The top 10 2022 Australian food trends have been shaped by two years of uncertainty and a fierce hunger to come back from the brink. It’s going to be a delicious and diverse year so get ready to take your seat at the table and enjoy. Don’t forget your appetite!
This is the fourth year I have used my 30 years as a food and travel writer to look at the top Australian food trends, with predictions for 2021, 2020 and 2019.
Until 2021, when the world came up close and personal with a pandemic, clear trends were emerging. Some of the top Australian food trends in 2021 were a response to lockdowns and have lost traction with the reduction of restrictions. This includes online cooking classes, which are still around but are of less interest now cooks can do the real thing. However, travel via food remains popular, judging by the number of new cuisine-themed restaurants (see below). Will travel to explore Australia’s food regions remain popular? We will just have to see how quickly people return to international travel.
Other 2021 trends, including replacing meat in various ways, sustainability goals, going alcohol-free, and reinventing restaurant kitchens, have gained momentum and largely become mainstream.
Australia’s food and drink scene remains a top driver for domestic and international travellers. Tourism Australia’s statistics show an amazing 37 per cent of international travellers indicate that food and wine are major holiday decision-makers and it is rated as the third most important factor in choosing to travel to Australia.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 2022 Australian food trends.
Top 10 2022 Australian food trends
Bare supermarket shelves were something that became common over the past two years as people panic bought, stocking their cupboards each time a lockdown appeared imminent. In 2022, when lockdowns are no longer an issue, shortages should also be a thing of the past, but not so!
Professor Michael Buxton is a Professor of Environment and Planning at the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He is also co-author of The Future of the Fringe: The Crisis in Peri-Urban Planning. According to Professor Michael Buxton, the main reasons for the continuing food shortages are the war in Ukraine, difficulties in international shipping, increased fuel and transport costs, floods, and other environmental impacts on productive land. He says that although extreme events were predicted as an impact of climate change, none of these changes was predicted 10 years ago.
“They are examples of what is increasingly likely to occur to limit future food supplies. We are not going to be able to rely on access to a wide diversity of food out of season here in Australia. And international supply chains, particularly ‘just in time’ ones, are particularly vulnerable.
“This is why it is prudent not to build over productive land because it is becoming more likely we will need it in the future. Uncertainty is a reason for caution. Research also shows conclusively that transport costs are less, and accessibility to markets is greater for food produced in peri-urban areas, and that these are important factors in the cost of production.”
Hospitality under pressure
With shutdowns, staff shortages and consumer reluctance defining the dining scene throughout 2021 and into the start of 2022, there have been tremendous pressures on an industry with notoriously narrow profit margins.
Restaurant and Catering Association CEO Wes Lambert said their latest Benchmarking Report shows a snapshot of an industry under significant pressure. “While the years of lockdown may well be past us now, 2021 presented new and difficult challenges which saw an increased reliance on takeaway, wage costs increases and the current staffing crisis,” Mr Lambert said.
“What we’re seeing in this report is that the hospitality industry has been crippled across Australia due to skill shortages. While consumer confidence briefly rose and menu prices steadily rose, this lack of staff readily available made reopening incredibly hard. However, many operators have seen the current crisis as an opportunity to pivot their businesses to survive the effects of the pandemic and create more resilient business models to thrive in 2022.”
Post pandemic boom
Despite the lockdown stresses, some operators have maintained their enthusiasm, pivoting to open exciting new venues that answer the dining needs for now. The Staying Open: Future-Proofing Aussie Hospitality report by recruitment agency Deputy reveals cafes and coffee shops, which were able to pivot quickly, thrived throughout the pandemic. Australians have accumulated more than $200 billion in household savings because of international travel bans and other restrictions. As a result, the hospitality industry is expected to receive an injection of consumer spending as consumers seek to entertain themselves at home and spend money at their favourite restaurants and bars.
Maureen de Groot, Managing Director of Best Restaurants of Australia, says although there have been restaurant closures, there have been just as many national openings over the past few months.
“I have seen Australians bounce back from major global crises, and we can do it again. People are getting behind small family businesses, and now we are asking people to keep dining out and support the hospitality industry hit hard by COVID,” said Maureen de Groot.
“The report also finds that restaurants were operating 80 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in April 2020 to 80 per cent above these levels in May 2021. This recovery is credited to minimal restrictions in this time and the domestic travel boom. Although there have unfortunately been restaurant closures, we have seen just as many opening on a national scale over the past few months. We expect this to continue as a trend into 2022.”
Race to the country
We’ve seen people deserting capital cities in droves in 2021, seeking an escape from the maddening world. Chefs, too, have seen the light returning to their roots to work outside the big cities. The lower cost of running a restaurant in the country compared to the eye-watering tally of city rents and expenses is another prompt for agile chefs to make a move.
There is an increasing trend to set up destination restaurants close to the source of the chef’s favourite ingredients or where they can grow their own. Winner of Gourmet Traveller’s 2022 Best Destination Award, Oaks Kitchen and Garden in Oaks Beach shows just how good these new dining options can be. Located in an offshoot from the Great Barrier Reef Drive between Cairns and Port Douglas, Oaks Kitchen founders Ben Wallace and Rachael Boon left Melbourne to live their dream of dishing up Thai inspired degustations in a tin shed surrounded by permaculture gardens.
Nestled in the hills leading down to Marion Bay in southeast Tasmania, Van Bone is another example of a small scale philosophy restaurant. Deeply connected to its location, Van Bone’s close-knit restaurant team is led by head chef Timothy Hardy who serves a set menu of up to 14 courses.
Most popular cuisines and food trends in 2022
According to Lightspeed, the most googled restaurant cuisine in 2021 was Chinese, especially in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Mexican food was our second favourite and Italian, tied with Japanese rounding out the top three choices.
Here’s the list in order of the frequency of searches on Google.
The dietary preference with the most searches was vegetarian, which tallies with the trend towards reducing meat consumption.
When it comes to eating at home, delivery meal service Hello Fresh says the most popular selections for orders for their home-delivered meals from Australian customers are Middle Eastern, Thai and Caribbean. The least popular? Good old fashioned British food!
What are the most popular food trends showing on the popular social media platform TikTok? Tik Tok has inspired many food trends with plenty of how-to videos and fun recipes. It comes as no surprise, given the younger demographic for this platform, that every one of their top 20 foods is vegetarian! This research was commissioned by Top 10 Prepared Meal Delivery.
With 3.2 billion views, first place goes to cloud bread. Cloud bread is a fluffier alternative to normal bread, which sometimes includes dye to create a sunset cloud effect. It is every caffeine addict’s dream! The infamous whipped (or dalgona) coffee, which is similar to a regular cup of coffee but the drink only uses three ingredients, takes second place. They say it is like drinking a ‘coffee cloud.’ Nearly 3 billion views (2,842,215,600) prove this caffeine delight’s popularity. Pancake cereal claims third place. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin, a mini sweet treat with endless possibilities. Just add toppings like Nutella, golden syrup, or yoghurt. #pancakecereal has over 1 billion views (1,603,147,600). Coming in at fourth place is Feta pasta. This simple recipe involves baking a block of feta cheese with some cherry tomatoes in the oven has had 1,057,300,000 views on TikTok and has been described as ‘the perfect weeknight pasta dish.’
Apart from learning how to wash your hands properly, one of the most important skills that most Australians mastered in 2022 was how to use a QR code. The tool gained us entry to so many places, including the contactless delivery options that emerged during the past year. QR codes have rightfully earned a place on menus where convenient and fast ordering is vital. Who doesn’t want to jump the queue with a QR code order delivered straight to your table?
In the future, it is clear that digital payments and contactless ordering will become among the top Australian 2022 food trends.
Upcycling food is about innovative ways to recycle food waste products into edible gems with a longer shelf life. Food waste is a serious problem that costs the Australian economy $36.6 billion a year. Approximately 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted, and most of it is edible.
Harris Farm Markets has led the trend in the supermarket space with a new range of products they call Re-purposeful Picks. They have created 30 products from items that would have been thrown away. That means fruit converted into delicious smoothies, using vegetables on pizzas and turning bread into breadcrumbs. Each store has its facilities to create upcycled products. Their other food waste reducing initiatives include Soilbiotic, a fertiliser created from waste vegetables, Curious Cuts made from less popular meat cuts and Imperfect Picks, which are the not so perfect fruit and vegetables that generally are not as popular.
Upcycling food is also a trend right from the farm gate. At Destination Food 2022, Tina MacPherson of Tinaberries, a significant strawberry and passionfruit grower in the Bundaberg Region, explained how they are expanding their agritourism business and reducing waste by turning excess produce into strawberry jam, passionfruit curd and the most amazing ice cream that is available from their farm gate store.
Home-cooking in 2022 and beyond will become the new normal for Australians following the unpredictable last two years of contactless takeaway deliveries. Although dining out restrictions are almost gone, there is still a reluctance to venture out, and good home-cooked meals seem like the safe alternative. In addition, cooking for an occasion has increased as family and friends reunions occur across the country.
For those for whom home delivery has become a habit, a new service delivering restaurant meals that require a little home prep to the door is an innovative alternative. Providoor’s concept is to offer food from premium restaurants that the customer in their kitchen can finish. Founded in Melbourne and offering food from some of the city’s best restaurants, including Di Stasio, Maha, Cumulus Ic, and Flower Drum, Providoor has expanded to Sydney and Brisbane.
After spending more time at home, Aussies are channelling the philosophy of self-sufficiency and rediscovering how to cook from scratch using ingredients from your own garden. So it’s time to ask Grandma for the old family casserole recipe.
Will we see a resurgence of the dinner party? Maybe, but people are still incredibly time-poor. However, the motivation to eat well and eat safely doesn’t always mean complicated food with hours of prep.
Data released by digital subscription service Readly backs Australia’s new appreciation and interest for cooking as eating at home becomes the latest indoor entertainment. They report a 156 per cent increase in interest in the Food & Drink category over 2021. Inspiration-hungry consumers are particularly drawn to baking, as sales of pantry staples like flour and sugar reach new highs. The number of bookmarked pages in magazines increased by 46 per cent during the year, primarily for cooking recipes. What are they bookmarking? It’s comfort food such as one-pots and pans. In Australia, the most popular dish is One-pan Greek lemon chicken & rice. Sounds delicious!
Chris Couchman, Head of Content at Readly, says perhaps the pandemic caused a craving for hearty and cosy meals that the whole family can enjoy. “Readers have definitely found comfort in these recipes, and cooking has strengthened its position as the number one indoor entertainment,” Mr Couchman said.
Hannah Gilbert, Director Culinary at HelloFresh, believes people want to make their home-cooked meals convenient and hassle-free. “Making an occasion out of meals has become and will continue to be more important, with many prioritising coming together with family to eat. There will also be a growing focus on healthy, sustainable eating and incorporating a flexitarian lifestyle as we look towards eating more veggies and plant-based meals,” said Ms Gilbert.
Whether it’s opting for at least one meat-free meal each week or completely changing your diet as a New Year’s resolution, the movement towards plant-based eating is a juggernaut. Dietary preferences will continue to gain importance throughout 2022, with vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian and pegan diets all trending. The new kid on the dietary block is Reducearianism, where plant eaters who don’t want to give up their favourite carnivore flavours reduce their intake of dairy, meat and eggs but don’t cut them out. Instead, they seek grass-fed beef and pasture-raised eggs. The range of plant-based products is constantly expanding as manufacturers jump on the bandwagon in the hope of increasing their profits.
Home meal kit delivery service Hello Fresh reported a whopping 370 per cent increase in the number of vegetarian meals ordered by customers in 2021. HelloFresh expects the trend to continue in 2022.
Five new flavours
- Mushrooms have been growing in popularity as a meat substitute due to the meaty-like texture and the ‘umami’ flavour that makes them perfect in a soup or stew. However, the versatility of mushrooms could see them headlining in beverages. How about mushroom kombucha, tonics, coffee or elixirs. The next step is alcohol-free craft cocktails boosted by liquid mushrooms. So, is this dinner in a drink?
- New grains, such as Kernza, a perennial grain from The Land Institute, taste good and have long roots that help soil ecology. It’s ready to star in both beer and cereals.
- Hibiscus, a perennial favourite for its high vitamin C content, is becoming popular in yoghurts and spreads for its pink colour and sweet but tart flavour.
- Far from just bird food, sunflower seeds are creeping into allergy-friendly snacks, crackers, and even ice cream.
- Moringa is the new alternative to matcha. A herbal remedy from India and Africa, powdered moringa tree leaves are used as a food source. The further use is to add them to smoothies or baking.
- The milk alternatives market has a newcomer – potato milk. It is a dairy-free alternative made from boiled potatoes and the water in which they are cooked that is popular in parts of Europe and China.
Clean and conscious
It’s now more important than ever that all businesses are transparent with their sustainability and humane credentials. Customers will seek out businesses that care about sustainability and seek to minimise their environmental impact. This includes how they handle food waste and the use of paper and plastic.
In addition, consumers want to know what ingredients are in their food and where they come from across the board from restaurant meals to cookware and appliances.
What’s next for the top 10 2022 Australian food trends?
It is going to be interesting to watch the ride as we emerge from our homes to discover the new world that awaits and the top 10 2022 Australian food trends continue to emerge and solidify throughout the year. How much has been permanently changed? Will alfresco dining remain high? Only time will tell. Watch this space for the 2023 trends!
Top Australian food trends for the past three years