Pandan, ube and black garlic top an annual list of food trends to keep an eye on in the coming year.

Chicago-based trends, analysis and concept testing specialist Datassential’s 2018 Trend Report forecasts cutting-edge developments in the flavor and ingredients industries. The company consulted its menu databases, consumer and operator research and first-person experiences in compiling the list.

The top ten trends for 2018, with comments from Datassential’s senior publications manager, Mike Kostyo, include:


  1. Pandan: “Southeast Asia continues to be a source of flavor inspiration for chefs around the world. This versatile leaf adds a sweet, grassy, vanilla-like flavor to desserts and cocktails, and many pandan-rich foods have a light green color that recalls other on-trend ingredients like matcha.”
  2. Ube: “While purple may be the “it” hue for foods right now, the star of the movement – ube – has the potential to make its way through the Menu Adoption Cycle. Also known as purple yam, ube is often used in Filipino cuisine and can add a natural color to everything from ice cream to power bowls.”
  3. Black garlic: “Judging by the popularity of garlic with consumers (it’s the second most-liked flavor overall according to our FLAVOR database), it’s almost surprising that this sweet, caramelized, umami-rich flavor is only just starting to appear more widely on U.S. menus.”  
  4. Persimmon: “Persimmons were the fastest-growing fruit on menus in the past year, according to our MenuTrends database. If you are planning next fall’s menu strategy, consider this sweet-and-tangy option in a cake, pudding, or sorbet.”
  5. Kolsch: “Trends on drink menus continue to move quickly. On beer menus, look for lighter, more refreshing options to take a more prominent place as a reaction to the former dominance of in-your-face, hoppy, bitter brews. The top-fermented German kolsch has grown over 100% on menus in the past four years, according to MenuTrends.”
  6. Whey: “Little Miss Muffet was hip to modern trends when she ate her curds and whey. Consumers continue to seek out protein-packed foods and this cheese byproduct can be added to breakfast foods, smoothies, and grains for a protein infusion.”
  7. Next-generation salt curing: “Salt-curing is an ancient practice that is trending again as chefs look for new applications. Salt-cured egg yolks, which turn the rich yolks into a firm ingredient that can be grated over pastas and salads, are becoming a fine dining staple now, while salt-cured fruits are showing up in trendy cocktails.”
  8. Seeds: “Far from being a simple snack or salad topper, seeds are quickly becoming kitchen workhorses – chefs are creating custom seed blends for an all-purpose textural topper and experimenting with seed-based porridges and seed-rich breads. Look for new heirloom seed varieties to start showing up on menus and in products in the future.”
  9. Labneh: “This rich, creamy, strained yogurt is at the intersection of a number of trends – an interest in Middle Eastern cuisine, the search for both the next Greek yogurt and hummus, the proliferation of veggie-based appetizers and over-the-top crudités boards, and the concurrent rise of za’atar.”
  10. Rose water: “Rose water was once common in American desserts and now it’s making a comeback, adding a rich, floral note to cakes, ice creams, and drinks. Use it sparingly – it’s a fine line between ‘distinctive flavor’ and ‘tastes like perfume.’”