Where Do Food Trends Come From?

Where Do Food Trends Come From?

As the industry’s premier marketing agency, we’re constantly researching the latest food trends. Whether digging into reports from Datassential and Technomic, or scrolling through TikTok, we make a point of staying on top of everything from micro fads to macro movements.

Here are five key factors that shape food trends. 


1. The Role of Restaurant Chefs

Historically, restaurants have played a pivotal role in shaping food trends. In fact, 70% of U.S. consumers say their food preferences are driven primarily by what they encounter on restaurant menus.

The restaurant scene is not just a place to dine, but a creative incubator where chefs, with their innovative use of ingredients, techniques and presentations, set the stage for trends to emerge. Fine dining and independent restaurants often serve as the initial platform for introducing major food trends to the public. These trends then spread to quick-service restaurants and fast-casual establishments, showcasing the influential role of chefs in shaping the culinary landscape.

“Products are seen as premium if chefs use them,” said Stefan Chomka, the editor of Restaurant Magazine. “And, recently, many trends — barbecue, kimchi, bao buns — have come from restaurants. Supermarkets watch what’s happening there.”

These chefs get their inspiration from a variety of sources. According to Chef Ben Lee from Creative Food Solutions, old cookbooks can be a way to get inspired: “Chefs like to go to the past to see what formerly trending dishes now forgotten can be brought back with a modern interpretation.”

The collaboration between chef and farmer is another source of inspiration, said Chef Lee. “Visiting farms where we get our ingredients, harvesting alongside the farmers, cooking with them and supporting their business through local farmer’s markets plays a big role,” he pointed out. “Endless products, like la ratte potatoes, canestrino tomatoes, tristar strawberries, spigarello and anellino beans, come from these collaborations.”

Personal experiences are also important. “I get inspired from travel, both regional and abroad," said Chef Aliza Katz from Creative Food Solutions. "Also, nostalgia is always an influence. I am seeing more restaurant chefs putting twists on their childhood favorites and bringing dishes that were their family members’ specialties back to life."

2. Social Media's Surge

While restaurants still hold sway in food trends, the rise of social media is reshaping the game. Fifty-two percent of consumers (and 62% of Gen Z) have made a food, beverage or ingredient purchase solely based on a social media post.1

Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest have become virtual stages for food influencers, chefs and enthusiasts to showcase their culinary creations. The visually driven nature of these platforms not only enhances the appeal of aesthetically pleasing and Instagrammable foods but also accelerates their popularity.

Speed to market is critical. “Not limited to food, but social media trends are moving faster and faster to the point that people can’t keep up. It’s all a blur,” said Chef David Weidenaar from Creative Food Solutions. “People are exposed to new trends quicker than ever, which means that in order to keep up, the commercialization process for many manufacturers is going to have to pick up the pace to stay relevant with the trends.” 

3. Ease of Implementation and Accessibility

What makes an ingredient or dish transition from independent restaurants to large chains and grocery stores? That’s often determined by how easily it can be implemented and how accessible it is to a wide audience. Trends that are easy to replicate, incorporate into existing menus and adapt to various cuisines are more likely to grow. 

For example, Unilever Food Solutions’ Future Menus report spotlights trends that are forward-thinking but also practical and efficient for operators to implement.

The report is “packed with solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our industry today — from shifting diner behavior and skilled labor shortages to inflating food costs and environmental impact on the global supply chain.”

From modernized comfort food to low-waste menus, the report includes chef tips and recipe applications that showcase the accessibility of each trend.

4. Going Global: International Influences

Globalization has profoundly impacted the culinary landscape, facilitating the exchange of ingredients, techniques and flavors across borders. As cultural boundaries overlap and international travel becomes more accessible, consumers are exposed to a diverse array of cuisines and culinary traditions. Ingredients once considered exotic or rare are now readily available in supermarkets worldwide, empowering chefs and home cooks to experiment with new tastes and textures. 

“Blurring global flavors, as well as more culturally authentic items being readily available, has made a great impact,” said Chef Katz. 

Social media has also helped make the world smaller by providing a window into food cultures and dishes across the globe. On TikTok, you can discover raclette in France, McDonald’s in Japan, street food in Italy and more — the global food videos are endless.

Hot food trends like birria are often bolstered by social media. Fifty percent of consumers want to try birria tacos, making them the top-rated social media food or beverage.1

This increased exposure to international foods and flavors is having a major impact on Gen Alpha, whose tastes are more globalized than generations before them.

“Kids are being exposed to new foods earlier and earlier, which will put them further into exploration as they age,” said Chef David Weidenaar. “I’ve worked on a lot of K-12 projects previously and there was high demand for global flavors, especially spicy. Kids aren’t afraid of spicy food.”

5. Consumer Preferences

Ultimately, the fate of food trends rests in the hands of consumers. Shifting demographics, health-conscious decisions and evolving taste buds all contribute to what’s hot and what’s not. Restaurants and food brands are acutely attuned to these consumer demands, which steer the course of the culinary world.

For example, the explosion of cauliflower over the past decade can be traced back to consumer demand for low-carb, gluten-free, keto-friendly and plant-based options.

What’s the Next Big Food Trend?

Food trends are influenced by a complex interplay of the above factors. While there’s no clear-cut way of knowing what will achieve Pumpkin Spice Latte status, brand and market insights are essential for tracking what’s now and anticipating what’s next. Hungry for insights into the latest food and marketing trends? Subscribe to our newsletter

Topics: Trends, Social Media, TikTok, Consumer


The Front Burner is a bi-monthly newsletter addressing the latest in food and beverage trends. This in-depth resource helps you stay current in this fast-evolving industry.

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