From a surge in community dining experiences to increasing use of seasonal and indigenous produce, Buddha bowls to floral flavours in food and drinks, to an exponential increase in the organic food trend, there are exciting times ahead in 2018 for food aficionados, experts say.
"I see a surge in community dining experiences -- everything from secret suppers to mystery menus. The educated, well-travelled urban Indian is looking for more than just a good meal, and this is reflected in our growing interest in a less insular form of dining," Nachiket Shety, Director, Cellar Door Hospitality, told IANS.
"Over the last few years, we've witnessed an interest in and commitment to local, seasonal and indigenous produce being used in food service establishments -- this will continue to gain prominence across F&B brands," he added.
Noting that there's been "a paradigm shift in the way we dine", as evidenced by the growing preference for laid-back restaurants over stuffy fine-dining alternatives, he said: "Dining is no longer an occasion-driven indulgence."
According to Chef Noah Barnes, Executive Chef at TabulaBeach and Arriba Mexican Grill & Tequileria, Buddha bowls are one of the healthiest food trends to have taken over the entire Internet.
"They are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. The colourful bowls are usually loaded with raw or roasted vegetables served on a bed of whole grains with sauce," Barnes told IANS.
He said that since edible flowers have always been used to garnish dishes, "in 2018 they will also be infused with drinks and snacks with botanical flavours. Think of lavender lattes flavoured cocktails".
Barnes also thought that 2018 will see a rise in coffee drinkers, "with everything from turmeric to ground flaxseed to cacao being added to the daily dose of caffeine, making it healthy and tasty at the same time".
Joy Singh, Co-Partner of the Raasta fine diner that has outlets in Delhi, Gurugram and Mumbai, saw "an exponential increase in the organic food trend".
He said the growing trend of using farm outputs to prepare fresh and healthy food "is not just followed in big chain restaurants, but even smaller restaurants are now taking this concept ahead to make way for the farm outputs and increase the authenticity of the food".
He also thought that the trend of texture-based drinks for the beverage industry was growing.
"With the encouragement of the new homegrown beverage produce, the new crafts and skills are making way into the market for the basic consumers who are open to experiments," Singh told IANS.
Shety echoed him, saying that with the advent of more than a handful of homegrown beverage producers in 2017, "the craft brewing, small-batch spirit and boutique mixer industry is poised to be the big noisemaker this year".
Did this signal a trend away from hard liquor to wine and beer?
As the country evolves, Singh said, the preferences towards the consumption of beverages is increasing and changing drastically.
"Today, we have designated drinks for the seasons, days and functions; which have moved the consumers towards the consumption of beer and wine more than hard liquor. Secondly, the knowledge about the other beverages has also evolved with the increase of microbreweries and vineyards in the country promoting homegrown liquor and textures. This is bringing more and more varieties to the country and the movement towards beer and wine is increasing but the consumption of hard liquor can never stop because of the culture and the varied tastes we get," Singh maintained.
As far as urban areas are concerned, Shety said, the beer and wine markets are experiencing an upswing in demand.
This stems from people's exposure to cultures that view alcohol consumption as a leisurely activity to engage in on a fairly regular basis at almost any time of day, as opposed to being restricted to a celebration/special occasion. Additionally, microbreweries and vineyards are mushrooming across the country, thus prompting greater interest in beer and wine," he added.
Beer and wine have always been a preferred choice when it comes to drinking, Barnes said, adding: "However one can't ignore that hard liquor is essential to cocktails and women prefer to drink wine and cocktails. Men on the other hand prefer beer and hard liquor. Having said that, it would probably be an equal divide between the two. Drinks are also seasonal, in the summer one will opt for beer, wines and cocktails and in the winter, one may settle for beer and hard liquor."