It's time for that annual tradition that always seems to come around in December:  The "best of" list - where someone summarizes what the important trends were throughout the past 12 months.  I've been chosen to compile a pseudo-summary list of what was hot in the food industry in 2013.  [What makes me an expert at such things?  See the bottom of this story]

So what made food trends in 2013?

  • Retro.  While you could argue that everything old has always been new, it seems that in 2013 the food world stopped plunging so forward that it didn't have time to respect (and enjoy) it's delicious past.  Case in point:  Deviled Eggs.  It had been years since I saw those hard-boiled wonders at a social gathering, but in 2013 I saw them at no less than four different cocktail parties.  I've also seen  them mentioned in a lot of cookbooks and a lot of the food television I watch featured classic recipes for Deviled Eggs.  There was also a push for a back-to-basics approach to cooking that facilitated itself in the form of Minnesota-native Amy Theilen - who's cookbook and Food Network TV show spotlighted the cuisine of northern Minnesota.
  • Recalls.  Whether it was bagged salad (why are you buying that?) or chicken, ice cream or spinach - it seemed that 2013 brought with it an abundance of food-based recalls.  Even though I don't have the full research to back it up, it seemed like there more recalls in the past 12 months that any prior year.  Or, maybe it just appeared that way because the recalls involved bigger brand names than ever.
  • Specialty Foods Become Mainstream.  I'm old enough that I remember when tacos seemed exotic, and most grocery stores didn't stock the essential supplies to make them.  In 2013, no food was off limits with an uprising of formerly-exotic specialties being eaten by mainstream consumers.  How exotic did our palates become this past year?  I observed kimchi used in more recipes than ever - and I'm not just talking about what I saw in Bon Appetit Magazine.  Even the Food Network - that Bastian of stale, mainstream cooking featured the potent food in a multitude of recipes.  Another product that is perhaps a little less exotic - but did break-out in 2013 -  is Greek-style yogurts.  Folks started eating Greek yogurt for the health benefits and now I'm seeing it as in ingredient in a whole range of recipes.
  • Grilled "everything".  Breads.  Pizzas.  Cakes. I even know people that grilled eggs.  If you can eat it and you can cook it inside, chef's were increasingly taking it outside in 2013.  And why not?  Grilling is fun and adds a different source of flavor to your familiar foods.  I see this trend only growing in 2014.
  • Deep Fryers.  Once upon a time, home cooks only dreamed of having a deep fryer - and most made-do with a cast iron skillet half-filled with oil to fry each side of their chicken, pork, or fish.  It wasn't until the 1970's that smaller deep fryers came to department stores (think the Fry Baby-brand) and a lot of mainstream cooks started using a single-source appliance in their home.  2013 saw that trend only get bigger.  From large-scale commercial-type deep fryers for the home counter to kitchen remodels that included a sunken fryer, the cooking world was overtaken by oil.  It only helps that a lot of fairs and festivals feature increasingly-strange items served in a fried manner;  People want to recreate these foods and home and the trend is only going to continue.
  • Farm-To-Table Events.  These events are popular in larger metro areas - especially in the southern part of the country where the weather is nicer than ours.  Gourmet restaurants stage a white-linen meal right in the field and pasture where the food comes from.  Imagine an elegantly-set dinner table with fine china, white table cloth and napkins, crystal glasses --- only it's set up in the middle of a potato field and there are cattle roaming just ten feet away.  Often the chef allows the attendees the chance to help out with the meal - commandeering them to be sous chef's, too.  The trend was super hot in 2013 and with gourmet cooking so trendy I only see these events becoming more prevalent.
  • Silicone.  While silicone cookware has been around for a while, 2013 was  the year that I finally started to see it's non-silicone-based cousins become the minority, not the norm.  Look at the utensil aisles for yourself;  Silicone is no longer hard to find - the majority of cooking tools now feature the non-stick stuff.  In fact, if you want something that's non-silicone -- good luck!
  • Pre-cooked/Convenience Foods.  Not a new trend, but a continuing one.  A lot of people choose not to cook for themselves, opting to buy ready-made, heat-and-eat, or mix and serve products for their families.  Is this a good trend?  I don't think so - but I also believe that you can make from scratch better pancakes, brownies, and cakes than you get out of a box.  And don't get me started on Suddenly Salad......

So there you have it - my food trends for 2013.  What will 2014 bring?  Who knows.  We'll all have to turn the calender page and find out!

About Steve Tanko:  Me?  ...An expert?  Well, not really.  But I do like to cook and I follow all things food-related.  I also consume vast amounts of business news, which helps to keep me at the cross-roads of where "want" and "demand" meet the corporate business world - especially as they relate to cooking, etc.