Madison — What are the hot new flavors? Is toast on its way out? Will anything ever really be the new kale? As the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board examines the top food trends for the coming year, one thing’s for sure: Americans really love cheese.
In fact, according to the USDA, the average American consumed 35 pounds of cheese in 2016, a roughly 1-pound increase since 2014. Overall cheese production has increased as well, totaling 1.03 billion pounds as of October 2016, 0.5 percent above the same time period last year.
Wisconsin cheesemakers continue to meet growing consumer demand for cheese by remaining the number one cheese producer in the country and winning more awards for their cheeses than any other state or country - more than 280 awards in top national and international competitions in 2016, according to WMMB.
In 2017 WMMB anticipates cheese will continue to play a key role in the diets of American consumers, especially when enjoyed in the following ways:
1. Year ‘round comfort
Comfort food is no longer just for colder months. Diners and at-home cooks are seeking out hearty, comforting dishes – like mac and cheese, grilled cheese and pasta bakes – all year round. In fact, Pinterest reports consumers save about 54,000 comfort food pins each day, a 140 percent increase from the year previously.
2. It’s always a good time for brunch
The all-day breakfast trend has transformed into all-day brunch. In fact, the National Restaurant Association reports 7 out of 10 consumers prefer that restaurants serve all-day breakfast. Menu items like flavorful ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches, cheesy egg-based tacos and fried chicken biscuit sandwiches with cheese and sausage gravy are popping up on all-day menus across the country.
3. Bowls, bowls, bowls
Ramen isn’t the only dish being served in a bowl these days. Expect to see an increase in consumers enjoying bowls any time of day, be it a cheesy breakfast bowl with scrambled eggs or a power bowl with plenty of veggies, ancient grains and Greek yogurt.
4. Conscious consumption
As consumers strive to eat more sustainably, expect to see an increase in the use of byproducts like whey. Created during the cheesemaking process, whey is a great source of protein that is now being added to juices and smoothies. It’s also used in salad dressings and as a fermentation agent.
5. Spice goes global
Year after year, hot and spicy flavors dominate trend forecasts, and flavored cheeses like Ghost Pepper Sharp Cheddar and Carolina Reaper Cheddar continue to climb the Scoville scale. In 2017, look for new globally-inspired spice blends to join the mix including Latin American, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean. Wisconsin cheesemakers are already embracing this trend with the debut of new flavors like Sweet Fire Mango Jack and Citrus Ginger BellaVitano®.