Laura Brohan looks at the food trends that came to define Irish cuisine in 2016.
2016 was a year of extremes, and food trends were no exception. On the one hand, there was a massive growth in wellness-focused foods, yet our healthy food obsession has not led us to entirely forget about sweet treats.
However, instead of being satisfied with traditional sweet treats, consumers are leaning towards gourmet delicacies including doughnuts and freakshakes. Food trends are dictated not solely by taste but also appearance and there have been a number of foods that have consistently popped up on social media throughout the year.
Ireland’s growing love of fitness has catapulted health and wellness food brands from hipster outliers to mainstream fixtures. Dublin has seen the expansion of much-loved salad chains Chopped and Sprout.
Leading Ireland’s healthy food obsession are the Flynn twins of the Happy Pear in Greystones who are redefining what people associate with plant-based food. The two brothers have expertly used social media to promote what they refer to as “veg power”, in other words, a plant-based diet. There has been a massive growth in plant-based food as people are moving away from the traditional “meat and two veg” meal to healthier plant-based meals such as Buddha bowls.
Sugar usurped fat as the villain of the food world last year. Consumers shunned highly processed sugary foods and instead turned to healthy fats. Our scramble to include more fats in our diets has led to a surge in all kinds of nut butters on the market.
Health food stores and even local supermarkets now carry a broad range of nut butter including almond butter, crunchy peanut butter and cashew butter. One of the best selections of nut butters in the city can be found in Bodyfirst nutrition, home to the wall of nut butters.
Nut butters aren’t the only food fuelling our desire to eat more healthy fats. Avocados reigned supreme as the best source of healthy fats. Its creamy texture coupled with the health benefits it offers means it has become a firm favourite.
“Food trends are dictated not solely by taste but also appearance and there have been a number of foods that have consistently popped up on social media throughout the year.”
However, our avocado obsession has a darker side. The rapid rise of avocado has led to an increase in avocado farming in regions such as Mexico. The danger of abandoning other crops to grow avocados is that if consumer tastes change, farmers are at risk of losing their livelihoods. The massive leap in demand has also led to a danger of a global avocado shortage, which will inevitably raise prices. For now, however, it remains a staple food on brunch menus and in kitchens across the country.
There has also been a shift in the snack food market from traditional chocolate bars to “fitness” snack products such as protein bars. Protein bars have moved from sports nutrition shops to a prominent position front and centre on supermarket shelves and petrol station shops. The growing obsession with protein-based products often drove people to turn to protein bars with high sugar contents accidentally. One fantastic Irish product that saw huge success in 2016 was Fulfil bars, a protein bar, which boasts a lower sugar content than other popular brands and added vitamins.
Wellness teas have been prominent for some years. 2016 marked the meteoric rise of matcha tea. Matcha tea differs from a typical brewed tea because rather than steeping tea leaves in water, matcha tea consists of ground tea leaves mixed with water. The use of powered tea leaves creates matcha’s distinctive leafy green colour. The health benefits of matcha tea are greater because tea leaves are consumed.
If you drink a cup of matcha tea, you ingest more antioxidants than you would sipping on a cup of brewed tea. It is an acquired taste, however the naturally occurring caffeine makes it an ideal drink for people looking for a healthier alternative to coffee. Matcha lattés are the perfect drink to help you power through an essay. For the best matcha lattés in Dublin, head to the Kaph on Drury Street.
Food trends did not ignore junk food entirely. One sweet treat stood out among the rest, and that was gourmet doughnuts. Dublin is home to a growing number of speciality doughnut shops including Aungier Danger and Offbeat Donut Company. Offering every conceivable sweet flavour from red velvet to salted caramel, doughnuts were a delicacy worth the hype it received in 2016. With Offbeat open up a second branch on the quays, hopefully this is a delicious trend that will last.