When The Fermentation Association began tracking industry news five years ago, we put a write-up in our newsletter when fermentation made a food publication’s new year “trend” or “best of” list. Today, as we analyze the 2023 lists, we’re finding it too overwhelming to write a story for each new trend list. Fermentation is dominating 2023.
End-of-year lists often define which foods Americans will be obsessed with in the New Year. Umami-packed fermentation is also at the center of multiple larger trends. Today’s diners are looking for foods that are functional, intensely flavored, international, sustainable, aid gut health and combine sweet and savory.
Christopher Koetke, a global culinary expert and executive chef at Ajinomoto in Chicago, says he thinks there will “be even more of an explosion of fermented products,” reads an article in the Medium.
“As consumers continue to seek out new global flavor profiles, I anticipate 2023 will be the year that umami finally takes center stage,” Koetke says. “I expect to see umami not only in sauces, snack foods, and sandwiches, but branching out into more unexpected uses like desserts and cocktails.”
Interestingly, many of these food publications pointed to McCormick releasing a Miso Caramel Seasoning as evidence fermentation is propelling into the zeitgeist.
Here’s a roundup of fermentation highlights:
“Here is another trend that’s been brewing (fermenting?) for some time. While fermented foods are certainly nothing new, their trendiness has been sneaking in and taking hold of us with things like kimchi and kombucha for the past few years. In 2023, we’re anticipating a bag wave of fermented foods will hit the shelves. This trend ties in deliciously with the “sweets plus” prediction, as many traditionally sweet flavors are expected to fuse with fermented flavors. We’ve begun to see this unusually tasty combination already in products like McCormick’s miso caramel seasoning, which launched just this year.”
- The Manual, “Food Trends That Are About To Take Over 2023”
There’s no doubt that fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh have increased in popularity and what’s not to love about these foods?
They’re a mix of umami and sour flavors that are produced from natural fermentation — this just means they’re made by microorganisms — which yields complex, full flavors.
To get ahead of the trend, McCormick Foods, arguably one of the largest spice companies, has already launched a new blend named Miso Caramel Seasoning. You can even find a recipe for Miso Caramel Oatmeal Whoopie Pies on their website.
It’s possible that Covid-19 has helped boost fermented foods to its top position since these products often contain probiotics which can aid in digestive health, immunity, and overall wellness. Topics that have been on everyone’s mind in recent years amid a global pandemic.
- The Medium, “Flavor scientists predict the biggest trends in foods for 2023”
“I’m going with fermented and the sour and umami flavors produced from it,” says Jan Matsuno, founder of Yumbini Foods and Mindful Food Consulting, when asked to peer into her crystal ball to predict a flavor trend set to make the biggest impact in the coming year. “Think kimchi, miso, beet kvass, pickles, beer, and kombucha.”
This ties in closely to the Sweet Plus trend, playing off the popularity of more complex flavors that often result from the fermentation process. In addition, as Matsuno points out, “fermented ties in squarely with Korean, the hottest ethnic cuisine around, and its use of tangy, spicy fermented vegetables.
“Natural fermentation also often uses probiotics, which are thought to increase gut biodiversity, improving digestive health and overall wellness, clearly desired by many consumers,” continues Matsuno. With COVID-19 spurring many to amp up their wellness initiatives, more consumers are looking to food and beverages to aid in their quest. According to Fuchs North America, fermented ingredients have seen rapid growth in both foodservice and retail, largely due to the perceived health benefits surrounding fermentation, along with a growing acceptance of sour flavors.
“Miso (fermented soybeans, rice, and sometimes other grains) is popping up in trendy online recipes all over,” says Matsuno. “Miso soup and salad dressing have been around for a long time. And the umami flavor of miso is a natural with vegetables, fish, and meats. But what about miso caramel, miso banana bread, or miso buttercream with spice cake?”
- Food Technology Magazine, “Outlook 2023: Flavor Trends”
Pickling and fermenting preparations are having a moment. Not only do these preparations promote ingredient preservation and health connotations but they also allow for unique culinary experimentation. Expect pickling to extend to everything from proteins and french fries to herbs and nuts, while pickled ingredients, themselves, will top unexpected dishes. At the bar, pucker up with sour cocktails containing fermented, gut-healthy ingredients, such as kombucha, miso and sake. Lastly, look to menus to cite more specific preserving processes, such as lacto-fermentation (the use of bacteria to create lactic acid), to provide consumers with a level of scientific transparency.
- Technomic, “What We Foresee for 2023”
“Getting creative and cross-utilizing foods is pertinent to mitigate food waste across the world – and it’s part of our culinary DNA. Our chefs will regularly experiment with banana peels to make plant-based bacon, convert potato peels into chips and garnishes, or even repurpose off cuts and trimmings to make mousses and rillettes, as well as using techniques like pickling, canning, and fermenting to extend product shelf life.” — Ana Esteves, vice president of hotel operations, Lindblad Expeditions
- Food & Wine, “These Will Be the Biggest Travel Trends of 2023, According to Experts”
The “new Nordic” culinary movement spearheaded by Noma in Copenhagen helped cement pickling, preserving, and brining in fine dining, bringing the fermented flavors front and center. Koji, a Japanese product traditionally made from fermenting rice, barley, or soybeans — but it can also be made from other ingredients containing both starch and protein — plays a starring role in many of these restaurants. Koji is best known as the starter for miso, but now different flavor bases, ingredients, and approaches are coming into play as more chefs as well as bartenders are taking to the process as an appreciation for the flavors that come from fermentation is spreading across cultures, cuisines, and service categories.
- Nation’s Restaurant News, “Af&co and Carbonate predict 2023 food & beverage trends”
Fermentation, in general, has soared in popularity over the past few years, and koji is the latest darling on the fermentation scene. Koji is a Japanese seasoning that is made by fermenting rice, barley, or soybeans. It is the starter base for miso, sake, and soy sauce, so clearly, it is an essential staple in Japan. The result of this type of fermentation brings up gorgeous umami flavors that will elevate any meal. So many snacks, dishes, and beverages can benefit from koji.
Takamine Japanese whiskey has an eight-year-old koji spirit. Spirit Almonds have a koji salt almond snack, and amazake is a creamy koji rice drink you can make or buy. There are a plethora of recipes to try that incorporate koji. To get started, you can buy your own starter culture, or buy premade koji by Cold Mountain from MTC Kitchen or Marukome. Then, try your hand at cooking with koji.
- Tasting Table, “17 Food And Beverage Trends To Look For In 2023”