Cheddar Awards: Top Food Trends of 2018

December 26, 2018

By Christian Smith

Now that avocado toast has lost its luster and bacon is going back in the frying pan where it belongs, some new food trends are dominating. Here are the flavors and fads of 2018 that captured our appetites.

CBD-Infused Foods

Pot has been pushing the political conversation since voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, but six years later, CBD-infused foods are taking the culinary world by storm. Foods made with cannabidiol, a derivative of hemp (marijuana's closely-related cousin), appeared on menus from coast to coast ー baked into brownies, packed into pills, and topping off hand-crafted cocktails. CBD can allegedly help regulate anxiety, sleep, and mood, but there haven't been many scientific studies to back up those claims. Nevertheless, major food and beverage companies like Coca Cola ($KO) have put money behind the CBD craze, so expect to see more of these products gracing your local grocery aisles in the near future.

Meat That Isn't Meat

2018 was a year of substitution. Meatless meat carved out a place for itself on menus at the likes of national chains like Bareburger and smaller, local restaurants. Two companies leading the meatless charge are Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The global market for meat substitutes is predicted to grow from an estimated $4.6 billion in 2018 to $6.4 billion by 2023, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. To cash in on the trend, Beyond Meats filed for an IPO in November, with plans to raise $100 million in capital. It has already raised $72 million in private funding from heavyweights like Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, and America's largest meat company, Tyson Foods ($TSN).

Bespoke Produce

2018 may have eliminated the stigma from "genetically modified" food ー at least partially. This year, many companies introduced new "designer produce." Popular salad chain Sweetgreen partnered with Michelin Star chef Dan Barber's Row 7 Seed Company to sell an entirely new kind of vegetable: the Robin's Koginut squash, available nationwide. The fast casual salad company is betting big that bespoke produce will draw in customers, and has ordered 100,000 koginut seeds. If Sweetgreen is successful, we could see this trend continue to grow into 2019.

Food Delivery

Food delivery saw a surge in growth this year. On its annual list of the brands that defined the year, analytics company Morning Consult recognized DoorDash with the title of "The Brand On the Rise" ー its category for the companies that saw the largest growth in brand recognition. Food delivery companies UberEats and GrubHub also made the top five.

Recalls

Foods you want to avoid also dominated headlines in 2018, especially around Thanksgiving. The FDA ordered recalls on turkey, beef, and romaine lettuce, sending shock waves through the nation's grocery stores, where empty aisles became more commonplace. Salmonella, listeria, e. coli, and metal contamination were just some of the dangers lurking in this year's food.