The rise of solo dining and other food trends in 2023 2
Photo from Freepik
Food & Drink

More people will be happily dining solo this 2023, says this food trend forecast

More things we’ll be seeing more of this year: sampalok, yuzu, mocktails and swicy food. Yes, that’s sweet and spicy.
RHIA GRANA | Feb 15 2023

Solo dining, sampalok, and yuzu are going to be major buzzwords among foodies this 2023, this is according to food writer and cookbook author Angelo Comsti. The guy behind the titles “Also Filipino,” “From Our Table To Yours” and “The Filipino Family Cookbook,” recently shared his list of what he predicts to be the year’s food trends, basing the entries on personal research and observations. 

The talk was part of an event called Taste of 2023 organized by Nutri-Asia—the company behind iconic Pinoy condiment brands like Datu Puti, MangTomas, UFC, Golden Fiesta, Papa, Mafran and Jufran. 

The year 2022 saw the popularity of plant-based dishes, cloud kitchens, charcuterie boards, oyster bars, tasting menus, and al fresco dining areas. What’s going to be hot in 2023? Here’s the Comsti report: 


A post shared by Doritos ® (@doritos)

Flavor forecast

1. Tamarind

The Philippines being a sinigang-eating country, tamarind is a familiar flavor to most of us. We also grew up snacking on the sweet-sour-salty treat that is sampalok candy. So it’s great to know the tropical fruit is having a moment. In fact, it’s being referred to as the “ingredient of the year.”

Comsti cited three reasons for the tamarind’s popularity. First, it’s versatile. It can be incorporated in both savory and sweet dishes. Second, its natural sourness is a great addition to balance the sweet, salty and spicy flavors of Asian food. Third, there’s a demand for bold, unique flavors in the international food scene, and sampalok fits right in.

Even in the snacks department, tamarind is making waves. Banderilla Tama Roca Tamarindo Mexican Candy Sticks is in fact one of the most searched terms on Google last year. Even American tortilla chips brand Doritos rode the bandwagon coming up with a Tangy Tamarind Doritos variant.


2. Edible sea plants

Seafoods are likewise expected to become one of the biggest food trends this year. By that, we don’t mean fish but plants from the ocean. 

The Pinterest Predicts 2023 report deems vitamin seaweed to be the hottest superfood. “Because of its health benefits, millennials and Gen Xers are gobbling up ocean-based food minerals. And it’s not just nori they’re noshing, but everything from green algae to seaweed snacks,” said Comsti. Pinterest also noted a surge of interest on “seaweed snack recipes” and “nori recipes.”

Comsti said the steady rise of the global seaweed snacks market has been observed since 2019 when it was valued at 1.48billion USD. This can also be attributed, he said, to the fact that people are looking for products that are free from common allergens, gluten, and GMO.

Chicken Wings at Gochugang. Photo from @thefgridfoodbarket on Instagram

3. Swicy food

The combination of sweet and spicy is a match made in heaven. Good examples are hot honey, chili dark chocolate candy bars, and various types of chicken dishes. Comsti said the contribution of South Korean food culture to the rising popularity of swicy foods cannot be discounted. We sure have craved for dakgangjeong (crispy Korean fried chicken glazed in a sticky, sweet, tangy and spicy sauce) at some point while watching our favorite K-Dramas.

But there are more unique ones. Have you heard of Mangonada? Baskin Robbins has a version of this one-of-a-kind frozen Mexican beverage. It’s made with “mango puree with chamoy and Tajín Clásico Seasoning made with mild chili peppers, lime and sea salt.” 

Yuzu. Photo by Nikita from Russian Federation

4. Yuzu

This Japanese citrus is another Asian ingredient that’s becoming widely known across the globe. The fruit looks like mandarin orange but tastes like grapefruit.

Digital magazine Food & Beverage Insider reported a 49% growth in Google searches for Yuzu in 2021. “[Yuzu] started making a mark last year and hasn’t seen its peak yet,” said Comsti, so it’s predicted to become a hot commodity this year.

Enterprising brands have been quick to respond to the growing interest in the fruit, producing a variety of yuzu goods—from vinaigrette, rice vinegar, dark chocolate, olive oil, and more. North America has had 56 yuzu product launches and, globally,  236 product launches, according to marketing insights provider, Innova. 

These include seltzers, RTD teas, RTD cocktails, and energy drinks. “This number is expected to rise this coming year with the consumer shift on health and wellness,” the Innova feature adds. 

Umami Fried Chicken Skin
Umami Fried Chicken Skin from Bad Bird at The Grid. Photo from The Grid's official website

5. Chicken skin

Move over, chicharon. Many of us are convinced that skin is the best part of the chicken, and apparently many chefs agree. “It has become the crispy component in a lot of dishes replacing chips, croutons and tortillas, and rightfully so because it's crunchy, naturally salty and umami,” said Comsti.

Add it to salads, turn it into a delicious appetizer, or simply eat it as is. “What Irvins is doing with salmon skin is what Flock is doing with chicken skin chips,” offered Comsti. What makes Flock chicken chips appealing to many snack eaters is that it’s marketed to be “keto-friendly”, “gluten free,” “with the crispy and crunchy texture of potato chips (without the carbs).” Who would say no to that? 

Totino's Pizza Stuffers
Totino's Pizza Stuffers. Photo from Totino's website

Food trends

1. Newstalgia

Nostalgia sparks warm feelings, a sense of wonder and magic. Which is why many brands use it today to market a new product, give a contemporary spin to a classic favorite.

For instance, we all know Shirley Temple, that classic mocktail made of ginger ale, grenadine and maraschino cherries. Some content creators decided to throw in vodka into the mix and made what they now call Dirty Shirley. 

Meanwhile, s’more, which dates back to the 1920s, became a popular flavor across different brands at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, said Comsti. A wide variety of products was s’morified—snack mix, granola bars, cookies, cakes, chocolate bunnies, popcorn, rice crispies and so much, uhm, s’more.

Other brands that rode the nostalgia theme include Pepsi, which released an apple pie-flavored cola, KFC which brought back its iconic 1966 holiday buckets, and Totino’s which revived its Pizza Stuffers.

UFC Ready Recipes Afritada, Menudo, Caldereta and Mechado
UFC Ready Recipes. Photo from Nutriasia's official website

2. Just add water

We’ve probably had those moments when we’re too busy to eat a traditional sitdown meal. Turns out, this is also an emerging trend. Thus the advent of just-add-water meals like Kellog’s “Instabowls,” which already has milk in the mix. Just add cold water and then stir. 

Omsom has also released restaurant quality rip + pour sauce packets such as Filipino Sisig, Korean Spicy Bulgogi, Japanese Yuzyu Miso Glaze, and Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, among others. 

Locally, UFC has its own versions of easy-to-use cooking sauces ranging from Afritada, Menudo, Caldereta, Mechado, and Gata mix. These are pre-mixed and pre-seasoned, so all you have to do is pour the sauce on your meat and veggies and let it simmer. 


3. Steam oven

Airfryers became popular over the pandemic because they don’t use as much oil as a traditional fryer. More people are now after maintaining the nutritional value of the food they’re eating, making steam ovens the hottest kitchen appliance. Unlike a standard oven, it circulates steam rather than hot air, so the food stays moist and its nutrients intact.

Comsti said the sales of combination ovens (ovens that cook with steam and convection) grew by 10.2% globally in 2022. Also, other kinds of oven appliances are now equipped with steam technology, like Ninja Rapid Cooker and Air Fryer, and the TikTok-famous Balmuda Steam Toaster Oven.


4. Non-alcoholic drinks

More people are enjoying a booze-free social life as can be seen in the steady rise of mocktails. The sober conscious movement started to take off in 2021, which led to the popularity of non-alcoholic beverages in retail stores and bars the following year, observed Comsti.

Pinterest Predictions confirms this saying searches for “fancy non-alcoholic drinks” are up +220% and “mocktail bar” at +75%. Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report, on the other hand, says 58% of consumers globally are drinking more non‐alcoholic and low‐ABV cocktails than a year ago. Some examples of non-alcoholic beverages are sparkling tonic, spritzer, health elixirs, and kombucha.


5. Solo dining

Introverts, rejoice. “Eating alone is no longer a taboo as more people are finding joy in solo dining,” said Comsti. It has become totally fashionable, thanks to the pandemic. Want proof? Check out the thousands of TikTok videos with the hashtag #solodate and #diningalone.

This could also be attributed to the popularity of the South Korean loner trend “honbap”—a portmanteau of honja (“alone”) and bap (“food”). It was in 2017 when the East Asian nation observed a significant shift away from its traditionally group-oriented society, giving rise to the term honjok (which refers to people who prefer to do activities alone).

Now, restaurants are consciously finding ways to improve the dining experience of solo diners, coming up with teppanyaki-style layouts for soloists as well as counter style seatings.