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Volume 5 | Issue 01

January 9, 2018

2018 Top 10 Trends Overview

The team at Custom Culinary® is always on the hunt for the next big ideas in foodservice—leveraging our wide array of tools to deliver best-in-class insights. Whether we find inspiration in the kitchen or from the mind of the consumer, it’s all supported with industry research and the products to make your menu stand out from the crowd. From globally inspired dishes and techniques to home-cooked fare and childhood nostalgia, here are the trends we expect to make an impact in 2018.


Amp up flavor across the menu by harnessing the principles of umami, commonly known as the “fifth taste.” Ingredients rich in umami—including Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, miso, soy and shellfish—are responsible for adding unctuous, savory, meaty taste to dishes, even when used in small amounts. And with this intensity of flavor come additional nutritional benefits. Incorporating umami-packed ingredients means operators can serve up dishes that use less salt and have fewer calories, rather than relying on animal fats to provide the same level and complexity of flavor.

Adventurous patrons will love the distinctive flavor of a Miso Salmon Bowl. View recipe. 



The noodle-centric bowls found all over Asia have found a home on American menus, too. Ramen, pho, laksa and udon deliver warm, comforting flavor—brimming over with aromatic broths, fresh herbs, seasoned proteins and, of course, toothsome noodles made from rice, buckwheat, mung beans and even sweet potato. Today’s chefs are taking authentic dishes as inspiration and adding their own flair with fresh local produce, hand-pulled noodles and more. Speed-scratch soup bases can help to take some of the guesswork out of flavor development.

Serve up a piping hot bowl of authentic Vietnamese Pho, with ease. View recipe.



The fertile marshland of South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia is rich in seafood and plant life, forming the basis of Lowcountry cuisine. Shrimp, crab, oysters and long-grain rice come together in one-pot stews, soups and seafood boils, accompanied by such local ingredients as pears, peaches and okra. Preserved foods are essential components of classic Lowcountry dishes; pickles, relishes and chutneys can be found in abundance. In addition, international influences from Africa, France, England and the Caribbean each play a role in Lowcountry cooking.

Sausage and seafood are simmered to perfection in our delicious Lowcountry Gumbo. View recipe.



A ride on the merry-go-round, a day at the amusement park, a trip to the batting cages. These snapshots of childhood activities evoke memories of funnel cakes, soft pretzels, hot dogs…and deep-fried everything! Chefs are honoring that nostalgia by transforming classic concessions into whimsical yet elevated dishes across the menu. Indulgent “extreme” milkshakes, doughnut sandwiches with sweet-and-savory jams and loaded fries are just some of the tasty and visually appealing carnival foods primed to make an impact in 2018—especially among social media-savvy patrons.

Put a grown-up spin on a childhood favorite: Pale Ale Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Pretzel Topping. View recipe.



We’re hitting the road to find the latest and greatest in global street fare. Items such as Chinese bao, Italian piadine, Argentinean empanadas, Salvadoran pupusas and Australian meat pies encompass a world of flavor in convenient handheld formats. Think pita, pasty and all things enrobed. Simply put, nothing satisfies your customers’ snack cravings like savory marinated meats (or vegetables) in dough! We’ll explore the historical significance of these dishes and discover how street food can serve as the perfect vessel for introducing ethnic-inspired flavors to your menu.

This Carne Asada Torta brings Latin American flair to a familiar steak sandwich. View recipe.


Set sail on a flavor adventure! Mediterranean cuisine encompasses a wide range of styles, united by common ingredients and proximity to the coast: French, Italian, Spanish, Algerian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Turkish, Greek…and the list goes on. The region’s culinary building blocks of olives, wheat and grapes complement such bold and distinctive ingredients as harissa, ras el hanout, preserved lemons, roast lamb, anchovies and eggplant. The next wave of Mediterranean cuisine we expect to “sea” on U.S. menus will start to incorporate these unique flavors.

 A duo of harissa mayonnaise and vinaigrette truly enhance this Mediterranean Chicken Breast Sandwich recipe. View recipe.


Consumers are demonstrating a real affinity for seafood, willing to shell out a premium for quality when dining out. And, they’re hungry for seafood dishes that they wouldn’t necessarily make for themselves at home. But that doesn’t mean your menu items need to be overly complex. Simple, yet flavorful, roasted and smoked fish entrées are showing growth on the menu, enhanced with curry, citrus, aioli and other bold sauces. Classic preparations are also making a comeback, including paella, bisques and bouillabaisse. There’s a “reel” opportunity for seafood in 2018!

Simple preparation with just enough kick: try our Grilled Sea Bass with Fire-Roasted Ranchero Sauce. View recipe.


The greatest thing since sliced bread is, well, sliced bread. But beyond the ubiquitous avocado toast, how can operators capitalize on the popularity of these open-faced sandwiches and add signature flair to the menu? Artisan breads topped with simple but high-quality savory or fruit jams, chutneys, pesto and vegetable purees can be served across dayparts and provide a canvas for operators to get creative with presentation. The visual appeal of toast (and photo-worthy social media opportunity) is almost as impactful as its flavor!

Vibrant colors, textures and flavors stand out in our Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Toast. View recipe.


Chicken continues to be consumers’ protein of choice, and nearly half say they want restaurants to offer more chicken entrées with ethnic flavors. Luckily, there’s a world of opportunity when it comes to globally inspired fried chicken! From Indian “chicken 65” to Korean fried chicken, Japanese karaage to German schnitzel, there’s a preparation style and flavor profile for every taste. Unique accompaniments such as hot honey, tonkatsu sauce and gochujang add to the culinary experience, elevating fried chicken to new heights.

Slightly sweet with a kick, our Spicy Chicken Glaze adds a signature touch to fried chicken. View recipe.


Variety is the spice of life, so let’s take a look at some of the zestiest hot sauces that have potential to be “the next sriracha.”  Whether your patrons prefer a slow burn or instant heat, there’s a hot sauce for every taste. Indian achaar, Thai nam phrik, Indonesian sambal and Portuguese piri piri are just some of the hot sauces that can be incorporated into familiar dishes while adding flavor excitement in a brand-new way. Unique, complex combinations of smoked and roasted chilies, fresh fruit, vinegar and other seasonings set these hot sauces apart from the pack.

Stewed and sautéed tomatoes, vegetables, nuts and seasonings deliver complex flavor to homemade Adobo Sauce. View recipe.

FlavorIQ® enables our customers' growth and success by approaching the creation of customized solutions with a bold mix of expertise, aspiration and curiosity. We develop unique products, menu concepts and "gold standard" flavor delivery systems, meeting the requirements of our customers today and anticipating their emerging needs, too. The opportunities we identify for operators and food manufacturers on a global scale are rooted in a deep understanding of the culinary arts, sensory science, consumer insights and food science. Our ultimate goal? Innovation without limits.