Food trends in 2024: Asian, plant-based, and nostalgic food are in, but inflation may hit choices

MOST of San Miguel’s partner chefs agree: Asian styles, plant-based food, European indulgence, Filipino comfort food, and nostalgic dishes will be popular across the board for 2024 and beyond. However, tighter budgets due to worldwide and local inflation may also influence cuisine over the coming months.

During a luncheon on Jan. 18, the San Miguel Foods Culinary Center (SMFCC), as well as the beverage arms of the San Miguel food conglomerate (San Miguel Brewery, Inc. and Ginebra San Miguel) announced SMC’s food trend forecast, which it does every three years. To come tweeze out the trends, SMC picked the brains of chefs they have worked with through the years, aside from insights developed within the company.

San Miguel organized the trends into five branches: sustainable dining, health span wellness, borderless global flavors, retro revival and “newstalgia,” and little luxe.

These are in line with predictions from their six partner chefs, who appeared in videos throughout the luncheon; namely: Emelita Galang, the brains behind the eponymous Pampanga-based culinary school; mother and son chef team Sylvia and Ernest Reynoso Gala; chef Gene Gonzalez, of Cafe Ysabel fame; pastry chef, cake decorator, and TV host Heny Sison; and Cebu-based food consultant Rose Marie Lim.

THE FIVE TRENDSAccording to a company release, “Sustainable dining is not just about what you eat; people are becoming more aware of how their choices impact the environment, and may result in food waste… Under sustainable dining is the climatarian diet, which emphasizes low environmental impact, promotes plant-forward choices, and highlights the use of local and seasonal ingredients.”

Also part of the Sustainable Dining trends, according to SMC, is the increasing availability of plant-based and lab-grown food; the use of sustainable seafood alternatives that incorporate ingredients such as mushrooms, soy, seaweed, fruits, vegetable oils, and starches; eco-friendly packaging; and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for “efficient and ecological food production, by predicting harvest periods and minimizing food waste.”

“Health Span Wellness” involves making sure that the older generation lives a longer, disease-free, productive life. “[C]onsumers are choosing better-for-you foods… The trend gravitates towards a plant-forward approach, featuring mushrooms, botanicals, florals, exotic fruits, tropical flavors, protein alternatives, and fermented foods,” said the company release.

“Borderless Global Flavors” is the increasing popularity of cuisines from different cultures and regions, including what is known as “third-culture cuisine” — “new dishes inspired by multiple cultures, especially by those who grew up outside their parents’ cultural backgrounds.”

This trend includes the increasing use of local ingredients, and the introduction of “unique combinations like sweet-bitter and sour-umami.”

According to the SMC, “Retro Revival and Newstalgia” is the “embrac[ing of] yesterday’s trends to find comfort, familiarity, and safety, especially after the pandemic.” This includes the “revival of retro-themed foods and flavors… beloved brands and feel-good favorites from childhood.” “Newstalgia” meanwhile, is “a growing interest in creating new memories or nostalgic versions with updated twists.”

“Little Luxe” has to do with indulgence and self-care, said the company release. “It aims to elevate everyday experiences by transforming simple ingredients into global flavors.”

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAYMs. Galang predicted that food trends will be influenced by pandemic recovery schemes, which means reopened borders for tourism. This is in agreement with Mr. Gala’s own prediction that tourists will bring in their own influences, “and blend it in with our own local produce and cuisine.”

Ms. Galang, Ms. Gala, and Ms. Sison (all three of whom have their own eponymous culinary schools) uniformly agree that Japanese and Korean food will still be a huge influence in the Philippines due to the enduring popularity of their pop culture. Ms. Sison though predicts that more obscure Japanese dishes will come to the fore, like their version of pasta, and Ms. Gala adds that we might be seeing more food from other Asian neighbors like Taiwan and Singapore. Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Gala both think that Indian and Middle Eastern flavors might tickle more palates this year.

Mr. Gala expects to see more Filipino desserts on menus (such as puto and suman — both kinds of rice cakes), a trend his mother also supports.

He also predicts that Filipino food will be having a greater influence on foreign soil, thanks to the Filipino diaspora (he pointed to Filipino restaurants entering the mainstream abroad). On that note, Mr. Gonzalez sees more imaginative Filipino food trending this year, predicting that more attention will be given to regional tastes and ingredients.

For Ms. Sison’s part, she and Ms. Lim both see a resurgence in comfort food — Ms. Sison expects pineapple upside-down cake and other recipes in that culinary family making a comeback, taking cues from orders she has been receiving.

Ms. Sison and Ms. Lim both predict that plant-based food will also become more popular.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gala and Ms. Lim both raised the point of the rising cost of food: Ms. Lim expects that this will lead to smaller portions in restaurants, and that there will be less food waste (with recipes making use of what had once been considered scraps), while Mr. Gala thinks that there will be rise in recipes using leftovers.

NEW DISHESFor San Miguel’s part, they concocted recipes based on their own trend predictions, as well as new products.

To emphasize sustainable dining, for example, they developed a recipe for Hipong Kabute with Tajin Pickled Mango and Yuzu Soy Glaze (sort of like a tempura, but with juicy mushrooms substituting for the shrimp).

They also presented new items in their plant-based Veega line, which now includes vegan variations (previous iterations of their products had been made with eggs). This is in line as well with the wellness trend they predicted (hence Ilocos-style empanada — turnovers — made with Veega Adobo Flakes).

To represent borderless culinary influences, they looked to a less-tapped branch of European cuisine: the Balkans. So, during the lunch they had dishes like Banitsa, a savory pastry filled with their luncheon meat (which now comes in a square can), and local kangkong (water spinach).

As for tapping into nostalgia, San Miguel came prepared with dishes like a pares pancit (the noodle dish now made with their ready-to-eat Purefoods Heat & Eat Beef Pares), and a great surprise, Grilled Chipotle Isaw, made using Magnolia’s Streat Sarap Chicken Isaw — chicken intestines — a new product.

For dessert, they served Halo-Halo Bingsu-Style (a Korean ice-based dessert), pan de regla croissants (croissants stuffed with red-dyed bread pudding like the local bakery favorite), and kamote bicho-bicho (a fried dough dessert) made with sweet potatoes with cinnamon hot honey.

“San Miguel Food and Beverage (SMFB) is a key player in the food and beverage industry, and as such, we continuously strive to stay ahead of the trends,” said Llena Tan-Arcenas, San Miguel Foods Culinary Services Manager in a statement. “While we focused on five specific upcoming trends, what is common and timeless to all, is an emphasis on quality and the ability of food and beverages to give delight — which are all hallmarks of San Miguel products.” — Joseph L. Garcia