The results from the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Culinary Forecast are in, and 2016 is poised to be another hot year for ancient grains (the #15 trend). But in an exciting sign for grain variety, it seems that quinoa is finally sharing the spotlight. View the full survey results here.

In this national survey of over 1,500 chefs, nutrition (#27) remains a trendy concern, along with natural ingredients / minimally processed foods (#5), healthful kids’ meals (#7), and more specifically, whole grain items in kids’ meals (#25).

Noticeably different this year is dampened enthusiasm for gluten-free cuisine (#45), which is down 8% from last year. Nonetheless, many naturally gluten free grains remain popular with chefs. While more than half of chefs surveyed still name quinoa as a hot trend (#78), it has been surpassed by non-wheat noodles and pasta (#22), black / forbidden rice (#38), non-wheat flour (#59), and farro (#71). New to the list this year is a trend towards protein-rich grains / seeds (#36). Since more than 25% of a grain’s protein is lost when it is refined, whole grains are perfectly poised to fill this nutrient need.

African flavors were the fastest growing trend this year, up 20% (to #35). This interest, along with trends towards environmental sustainability (#6), authentic ethnic cuisine (#12), and ancient grains (#15), suggest that many of the drought-friendly African whole grains, like millet and teff, will edge their way towards the mainstream. (Another Oldways program, A Taste of African Heritage cooking curriculum, spotlights many of these traditional African flavors and foods.)

When we surveyed American adults this summer, the most loved whole grains were whole wheat (55% named it as a favorite), oats (47%), brown rice (41%), and corn (37%). Nothing’s wrong with the classics, but we’re excited to see chefs in this survey embracing many of the lesser-known grains.

Will consumers cling to tried-and-true favorites, or will they follow the lead of fearless chefs and rejoice in the choice? We can hardly wait to find out! (Kelly)

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