Though it may be hard to believe, 2014 is over and 2015 has begun, but one trend that remains consistent is the restaurant industry’s continued interest in sustainability.

The proof is evident. This year, for the second time in a row, environmental sustainability was among the top 10 trends on the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. An increased interest in food waste reduction, local and hyper-local sourcing and sustainable seafood also topped the list of 2015 trends.

But as more restaurateurs resolve this year to consider applying sustainable practices to their everyday operations, one question must be answered first: where to begin?

The fact is environmental sustainability is complex. Just getting started often seems daunting. To help ease your entry into sustainability, we at the NRA’s Conserve program offer five tips on building your own environmentally stable approach:

  1. Do your research and network. Find out what environmental efforts and groups are working in your community, what kind of local help is available regarding recycling, how to conserve water and energy, or composting your food waste.
  2. (read more…)

Not too many years ago, the phrase “vegan restaurant” could conjure up images of spartan, tasteless and distinctly unsatisfying fare. Now, veg-savvy chefs are hitting the mainstream, winning over herbivores and omnivores alike with sophisticated, surprising plant-based menus.

Fine-dining eatery Vedge beat out all of Philadelphia’s other restaurants to take the Best Food title in Zagat’s most recent survey of the city’s eateries. And on Thursday, Eater named it one of the top 38 places in the country to eat this year, with a review that ended “The place simply serves breathtaking food that also happens to be vegan.”

“We started this when vegan restaurants were not grouped in with everything else,” said co-owner and chef Rich Landau. “It was like the new age section in the music store, it was in a separate area and you would have to walk through the beaded curtain to the back room to find it.”

Landau and his wife and business partner, Kate Jacoby, began building a mainstream clientele with their earlier restaurant Horizons. (read more…)

Two trends have come together to drive the growth of new snack foods — consumers are snacking more and sometimes using snacks to replace meals. Meanwhile, they’re also trying to avoid empty calories and seek out convenient snacks that pack a nutritional punch without packing on the calories.

The new year began with news on the high-protein snack front. Dannon announced Monday that it has replaced long-time Oikos spokesman John Stamos with Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton, the latest move in the company’s ongoing effort to market the yogurt as a protein-packed snack for athletes and active men.

Newton will endorse a new product called Oikos Triple Zero, which has 15 grams of protein and doesn’t contain fat, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Dannon, the official yogurt of the National Football League, will break a new ad campaign this month and advertise heavily during the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, in a push to reach its target audience. (read more…)

“Advanced Asian” tops Sterling Rice Group‘s list of Culinary Trends for 2015, as increasingly sophisticated American palates embrace international flavors.

Sterling Rice Group Culinary Director Kara Nielsen and her team spend their days poring over trend data, scouring the aisles of the Fancy Food Show and Natural Food Expos, and studying consumer behavior, food blogs and news sites, all with the goal of identifying the next hot culinary trends and the bigger underlying trends that drive them.

“We look at how consumer behavior has changed in the last four or five years and where we think it’s going,” Nielsen said. “Global foods have changed from being an outsider to being a given in our diet and in our world.”

A desire to reconnect with family traditions and unplug from the busy world for a while is driving another trend, that of a return to farm-to-table kosher foods, she said, while innovative artisans are expanding beer beyond the basic hops to other grains and herbs. (read more…)

Consumers may mark the passing of 2014 with a midnight glass of bubbly, but odds are they’ll begin and end the evening with cocktails boasting a burst of cinnamon, a dash of ginger or a hint of mint. Flavored spirits grew more popular this year, and the trend is set to continue growing in 2015 with the rise of more artisan and small-batch products.

Cinnamon has been a particularly popular flavor for whiskey and other spirits this year, but ginger has been on the rise and next year is likely to bring even more ginger-flavored spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails.

“It fits in well with that savory-sweet spice trend, so if you’re going to mix it in anything else, it will provide those notes to the finished product,” said Kirsten Wemer, lab manager at Flavorman in Louisville, Ky. Her company works with clients to create new beverage recipes. “Ginger is the next cinnamon.”

Flavored spirits have been around since the 1980s and preferences are cyclical, but often when perennial favorites come back around they come with new twists, Wemer said. (read more…)