Food Trend vs. Food Fads: How To Know The Difference

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Coconut ash, kale and cronuts - these are just a few of the foods that have made headlines. However, while they might be generating hashtags, are they really bona fide food trends or simply food fads? In a world where ‘trending’ has become a very temporary state of being, how do you tell the difference between a fad to ignore and a trend to invest in?



If you’re not quite sure what the difference is between a food trend and a food fad then you’re not alone. Essentially it’s this:

Trend – signals a general direction in which something is moving, a permanent shift. Trends can be local, regional or national and they may linger only for a short time or remain embedded for years.

Fad – has no influence over the general direction in which things are moving. Fads tend to be ‘fashionable’ for a short period of time and then are dropped, never to be heard of again.


How can you identify trends early on?

There are a number of different sources where you’ll find trends emerging – be the first to spot them and you could really put your establishment on the map.

  • Kitchens – what’s on the menu, what ingredients are proving popular, what techniques are people getting enthusiastic about?
  • Restaurants – which concepts are really taking off, what kind of design stands out or is growing popular and what type of demographics are dominating?
  • Industry – what do high profile chefs talk about, what’s social media saying, what do suppliers think and where does the industry media sit?
  • Other industries – food trends can come from outside the industry itself so explore parallel industries such as fashion, art, design, travel and lifestyle too.

When you’re searching your sources look for recurring ideas, products or themes, commonalities that exist between completely separate entities and industries, as well as ideas that make an unusually strong impact. That’s where you’ll find the embryonic trends.


How does a trend grow?

Almost all trends evolve at a fairly similar pace so knowledge of the different stages can be helpful if you’re looking to capitalise at an early stage.

  1. Embryonic – you might find a technique, taste or ingredient on a few menus in the more innovative or expensive restaurants.
  2. Early adoption – specialists and experts start to pick up on the trend e.g. industry magazines, high profile chefs and food bloggers.
  3. Entering the mainstream – bolder consumers have picked up on the trend, a broader range of media start to feature it, more social posts appear and some mainstream restaurants may start to use it.
  4. Breaking the mainstream – the trend has full exposure in all mainstream media, restaurants and blogs, and even sceptical consumers not keen on new things buy in.
  5. Tapering off – the trend has now reached its peak and appeals mostly to latecomers, highly commercial restaurants and big brand shops.

A genuine food trend isn’t just an exciting development but also an opportunity to try something new. Avoiding investment in passing fads and developing your own take on a real trend could add another dimension to your menu, restaurant and profile, as well as expanding your customer base.

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