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What we’ll be eating in 2021, according to robots, carob set for a comeback

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BOULDER, COLO. — Copaiba may be the next cannabidiol — without the regulatory baggage, said food trends forecaster Elizabeth Moskow. Derived from the resin of the Copaifera tree and featuring an earthy, woodsy flavor, copaiba is an essential oil that shares similar properties to C.B.D. It is seen as a remedy for inflammation, chronic pain and anxiety, and, as Ms. Moskow pointed out, “it’s completely legal.”

“We think we’ll see copaiba as a competitor to C.B.D. in food and beverage products,” Ms. Moskow told Food Business News.

Copaiba as an ingredient was among a list of food trend predictions compiled by Ms. Moskow in partnership with Spoonshot, a food innovation intelligence platform. Using artificial intelligence, Spoonshot analyzed billions of data points across scientific journals, niche food communities and social media to predict what consumers will eat in 2021 and beyond.

Carob comeback

Several predictions cast a new light on established trends and concepts. For example, carob is set for a comeback, supported by current diet trends. Previously positioned as a substitute for chocolate, carob regains relevance as a plant-based source of hydroxyproline, an amino acid linked to collagen production that is typically found in animal products. It also is gluten-free, caffeine-free, low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants and protein, Ms. Moskow said.

“It’s a super sustainable crop that’s easy to grow, it grows in several regions, and it’s fairly easy to grow with a low amount of water,” she added. “They didn’t position carob right in the ‘70s. It’s not a chocolate replacer… When you’re comparing anything to chocolate, it’s going to fail.”

Expect to see carob paired with chocolate in snacks and sweet baked foods or carob powder as a booster in smoothies, Ms. Moskow said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks came out with a carob syrup,” she said. “It gives an earthy, yummy, naturally sweet flavor.”

The next coconut oil

Another food with renewed relevance is olive oil, as the healthfulness of today’s trending fats remains unclear.

“People are going crazy over full-fat butter and coconut oil, (but) the science is not strong enough to say if they’re healthy or unhealthy,” Ms. Moskow said. “It keeps going back and forth. ‘It’s a terrible ingredient.’ ‘No, it’s a miracle ingredient.’”

New research taps into the heart and brain health benefits of olive oil. Elenolide, a chemical component in olive oil, is linked to anti-hypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties. Tyrosol is a compound in olive oil that protects against neurodegenerative diseases, Ms. Moskow said.

“I think rather than call out full-fat butter and coconut oil, we’re going to start seeing infusions of olive oils on plates … and chips and snacks that use olive oil as the call-out rather than avocado and coconut oil,” she said.

Salt & Straw fish sauce caramel and palm sugar ice cream

The next sweet and salty

An emerging flavor combination poised to gain traction in the years ahead is sweet and umami. Already embraced in several dubious pairings — apple pie with cheddar cheese and the Chicago-style cheese and caramel popcorn mix, as examples — what Ms. Moskow dubbed “sexy-ugly flavor mash-ups” are appearing on more menus. An ice cream flavor at Salt & Straw, Portland, Ore., combines fish sauce caramel with palm sugar. A dessert served at Fat Rice in Chicago features a crispy rice treat infused with pork floss, nori and fish sauce caramel.

“If you’re looking for a flavor pow and interesting dining experience, it’s definitely a space chefs will start exploring a bit more,” Ms. Moskow said.

Chickpea crust pizza

The next cauliflower crust

Product developers continue to discover new possibilities for chickpeas. Already popping up in sweet and savory spreads, snacks and more, garbanzo beans are now breaking into the bakery segment. Flatbreads and pizza crusts formulated with chickpea flour will expand beyond Europe to American freezer cases and restaurant menus, Ms. Moskow said. Aquafaba, or chickpea soaking water, is used in vegan recipes for cookies and other baked foods.  The Little Bean in Portland, Ore., serves frozen dessert, waffle cones and cookies made with chickpeas.

“I think the next cauli crust may be chickpea crust,” Ms. Moskow said.

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