Meeting Mentor Magazine

March 2024

8 Tasty F&B Trends for 2022

Every year the food and beverage pundits roll out their predictions for what we will see in restaurants — and group catering menus — in the coming year. From more sustainable packaging to Korean corn dogs, this year’s picks are as weird and wonderful as a planner could hope for.

1. Robots go mainstream. The food and beverage industry has had a rough few years thanks to COVID, and while things are looking up, restaurants and other outlets will continue to struggle with staffing shortages and supply-chain issues, as well as some customers who are still leery about dining indoors. That is leading to some interesting new developments, including a rise in robots and food-prep automation, which international food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman is calling its top trend for 2022. Among those planning to pilot robots like SavorEat’s 3D-printing robot that extrudes and cooks plant-based burgers is catering and food service operations giant Sodexo, which provides management and hospitality services to convention centers across the U.S., from Orlando to Dallas to Denver.

2. Ghost kitchens continue to haunt. We also may see more hotels dipping into the ghost kitchen scene, outsourcing their F&B needs to restaurants with under-utilized kitchen space. Some think this will be a win-win partnership that gives hotels a way to economize on their F&B offerings and restaurants a way to keep their staff employed until their main customer base comes back — and likely beyond. As B&W points out, ghost kitchens, which took off in a big way during the pandemic, are being funded to the point where they’re predicted to become a $1 trillion industry by 2030.

3. Sustainability gains tractions. Another key overarching trend that will continue to pick up speed this year, according to the 2022 What’s Hot survey on culinary trends by National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation, will be more reusable and/or recyclable packaging and zero-waste kitchen operations. Expect to see more options to replace single-use plastics, such as paper straws, compostable trays and clamshells, compostable bags, and produce sold in bulk, says Pamela Riemenschneider, Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.

  And consumers — including meeting attendees — are no longer willing to take the word of their local restaurant, or conference hotel or convention center, about their sustainable F&B practices. They now want to see some proof, according to  Innova’s Global Lifestyle & Attitude Survey. The NRA survey also identifies a trend this year toward packaging that, in addition to being more sustainable, also is tamper-proof and able to retain temperature more effectively.

To help reduce the more than 6 billion pounds of produce gets tossed each year before it even leaves the farm, and even more that gets tossed uneaten after the conference — food waste and loss account for 4% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ecovia Intelligence — we’ll also be seeing an uptick in other F&B sustainability measures. Expect to see more food product up-cycling, reduced water usage in making the food products, and overall reductions in the carbon footprint that food leaves behind, says food distributor and Certified B Corp KeHE. The interest in locally produced foods, already a trend, also is going to continue, according to Food Dive.


4. Less expensive cuts take center stage. According to the NRA survey, expect to see more chicken thighs and fewer wing dishes this year, as well as beef chuck replacing more expensive cuts such as loins, on the menu.

5. Plant-based foods hit the mainstream. The NRA/ACF survey puts plant-based foods firmly on this year’s hot list. “From convenience foods to gastronomy, people are looking for the quality alternatives plant-based products can offer,” the survey says. Plant-based foods great by 59% In just the first six months of 2021, and you can expect to see even more as interest in personal health, global sustainability and dietary variation continues to grow. 

As more people become willing to replace a meat-based meal or two with vegetarian options, we’ll see more than just Impossible Burgers when it comes to plant-based proteins. In fact, even Impossible Burger is rolling out a plant-based chicken-replacement. According to the NRA survey, we may also find vegan bacon on the breakfast menus, and even faux fish may be coming to a ballroom near you.

6. All the comforts of home. Another trend the NRA survey identified is a continuation of our obsession with comfort food. In fact, according to a One Poll and Farm Rich study, 69% of U.S. consumers say they intend to continue the nostalgia-based snacking on the baked goods, ice cream, donuts and cupcakes they relied on to keep them feeling grounded through the worst of COVID. Pizza, always a favorite comfort food, also will continue to be popular, but those savory flavors will start showing up outside of the traditional pies. According to Comax Flavors’ 2022 Flavor Trends, watch for pizza flavors to start showing up in all sorts of snacks, crackers, seasonings, coatings and sauces.

7. Singapore sizzles. International influences also will be heating up this year, with a special emphasis on Singaporean dishes such as curry noodle dish laksa, which AF&Co. and Carbonate believe will be the “hottest dish of the year.” Other Southeast Asian cuisines we can expect to see on the menu will hail from Vietnam and the Philippines — think Jasmine rice, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, chilies, dried onions and soy proteins. Also look for conch fritters, goat stew, mofongo and callalo to hit the scene this year as Caribbean cuisine grows in popularity.

8. Chile Crunch, Korean corn dogs and wild ice cream concoctions. Some intriguing tastes to try this year are Chile Crunch, a spicy Szechuan chili flake/fried/garlic, fermented soybean/sesame seed and umami amalgamation B+W predicts will take hit the big time this year. Also check out the Korean corn dog, also known as K-Dogs. Consisting of hot dogs (or fish) on a stick, coated in a usually non-corn-based batter, then dipped in “a range of wackadoodle coatings” that range from ramen noodles to Froot Loops and Flamin’ Cheetos and topped with a range of strange and possibly wonderful sauces, according to B&W.

And who doesn’t love ice cream? If your attendees have adventurous tastes, you may want to give them a sampling of some of this year’s more unusual flavorings, from Harlem’s Sugar Hill Creamery’s ramen-flavored ice cream, complete with miso, pickled ginger and yzu.

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