Hit or miss: looking back at 2019’s food trends

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Food trends: did the past year's food trends get a thumbs up or thumbs down?
Food trends: did the past year's food trends get a thumbs up or thumbs down?

Related tags Food Public house Restaurant

From activated charcoal croissants and pulled jackfruit to ‘dirty’ vegan food and anything ‘deconstructed’ – which of the food trends tipped to take 2019 by storm have caught on in pubs?

Plant-based and vegan options

Vegan (5)

An obvious place to start. According to Annette Coggins, head of foodservice at Tilda UK, 2019 is the year veganism went mainstream. “With 3.5m people in the UK now following a vegan diet and a further 7m vegetarian, now is the time to bring flavourful plant-based dishes to your menu,” she says.

“Plant-based choices continue to do well across our estate and will only grow in popularity,” according to Alice Bowyer, executive chef at the Liberation Group – winner of the Best Food Offer at the 2019 Publican Awards.

“So much so, we’ve created the Allotment Menu to hail the great British vegetable, where we’ve enjoyed a resurgence in forgotten vegetables such as runner beans. Many are grown on site echoing our ‘field to fork’ ethos.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in flexitarians, so offering a good selection of plant-based dishes gives more choice to diners keen to cut down the amount of meat they eat each week. Vegan desserts have also been a hit, our vegan poached pear with blackberry sorbet especially.”

Verdict: Hit

Black food


Infusing everything from croissants and ice cream to linguine and batter with naturally dark ingredients like liquorice, coconut ash, activated charcoal, squid ink and black sesame, caused a bit of a stir in 2019. However, despite being a ‘like’ magnets on Instagram, the black food trend never really caught on in pubs – unsurprising given the strong colouring is likely to make your customers look like extras from a cheap horror film.

Verdict: Miss

Milk alternatives


“Alternative options to milk are commonplace in pubs with nearly a quarter of Brits consuming plant-based milk in 2019, up from just 19% in 2018,” according to Star Pubs & Bars head of food Mark Teed, whose pubs have been engulfed by a rising tide of soy, almond, rice, coconut and oat milk among other alternatives.

Verdict: Hit

Anything other than plates

Plate (5)

It feels as if heady days of peak plate alternatives – mini shopping trollies full of chips and bread served in flat caps – are mercifully behind us. “We can forgive a sharing board, we’re fans of these ourselves, but plates are, I’m pleased to report, very much back en vogue,” Liberation Group’s Alice Bowyer says. “So, no more bricks, spades or vinyl records.”

Verdict: Miss

‘Dirty’ vegan food

Jackfruit (1)

“This year has seen a growing demand for all things plant-based with vegan food ‘dirty’ bringing a new twist to comfort classics from pizza to mac ’n’ cheese,” Richard Cooper, senior brand manager at Dr Oetker Professional explains.

“With the meat-free market set to reach £658m in sales by 2021, this opens up possibilities for operators to appeal to those on vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets.”

Verdict: Hit

Takeaway food


“The delivery market is booming and is now worth a staggering £4.2bn,” according to Dr Oetker’s Richard Cooper. “Half of all takeaway orders are for pizza – accounting for an estimated £2.1bn and providing a golden opportunity for operators.”

While the popularity of disrupters like UberEats and Deliveroo has been a cause for concern, according to a survey by global intelligence platform Streetbees, 12% of people who have ordered takeaway food have done so from a pub.

Verdict: Hit



If consumed unripe, jackfruit’s neutral – potato-like – flavour works well in savoury dishes and as such is regularly drenched in barbecue sauce and served as a like-for-like replacement for pulled pork.

But, while the hipster cousin of the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit has been mooted as a vegan sensation, it’s not top of Liberation Group’s Alice Bowyer’s shopping list. “It’s tricky to use, comes in a tin and has racked up a huge number of miles coming, mainly, from Asia,” she says. “As consumers find new, innovative ways of creating plant-based dishes, the hope is they will look a bit closer to home for the ingredients they use.”

Verdict: Miss

Grab and go

Grab and go

“One of the biggest trends of 2019, food-to-go makes up a quarter of all eating-out spend, worth more than £21.2bn,” according to Dr Oetker’s Richard Cooper. “From grabbing breakfast on-the-go to searching for ready to eat hot offerings, food to go is driven by the growing need for convenience and new innovations are giving consumers more choice than ever.

“Fast to cook and easy to eat, pizza is proving a profitable addition for operators targeting on-the-go. Offering full pizzas or by-the-slice appeals to those looking to grab something quick. It can also help keep menus fresh too by switching toppings to reflect the latest taste trends including vegan, world flavours and spice – anything goes!”

Verdict: Hit



Remember that chilled out evening you and your other half spent building an IKEA bookcase? Of course you don’t because, generally speaking, things that require any degree of assembly cause stress and squabbling.

“We’re done with dust, crumbs and ‘build your own’,” Liberation Group executive chef Alice Bowyer says. “Consumers seem to have left this trend behind and are now choosing dishes lovingly created in their entirety, which is a relief.”

In an era when a disproportionate number of meals end up on social media, this food trend – celebrating the deliberately haphazard – was always going to be a long shot.

Verdict: Miss

Street food

Street food

“Street food is swiftly transforming the way consumers dine out and this growing market is now worth an estimated £1.2bn in the UK alone,” according to Tilda UK head of foodservice Annette Coggins.

“Street food markets and food halls are popping up across the country, giving consumers the opportunity to savour a variety of different flavours and cuisines all in one place.”

Verdict: Hit

Comfort food


“We’ve noticed customers making a beeline for good old-fashioned British comfort food, which is really what we’re all about,” Liberation group’s Alice Bowyer says.

“We elevate favourite dishes into something a bit more luxury and a real treat – our ox cheek cottage pie is a prime example.”

Verdict: Hit

Middle eastern dishes

Middle East

“Middle Eastern influences have been big for us this year as consumers have become more familiar with Middle Eastern ingredients,” according to Liberation group’s Alice Bowyer. “Our Buttermilk chicken shish kebab, socca flatbread, sesame and carrot slaw and Chermoula-braised smoked lamb have been massive hits.

“Middle Eastern cooking is also relatively healthy and it’s quite similar to ever-popular Mediterranean tastes. Favourites such as hummus and falafels have helped to popularise this cuisine and I can’t see it going away any time soon.”

Verdict: Hit

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