2012 Food Trends

By Betsy Bradford

I've been watching The Supersizers Go ... on the Cooking Channel. For the uninitiated, The Supersizers Go ... is a British show in which food critic Giles Coren and comedienne Sue Perkins explore the foods of a particular era of history. They cover a broad range of eras, from ancient Rome up to the 1990s. This got me to thinking. If one were to do a similar exploration of food trends in the United States in 2012, what would they find? If Giles and Sue were to film that episode, what kind of food would their producers force them to cram down their gullets? Well, let’s take a look at some of the latest and greatest food trends around right now!


Okay, I confess, this isn't new. As I understand it, the current cupcake craze began with an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie and Miranda scarfed cupcakes New York’s Magnolia Bakery. Suddenly, the humble cupcake transformed from a preschool birthday party treat into truly gourmet fare. Sex and the City has been off the air for nearly eight years, but the era of the cupcake continues. We've seen an explosion of cupcake bakeries and a cupcake-only competition show on the Food Network. They come in all sorts of flavors (bacon, anyone?) and are dressed to impress, with some brides electing to serve them alongside their wedding cakes!

Beer is the New Wine

I won't say too much about this here, since I've already yelled about this before. Still, this article wouldn't be complete without a mention of the sudden popularity of beer with a new audience. A new foodie crowd is learning that, just as you can pair wine with food, you can pair beer with food, too. We're seeing the rise of the cicerone, a sommelier for beer. Microbrews are everywhere, and increasingly a key part of the local food landscape.

Korean Food

First it was sushi. Then it was Thai. Now, Americans are beginning to discover the wonders of Korean food. Earlier this year, I had Korean fried chicken for the first time, a tantalizing twice-fried chicken with a thin-crisp crackly skin and lightly sauced. Korean barbecue is making a splash on the food scene, and even T.G.I. Friday's is introducing a Korean Steak Taco onto their menu!

Kale Chips

And after eating all that fried chicken, you might want to detox with some vegetables. I first learned of kale chips from Melissa d'Arabian, and since then, they've been popping up everywhere. Personally, I love kale in just about any preparation, but kale chips are a great way to make this dark, somewhat bitter green palatable to just about anyone. Simply toss kale with a little oil, season, and roast until it's crispy. While you would never confuse these with potato chips, they are a delicious and fairly healthy way to get one of your 3-5 servings of vegetables.

Gourmet Food Trucks

Roach coaches no more, the humble food truck is becoming a major contender. The economy has had a lot to do with this. Talented young chefs are having a lot of trouble getting the money they need to open restaurants. The solution? Take it on the road! Food trucks are much cheaper to open and operate, giving amazing new chefs a whole new venue to explore. Want a sample of what they're offering? Check out 2 Fat 2 Fly, a South Carolina food truck serving chicken wings stuffed with jambalaya, mac and cheese, and all sorts of other tasty things! Or, if you prefer sweets, try a Salty Pimp at the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. These guys are doing some crazy awesome stuff out there. Go check 'em out!

Go Local!

Again, this isn't a new trend, but it is crucial and ongoing. Increasingly, people are turning to local farms to supply more of their food. Grocery stores, particularly local co-ops or Whole Foods, explicitly mark which products are local. Concerned citizens frequent farmer's markets or sign up for CSAs. Even the frequently maligned Walmart is making an effort to source their food from local suppliers. All of this is wonderful. It keeps local farmers in business, and it helps limit the expense of cross-country shipping. While this may be a trend, I don't think it's going away any time soon!

These are just a few of the major food trends right now. I haven't even touched on gluten-free food, nose-to-tail cooking, or the renaissance of southern food. And who knows what we'll be seeing a year from now? Maybe gourmet fruit roll-ups will be the new hot thing, or perhaps foodies will gobble up Rhodesian cuisine. Will cupcakes will still be huge, or will the bottom will fall out of that market, forcing Food Network to roll out Éclair Armageddon? Only time will tell. Until then, eat up, America!