flavors. 

The current supply and price challenges around proteins were reflected in the top three dinner trends: less-expensive chicken cuts, plant-based burgers and less-expensive beef cuts. 

In the snacks category, immunity boosting, CBD-infused and reduced sugar ranked in the top three. CBD also showed up as a dessert trend, along with alternative sweeteners.

“In addition to a return to health-focused menu offerings and more eco-friendly, improved off-premises packaging, all of which rated high in the top trends, we’re expecting operators to look across their menus for transformative opportunities,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the Association. “Look for trends that fuse the traditional meal daypart items with other dayparts and an increasing popularity of snacking and its allied items. Also, with the popularity of cocktails-to-go during the pandemic, restaurants will look to expand both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beverage options.”

The beverage category confirms Riehle’s prediction. Hard seltzer, uniquely spiced cocktail rims and at-home cocktail kits are trending in alcoholic drinks, while nut milks, non-alcoholic seltzers and CBD-infused beverages are tops among booze-free trends.

Among global flavors, expect to see Southeast Asian, South American and Caribbean grow in importance, as well as African cuisines from northern and western countries.

On their way out, according to the survey, are milk-based cocktails, mushroom beverages and breakfast salads.

The What’s Hot survey was conducted last month of more than 350 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation. They rated 109 food items and culinary concepts compiled by Association experts and Technomic’s Menu Research & Insights Division.

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