January is here, which means it’s time to prognosticate about the new year — and specifically, how we in the Bay Area will be eating over the next 12 months and beyond. We don’t need to look into a crystal ball to see the future. All it takes is a long look at local market shelves — and maybe a little bit of analysis from the pros — to realize what we will be seeing in the coming year.
1. Convenience, convenience, convenience.
When it comes to how we shop, dine and cook, to paraphrase Freddie Mercury, we want it all and we want it now. This on-demand attitude is influencing nearly every aspect of the food industry and will have the largest effect on how the Bay Area eats in 2019.
First, there’s the food delivery market. which is projected to grow over 630 percent by 2020. In September, Chicago-based Grubhub agreed to acquire San Francisco’s college food ordering service Tapingo for $150 million. Nipping at GrubHub’s heels are UberEats, Caviar and Postmates, all based in San Francisco and trying to make online delivery more commonplace.
In terms of retail, San Francisco now boasts two AmazonGo locations — cashierless stores that sell everything from gum to prepared lunch. More are undoubtedly coming to the Bay Area, as the company plans to open 3,000 more around the country by 2021. As consumers demand more quick and convenient fare, look for more prepared-meal options in grocery stores. Food halls are cropping up around the country at lightning speed, according to a report released by real estate developers Cushman Wakefield. By 2020, the marketplace is expected to triple in size from just five years ago.
On the home cooking front, the popularity of Instant Pot won’t slow anytime soon. The ultimate in quick, no-fuss home cooking gadgetry, its fans are legion. The Instant Pot has given the multicooker appliance category a massive jolt and for the past two years has been one of the fastest-growing product categories in the retail sector. Beyond the Instant Pot, more convenience-focused smart appliances have hit the market, like a countertop pizza oven from Breville that produces Neapolitan-style pizzas in two minutes and the Brava Home smart oven that uses infrared energy to cook food faster.
2. Faux meat is here to stay.
About 18 months ago, The Chronicle explored the future of meat and how the Bay Area has become a global hub for meat alternatives. The movement has only intensified. While plant-based meats are proliferating through American restaurants and supermarkets, cell-based or cultured meats are quickly approaching legalization and public consumption as well.
Redwood City’s plant-based Impossible Burger, a.k.a. the “veggie burger that bleeds,” has hit the mainstream and can now be found in thousands of restaurants around the United States, including chains like Applebee’s and the Cheesecake Factory. Earlier this fall, Impossible’s major competitor, Southern California-based Beyond Meat, announced its intent to go public and file for an IPO.
On a more basic level, a growing number of chefs are experimenting with plant-based alternatives to meat, from tomato lox and watermelon ham to smoked pulled jackfruit and coconut bacon.
Given the shift from consumers toward reducing meat consumption — whether for personal health, concerns over animal welfare or environmental reasons — we expect the popularity of meat alternatives to snowball in 2019.
3. Who gives a cluck about chicken? We all do, apparently.
The number of chicken restaurants in San Francisco seems to have exploded in recent years. In a way, it makes sense; we are the home of the famous Zuni Cafe chicken after all.
When it comes to chicken dinner, rotisserie chicken joints have boomed the past couple of years. 2018 saw Piri Pica and Isla Vida join the 2017 class that included Tacolicious’ delivery-only spinoff, MF Chicken, and Rich Table sister restaurant RT Rotisserie. For consumers, rotisserie chicken is an easy, affordable way to get a decent meal on the table. And for restaurant operators, these kinds of chicken-centric restaurants are appealing because of their streamlined menus and operating systems.
Then, of course, there’s the Southeast Asian chicken and rice dish, khao mun gai. In addition to established Thai restaurants like Kin Khao and Hawker Fare serving their own versions of Hainanese chicken rice, there are now fast-casual joints dedicated to the dish. Syhabout opened Hawking Bird in Oakland, and there’s also What the Cluck on Haight Street and multiple locations of Rooster Rice.
With this kind of abundance, it’s easy to believe National Chicken Council stats that chicken is the No. 1 one protein consumed in the U.S., and that Americans consume more chicken than anywhere else in the world (more than 92 pounds per capita in 2017).
To keep up with demand, Costco — home of the $4.99 rotisserie chickens that grace many a family table across the country — broke ground on a massive poultry plant outside of Omaha, Neb., in June. The plant will process more that 2 million chickens a week, supplying as much as 43 percent of its rotisserie birds and a third of the raw chickens on the retailer’s shelves. It’s a move that, according to sustainable agriculture website Civil Eats, will allow the national retailer to gain independence from poultry manufacturing titans like Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride by raising and processing its own birds — and could serve as a “watershed moment” for the relationship between retailers and the larger food chain.
4. Green light for matcha.
We saw matcha everywhere in 2018. Matcha-centric cafes like Stonemill Matcha on Valencia Street and Japantown’s Matcha Cafe Maiko upped the Bay Area’s matcha game. Meanwhile, San Francisco sweets shops U:Dessert Story and Sue’s Kitchen made matcha desserts fun. This winter, Chinese chain Amausaan Uji Matcha, which has shops around the globe, will open its first U.S. outpost in Berkeley.
According to a study released in December by marketing firm Future Market Insights, consumer demand for matcha is anticipated to experience a “meteoric rise.” Between 2018 and 2028, the global market for matcha is expected to register growth of 10 percent in terms of value. Organic certified matcha is projected to experience 12.3 percent growth in revenue.
Don’t be surprised if even more matcha specialty shops appear on the horizon. It’s a tasty alternative to coffee, and in the age of Instagram, it makes a stunningly photogenic latte.
5. Drink up the booze-free booze.
According to Pinterest’s 2019 trends report, searches for sober living are up 746 percent. Meanwhile, searches for infused waters have seen a 353 percent increase. As “young people” — Millennials and Generation Z — are reported to be drinking less, there’s a growing movement toward bars that serve cocktails sans alcohol. Though the Bay Area has yet to see any completely booze-free bars of note, a number of cocktail destinations, like the Interval at Long Now and ABV, have quietly been offering a range of teetotaling and zero-proof menu options.
The movement is gaining traction. In the media push for Sebastopol’s Fern Bar, which opened in December, “free-spirited cocktails” were given equal billing with higher octane drinks. Fern Bar’s zero-proof cocktails are made with Seedlip, a nonalcoholic spirit from the United Kingdom, which is made by distilling herbs, spices and other aromatics inspired by remedies found in a 17th century book called “The Art of Distillation.” You’ll now find the spirit-free spirit used at bars around town, like Mourad, Bon Voyage and True Laurel.
There are a growing number of retail options, too. Dutch beer brand Heineken is set to release a nonalcoholic version of its namesake beer this year, and Anheuser-Busch InBev hopes to have low-alcohol and nonalcohol business represent 20 percent of global sales by 2025, per data tracker CB Insights.
6. Yes we can-nabis.
Teas, candies, cocktails, you name it, we predict CBD, hemp and cannabis-infused products will rule the food and drink categories (in states where it’s legal) in 2019 and gain strength in subsequent years.
Bridging the gap with the previous category, Petaluma brewery Lagunitas, which is owned by Heineken, announced it was launching a nonalcoholic IPA-inspired hopped sparkling water infused with THC called HiFi Hops. It will join a CBD-infused version in the Lagunitas lineup.
Earlier this year, Constellation Brands spent more than $4 billion to increase its holdings in Canadian cannabis company Canopy. Also hopping on the Canadian nonalcoholic/cannabis-infused beverage train, Molson Coors.
In the coming months, Napa Valley’s women-run company House of Saka will release what is dubbed the world’s first luxury line of cannabis-infused, alcohol-free sparkling brut and still rosé wines.
One can now find CBD-spiked lotions, teas and candies with greater ease, whether at upscale markets or at cannabis shops.
In California, CBD derived from regulated and taxed cannabis is legal. However, Congress voted to legalize industrial hemp as part of its farm bill in December. Though the bill only deals with hemp and won’t legalize pot for recreational or medical uses, some expect that this will give the already booming CBD industry even more of a boost.
Sarah Fritsche is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com. Twitter/Instagram: @foodcentric