Glow-in-the-dark donuts and moringa lattes may be among the hottest food fads next year, according to a new list of culinary trend predictions by Sterling-Rice Group.

A continued interest in global flavors, superfood ingredients and Instagram-ready dishes will drive product development on restaurant menus and retail shelves in 2018, said Liz Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group.

The annual report is the culmination of in-depth research, international travel and input from more than 175 chefs, restauranteurs and food experts.

“We look at what’s happening in the society, what’s happening in technology, in the environment, in the economy and in politics that’s influencing consumer behavior,” Ms. Moskow told Food Business News.  

Not all trends hit the mainstream, but key drivers reflect changes in consumer behaviors and need states that manufacturers and chefs may leverage in innovation.

Read on for six cutting-edge culinary trends in 2018.


Coffee and spice is everything nice

Cinnamon, cardamom and other herbs and spices are set to gain steam in coffee, Ms. Moskow said.

“What we’re starting to see is taking coffee as the base layer and adding functional ingredients or flavor elements to it in the form of healthier, better-for-you flavors and spices and herbs as opposed to a shot of syrup,” she said.

Café de olla, a traditional Mexican coffee, features cinnamon and panela, an unrefined sugar with a nutty flavor. In Yemen, coffee may be served with a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, fennel or anise.

“It’s almost like coffee’s chai,” Ms. Moskow said. “Chai uses tea as a base to add different herb and spice blends. Coffee is going to pop in that way, too.”


Umami makes breakfast

Savory flavors are gaining favor in morning meals, stoking an American appetite for such umami-rich dishes as jianbing. This traditional Chinese street-food breakfast crepe, featuring hoisin and chili sauce, egg, pickled vegetables and herbs, is on the menu at a handful of New York City restaurants. At Mr. Bing, customers may choose from a variety of jianbing options, including barbecue pork, drunken chicken, Peking duck and kimchi.

“While Americans are not going to order a whole 12-course fish plate like you might in Japan … they’re definitely starting to embrace a non-sweet start of the day,” Ms. Moskow said. “In the packaged food space, I can foresee different kinds of sauces in some of the packaged handheld sandwiches in the freezer. Think of a sausage sandwich that comes with not just sriracha but maybe some sort of Asian soy-based or miso-based sauce.”


Moringa is the thing-a

Moringa is poised to supplant matcha and turmeric as the next hot superfood. Derived from the dried leaves of a plant native to parts of Africa and Asia, moringa is rich in protein, fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin A.

“Moringa has a dried spinach flavor, so it’s pretty benign in smoothies,” Ms. Moskow said. “Some progressive chefs are starting to cook with it. You can find it in bars. I think it might be the next matcha latte.”

Early this year, Kellogg Co.’s venture capital fund, eighteen94 capital, led a $4.25 million Series A funding of Kuli Kuli, a maker of nutrition bars, powders and beverages featuring moringa. Expect the ingredient to pop up in more packaged foods and beverages going forward, Ms. Moskow said.

“I would think even in C.P.G. we may start to see hummus companies pick up on it and add it to hummus, not only for a little bit of a spinach flavor but because it is so great for you,” she said. “With turmeric you can’t put it in everything because it has a big flavor profile and color.”


Slow dough

A growing interest in gut health has propelled probiotics to “mega-trend” status. More consumers are seeking less-processed, easier-to-digest foods, fueling a “frenzy for fermentation” and paving the way for pinsa, an ancient Roman style pizza.

Already popping up in cities including Brookyln and Seattle, pinsa is made using a flour blend with long fermentation periods.

“When dough is fermented, it gets bubblier and the resulting crust is crispier, and it absorbs more water so you get fuller faster and eat less,” Ms. Moskow said. “And it’s crispy and airy and light and better for digestion. So when people eat pinsa as opposed to pizza they report they don’t feel as bloated or sick, and it’s sort of predigested by the fermentation before it gets into the American belly.”

Sourdough is on the rise for similar reasons, she said.


Trendy tea and the chickpea

Fare from the Far East has become a growing trend in fine dining, food trucks and everything in between. A fusion of Chinese, Laotian, Indian and Thai flavors, Burmese cuisine is forecast to flourish in the year ahead. Staples include already-trendy chickpeas and fermented tea leaves.

Burma Superstar in San Francisco serves such specialties as tea leaf salad, coconut chicken noodle soup and friend yellow bean tofu.

“Burmese is this wonderful compilation of some of the most recent trendiest Asian cuisines,” Ms. Moskow said. “Curries that aren’t as spicy but more sour and savory, which are also flavors that have been trending… Because Indian cuisine isn’t as approachable but is trendy, it’s sort of ‘India light’ in a way.”


Objectification of food

The rise of social media has set the stage for such Instagram-worthy innovations as Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, a colorful blended beverage that created plenty of on-line buzz during its limited run. For many millennials, it has become second nature to snap a photo of a meal or beverage before the first bite or sip, Ms. Moskow said.

“The picture is more than a picture of the food; it’s documenting where they’ve been and what they’ve seen and what they’ve eaten,” she said. “Now we’re starting to see these experiences and/or dishes start coming out with the sole purpose of engaging with a camera lens.”

At Black Star Pastry in Australia, consumers may order a Glonut, a donut with icing made with riboflavin, which glows under ultraviolet light.

“Nobody wants to eat a glow-in-the-dark donut,” Ms. Moskow said. “They just don’t. They want to take a picture of it, though. And it will go viral.”

A recent example in the packaged food market comes from Amplify Snack Brands. The Austin, Texas-based company’s Paqui brand issued the One Chip Challenge with its launch of the Carolina Reaper Madness Chip, made with the world’s spiciest known pepper and packaged individually in a coffin-shaped box. Consumers were dared to eat the chip and share the experience on social media.

“There’s going to be a lot more of that happening,” Ms. Moskow said. “It’s definitely a marketing angle, but I think it’s really effective.”