One thing that stood out among the behaviors of Filipinos in lockdown last year was that more time spent at home led to more time spent in the kitchen creating and recreating food—even if it was just mixing till your arms fell off to make Dalgona coffee.
It also opened our eyes to more food options, discovering flavors and types of meal not usually eaten pre-pandemic.
“One of the most positive things that happened last year was the widening of the palate for most Filipinos,” said Chef Llena Tan-Arcenas, head of San Miguel Foods Culinary Center (SMFCC).
Social media, Tan-Arcenas noted, played a huge role in broadening consumers’ food knowledge as well as cravings, thereby paving the way for more variety on the table.
This year’s foodscape is expected to be an expansion and improvement of what started last year. And because, according to Tan-Arcenas, the Philippines, in terms of food trends, is delayed by two years, the following are anticipated to “be more dominant in two to three years’ time.”
Plant-based (almost) everything
Plant-based options saw an increase in popularity last year as consumers looked for healthier options that could give a boost to their health. And in 2021, these options are seen to further grow, “with new and creative ways of using plant-based ingredients,” said Tan-Arcenas.
Joining plant-based burger patties are plant-based bacon made from mushroom and plant-based seafood made using legumes. San Miguel Foods’ vegetarian line Veega, for example, offers meat-free giniling, meatballs, sausages, and more.
Plant-based eggs, cheese, and milk are likewise gaining popularity, with more options expected to grace grocery shelves (e.g. pistachio milk).
More innovative vegetable and fruit snacks are expected to be a hit among dried fruit-loving Filipinos. But these new plant-based snacks will come in different formats—think jerky made from fruits and vegetables but tastes like meat.
“Meat alternatives come into play for environmental and health reasons. More and more are looking at plant-based meat to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Chef Ernest Reynoso-Gala.
Even food colorants are getting a plant-based update, too, “with the color red dominating across food and drink products.” Much healthier alternatives to artificial food coloring are anthocyanin pigments for red, chlorophyll for green, and turmeric for yellow. Sugar beets are added to make a breakfast bread color red, while blue pea and turmeric to make whole wheat breads color blue and yellow, respectively.
This is mushrooms, chickpeas, and tofu’s time to shine as well, thanks to their vitamin and mineral properties, flavor, and versatility. Aside from being meat alternatives, the three will each get an update: tofu as chips and nuggets, and chickpeas as “the new cauliflower.” In addition, the water that comes in canned chickpeas, called aquafaba, is gaining popularity as an egg or milk substitute because of its excellent binding properties.
For instance, SMFCC chefs created Mocha Oat Clusters using aquafaba as the binder—together with peanut butter—that brings together oats, coffee powder, and dark chocolate.
Allulose, a sweetener naturally found in wheat, figs, and raisins, is seen to be the next big thing. “Allulose is just like table sugar but 90 percent less in calories.”
“As the health and wellness movement expands, consumers are now more open to alternative and flexitarian diets, or diets that support the immune health and cognitive functions, and promote relaxation and relieve stress,” Tan-Arcenas said, adding that such rise in health and wellness awareness “is attributable to the pandemic.”
Exploring exotic flavors
“With travel restrictions, more consumers will turn to food this year to explore global and unconventional flavors and ingredients,” said the SMFCC chief.
According to her, Filipinos will be more open to exotic flavors such as the Indian spice blend garam masala—added to butter to make garam masala spread—and North African condiments and spices such as dukkah (nuts, sesame seeds, coriander, cumin), za’atar (oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander, and sesame seeds), and sumac.
SMFCC showcases these ethnic flavors topped in Manakish bread made from Emperador Hard Wheat Flour and Instant Yeast.
Leveled up ready-to-eat meals
The restriction on dining in restaurants last year had led to the rise of meal kits and improved ready-to-eat meals.
“In the past ready-to-eat food was limited to sandwiches or handheld food purchased in convenience stores,” said Tan-Arcenas. Options today now include full meals prepared home cook-style and dishes served at restaurants.
According to Tan-Arcenas and Chef Emelita Galang, more restaurants are expected to offer meal kits with more creative menus and in more innovative packaging with various reheating options.
Upcycled food and functional indulgence
Rounding out the 2021 food trends are upcycled and functional food items.
“Upcycling is all about finding a purpose, utilizing neglected and underused parts or recreating byproducts or waste into reusable materials or products of higher value,” explained Tan-Arcenas.
SMFCC demonstrates upcycling through its Minced Meat Empanada whose filling is made of saba banana peel and Magnolia Chicken Station Innards.
Functional indulgence, on the other hand, covers food and drink that not only look and taste good but also beneficial to the consumer’s health. “Ingredients to look out for include those with fiber, nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc, and antioxidants. Adaptogenic food and drink that can counteract the effects of stress and promote relaxation are also to watch out for.”
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