In its 2015 Food & Beverage Forecast, well-known restaurant consultants Baum+Whiteman coined the phrase ‘restless palate syndrome’, meaning customers are always looking for new tastes and experiences — and this is inherently true of the UAE dining scene.
Thanks to the cultural diversity of the UAE, the global food trends we see coming out of the US and Europe, for example, all resonate with the local market in some way.
According to the US-based National Restaurant Association’s ‘What’s Hot in 2015’ forecast, next year will see a continuation of current trends, several of which jumped out for their relevance to our business (as a gourmet food market).
These trends include the ongoing demand for fresh, natural and seasonal ingredients, such as quality fruits and vegetables, particularly those handpicked from renowned, select European farms and other five-star suppliers elsewhere.
In addition, there will be a minimum of heavily processed foods, and the health and wellness movement will grow, as well as farm/estate branded items.
We also love the Huffington Post’s 2015 predictions, which flagged the growing influence of millennials who are focused on simplicity, fresh ingredients and healthy options when it comes to food — and who are more likely to use the stove than the microwave.
In tracking customer behaviour over the last year, we have seen a growth in demand for high quality ingredients from right across our client base, as well as renewed interest in the origin/provenance of ingredients.
Classic European cuisine is definitely making a comeback, especially for home cooks, as people rediscover their palates and the appeal of natural flavours that only the best quality produce can deliver.
This has been reflected in sales of our seasonal vegetables, with items like heirloom tomatoes and salsify becoming menu staples rather than trendy must-haves; and old-school fish and meat such as Dover sole, oxtail and ossobucco enjoying a resurgence.
Diners are also game to try new things, especially if there is a link to health and wellness. For example, we are seeing an increasing popularity for milk-fed Canadian veal, with its lower fat content, so butchery is definitely going to be big in 2015.
Baum+Whiteman have flagged the oyster as a major food trend in its 2015 Food & Beverage Forecast, linking it to the ‘terroir’ movement, which is gaining ground in key markets around the world.
When it comes to seafood especially, locally we are seeing people make more adventurous purchases, and have been doing well with items such as flower octopus and razor clams as well as trying different types of fish like turbot, halibut, wild sea bass, et cetera.
Craft and artisanal foods is another area where we are receiving a lot of customer feedback and interest, as people look to buy into the story behind a home-grown brand and also want to bring a point of differentiation to the dinner table via the use of ‘limited edition’ ingredients.
You can see this in Dubai already with the number of speciality food shops now present in the market, both online, like Chez Charles, and in actual stores.
It’s all about sourcing unique, fresh ingredients and store cupboard essentials that add flavour and showcase quality produce.
And personally, I believe that we will start to see a move away from this obsession with the superfood culture and allergy-driven eating habits towards an appreciation for the simple beauty of quality-led ingredients and preparations. Bon appetit!
Originally from Lebanon, Charles S. Boghos is the owner and founder of Chez Charles, a Dubai-based online grocery store, which provides a gourmet shop for lovers of quality food and ingredients.