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The Next Big Bite: The Media’s Influence on What We Consume

November 23, 2016

The Next Big Bite:  highlighted key trends in a discussion about the media’s impact on food and drink decisions.

This second annual event was held last month at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in Brookfield Place, New York City. It was sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY), the preeminent organization of women who are leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. The New York chapter (LDNY) is the founding and largest of the 37 chapters in the United States and abroad.

The centerpiece of the evening was a panel discussion moderated by Martha Teichner, correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning, featuring Carla Hall, Co-host of ABC’s The Chew and owner of Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen restaurant; Kate Krader, Food Editor at Bloomberg Pursuits; and Talia Baiocchi, Editor-in-Chief of Punch, an online magazine about wine, spirits and cocktails.

The speakers highlighted these top 10 trends:

1. Authenticity – Consumers are craving a deeper connection to their food: its origins, history and location. Authenticity and the existence of a story behind the food (or beverage) matters.

2. Fermented food and drink – Kombucha drinks, natural wine, cider, and cider beer are increasingly gaining attention from both consumers and professional chefs. For instance, fermented drinks are the pillar of today’s cocktail movement, as are the infusion of ingredients that tie back to the roots of the chef or bartender.

3. Low alcohol/high flavor movement – Beverages with low alcoholic content and big flavor resonate strongly with the consumer focus on wellness and food and drink as medicine.

4. Hybrid cooking: great food can be found anywhere – Cooking techniques and traditions that originate from the hometowns of the chef or bartender are reflected in restaurant menus throughout the country. This is leading to a host of fresh, new ingredients and flavor combinations.

5. Local destinations are the golden standard – Following the diaspora of leading chefs from major cities after the financial crisis of 2008, high-quality restaurants began to appear in smaller towns across the country. As these chefs returned to their homes to find more affordable real estate, they brought with them cuisine and cooking techniques they had become accustomed to in cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

6. The focus on Terroir (sense of place) – Chefs are tracing their roots (by using sites like ancestry.com and services like 23andMe) to learn as much as they can about their heritage. In turn, they are creating foods that tie back to these roots.

7. Nostalgia and time travel – Consumers and chefs are looking to recreate the past by bringing new twists to iconic food and drink items – whether it’s comfort food or other categories. This also relates to the anti-globalization sentiment currently surrounding food and drink.

8. A simpler America – The growing focus on simplifying the restaurant experience applies to the ambience as much as the cuisine itself. Consumers are looking to experience the immediate taste of food, with transparency being the key driver.

9. Food trends are cyclical – Classic French cuisine and signature 19th century cocktails are among the latest revival trends continuing to impact the culinary landscape. For instance, the Crusta, an iconic sugar-crusted rim cocktail from New Orleans, has been reintroduced on numerous restaurant and bar menus across the country.

10. Taking a page from major global cities – Restaurant chefs are incorporating popular food from London, Japan and other big cities overseas, and adding their own spin to the cuisine (e.g. Bubbledogs from London).

In addition to the above, fundamental economic factors like sustainability and food waste are continuing to play an important role in conversations among brands, consumers, chefs and bartenders.

The Next Big Bite plays an important role in in LDNY’s longstanding mission to provide education, advocacy and numerous other resources in the culinary, beverage and hospitality industry. The  event sponsors included Whole Foods; Cuisinart; elit by Stolichnaya; Emile Henry; the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE); Abigail Kirsch Catering; Belgioioso; The Winebow Group; Microplane; chef ‘n; Wüsthof; Princess House; and Heritage Radio Network as the media sponsor.

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