You may have been a big fan of food trends such as rainbow lattes, fried chicken and the doughnut boom, but as we progress through 2018, it looks like we'll be encouraged to clean up our diets.

Because according to a new survey, restaurants are increasingly turning their attention to organic, free range, gluten- and allergy-free deliciousness.

The New Zealand Restaurant Association asked 2000 of its members what they foresee as the biggest food and drink trends in the hospitality industry for 2018 and it's all about sustainability and plant-based diets - good news for the vegetarians and vegans among us.

Read more: • Auckland lauded as 'global dining powerhouse'


Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois says the results align with what's happening on the international food scene.

"Health, plant-based, sustainable and allergen-friendly are some of the trends that our own members have predicted and [are] consistent with what has been forecast and reported globally."

From a move to small, locally sourced produce to a rise in demand for low or no alcohol offerings, here's what you can expect to see dished up in trendsetting restaurants across the country in 2018.

Sustainability and ethical eating

Two-thirds of those surveyed forecast a rise in produce that's grown sustainably and adheres to eco-friendly production.

"Consumers continue to be more informed about their food choices and the path in which their food takes, from farm to plate. Increasingly, savvy diners seek humane food experiences that promote sustainability to animals as well as the natural environment," says Bidois.

It's anticipated more menus will offer pasture-fed meats, farm-raised free-range eggs, and we'll see an increased demand for organic produce.

"There is a big movement towards supporting smaller, local producers who are committed to the ethical treatment of livestock," Bidois added.

The ethical movement has seen a rise in the popularity of restaurants such as Orphans Kitchen in Auckland's Ponsonby where and chefs working in a local community garden and bee-keeping are just some of the ways the establishment has made a commitment to sustainability.

Josh Helm and Tom Hishon of Orphans Kitchen. Photo / NZ Herald
Josh Helm and Tom Hishon of Orphans Kitchen. Photo / NZ Herald

Co-founder Tom Hishon says as people become aware of the impact they are having on the environment, sustainability simply has to be the way of the future.

"Now that we understand and have the information and we know the damaging effects of not growing or fishing or farming in these [sustainable] ways, it 100 per cent has to be."

Allergy friendly focus

Dietary trends such as dairy-free, gluten-free and FODMAP (indigestible sugars that feed bacteria) free, are also predicted to have more of an influence on menu options in response to the growing demand.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, approximately 65 per cent of the world's population suffers from a reduced ability to digest lactose, and Coeliac New Zealand currently estimates 60,000 to 70,000 New Zealanders have coeliac disease – that's one in 70 people.

"Chefs are now tasked with the challenge of finding new ways to accommodate several dietary requirements in their menus with gluten-free and lactose-free options," Bidois says.

"Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets are now amongst the norm, as well as gut-friendly meal-planning that includes processes such as fermenting, pickling and preserving. Gut health will be a big focus in 2018 with the use and inclusion of probiotics such as kimchi, miso and kaffir and prebiotics such as onions, garlic and other alliums."

Tea over martinis

Reduced alcohol consumption looks set to stay as non-alcoholic and low ABV drinks become increasingly popular, particularly among young adults.

Globally, millennials appear to be gravitating towards non-alcoholic drinks such as kombucha, té matcha (matcha tea), and té jengibre (ginger tea).

"Lifestyle changes are the obvious reason for people drinking less alcohol, with more focus on healthy living. It's reported té matcha to be rising in popularity for the healthy benefits associated with the drink, including boosting metabolism and being rich in antioxidants," shared Bidois.

Delivery food services

Delivery and convenience are also in the spotlight with offerings such as Uber Eats predicted to continue to change the way the industry provides dining services to customers.

Bidois shared: "Delivery services are expanding the opportunity for people to access a variety of different cuisines, easily. Popular amongst millennials, Uber does well with working professionals in our major cities, many of whom report household incomes of over $75,000."

However, it appears most people still prefer to dine out in order to get the full experience for their money.

"According to our 2017 dining out research consumers still prefer to dine out," says Bidois, highlighting the elements that "just can't be recreated by ordering in or cooking at home" such as tasting menus, live music and a restaurant or cafe's unique atmosphere.

Kiwi dining trends

•64 per cent believe 2018 will see a demand for restaurants and cafes to provide locally-sourced, sustainable and plant-based cuisine
•44 per cent mentioned a focus on health, including fresh and diet/allergen friendly options
•28 per cent forecast an increase in vegan, vegetarian and plant-based offerings
•18.5 per cent mentioned low alcohol and non-alcoholic food pairings increasing in popularity
•61 per cent claim delivery and online ordering will be a key business trend
•23 per cent mentioned an increase in healthy, ready-to-go meals