Decade in review: Best and worst food trends from the 2010s
It’s official. These are the best, worst and weirdest food trends from the last 10 years.
What a difference a decade makes, especially when it comes to food. The last 10 years were a weird, wonderful and, at times, wacky culinary rollercoaster that saw social media, hipsters and political commentators plating up some of the decade’s biggest – and most ridiculous – food trends.
We saw the humble avocado go from being a brunch icon to a metaphor for millennial entitlement. We started drinking coffee out of ice-cream cones, coconuts, beakers and even hollowed-out avocados. We quit sugar, carbs and gluten. Restaurants took over from nightclubs as the hottest list on which to get your name (we're looking at you, Chin Chin). And the humble sausage in bread became not only a polling-day institution, but a key political issue.
Sure, the 2010s blessed us with myriad mouth-watering morsels – cronuts, cruffins and unicorn lattes, to name a few – but it was also a time of deconstruction, camel milk, brunch queues, cricket salads and unorthodox onion placement.
So, from epicurean accomplishments to epic foodie fails, these are the trends that have influenced our eating habits, our shopping trolleys – and our waistlines – over the past decade. (Plus the top food and drink trends to look out for in 2020.)
The humble sausage has been at the centre of much political debate over the last decade.
16 of the best, worst and weirdest food trends from the 2010s
We started sharing our meals (literally and figuratively)
If there’s one thing that’s had a profound influence on food over the last decade, it’s social media. From the Facebook restaurant check-in to hashtagging our breakfast, our constant need to share where and what we are eating peaked over the past decade. Instagram, which launched its now-omnipresent photo-sharing app in 2010, was the key player here and brunch enthusiasts across the globe haven’t had a hot meal since. They’ve been too busy standing on tables and snapping pics of their food to eat it while it’s still warm.
Rise of the trendy cafe...
Instagram is also to thank – or blame – for the gentrification (and premiumisation) of the cafe scene. Gone are the days of stopping in at your local brunch dealer for a laidback brekky of bacon and eggs for $10. The past decade saw breakfast become the most coveted social currency and local coffee joints scrambled to keep up (which was ironic given our sudden poached eggs preference). Trendy cafes – with their subway tiles, specialty coffee and polished concrete floors – started popping up in every suburb, each trying to outdo the other with made-for-Instagram menus of (almost) too-pretty-to-eat breakfast creations. Cafe literati started lining up for breakfast, putting their names on waiting lists and queuing for hours at some of the city’s trendiest spots – and paying a premium for the pleasure of doing so.
… and themed eateries
As well as trendy cafes, the past decade saw venues start to trade on our obsession with all things gimmick. We saw Melbourne get its own cat cafes and dog cafes, a serotonin-themed eatery, a Seinfeld-inspired bagelry, a boardgame cafe, matcha cafe and even a (short-lived) cereal bar.
We started drinking a variety of lattes
Lattes have moved with the times and, in the noughties, the term stopped discriminating against coffee-adjacent drinks. Enter rainbow lattes. Though chai lattes have been around for a long time, the rainbow latte trend really kicked off with matcha. The now-ubiquitous green brew poured the way for golden (turmeric), mushroom, taro, beetroot, charcoal, algae, unicorn, sweet potato and a variety of other technicolour coffee-inspired cuppas, which are made using myriad vegetables, herbs, spices, superfood powders or other plant-based ingredients.
Cows became the milk minority
As if choosing between low-fat, no-fat, full-cream, high-calcium, high-protein, soy, light, skim, omega 3, high calcium with vitamin D and folate, or extra dollop wasn’t hard enough (thank you Pauls’ Smarter White Milk) – these days we have an endless supply of milk sources and styles from which to choose. As well as embracing A2, lactose-free, organic, goat, sheep and even camel milk, the 2010s saw us really milking the dairy-free trend with sales of almond, oat, macadamia, coconut, hemp and rice mylks (the ‘y’ often used to highlight the milks’ vegan status) exploding over this time.
We started activating everything
Not only did we start milking nuts, the last decade also saw us activating them. In case you’ve forgotten (or tried to repress), this involves soaking nuts, grains or legumes in water and salt overnight, and then re-dehydrating them. The rationale behind the trend was that soaking stimulates the germination and sprouting process, which can enhance nutrient absorption and improve digestion.
We became coffee snobs
Where do you even start when it comes to Melbourne’s coffee scene over the last decade? While arabica was the buzzword of the early noughties, the last 10 years saw us guzzling premium-grade specialty, small-batch and single-origin beans. We moved towards lighter, fruitier styles of the golden brew and boutique roasters started popping up all over the city. The price of coffee went up – with many places averaging $4.50 a cup. We sipped the world’s most expensive coffee – a $150 Esmerelda Geisha from Panama. We even drank coffee made from civet cat excrement (Indonesia’s kopi luwak). Latte art became a thing, the Magic became a thing (and cult CBD cafe Patricia has long been credited with taking it to the masses). We swapped disposable cups for keep cups, started caring about how our coffee is made (would you like washed, natural or honey-processed with that?) and drinking cold brew, Bulletproof (coffee made with butter or coconut oil), on-tap nitrogen coffee, salted coffee, unicorn lattes, glitter cappuccinos and even coffee cherry soda.
Food delivery exploded
Back in ye olde days, you had to actually call your local pizza joint or Thai restaurant if you wanted to place an order for delivery. Now dinner is just a click away. Driven by the booming share economy, food-delivery services rocketed onto the takeaway scene over the last decade, with Deliveroo leading the charge in 2015, followed by Delivery Hero (which later acquired Foodora) and UberEATS in 2016. A 2018 finder.com.au study found Australians spent a whopping $2.6 billion a year on delivered meals and drinks, with online food delivery services accounting for 12 per cent of sales in the lucrative, $44.1 billion cafe, restaurant and takeaway food services industry. With 68 million online food orders each year and over 7,000 orders each hour, that's a whole lot of margherita pizza: Australia's dish of the year in 2019 which, according to Menulog data, was the nation's favourite food to order on every single day bar Monday.
Sausages become a sizzling political issue
The correct way to eat and assemble the exalted Aussie sanga sparked national political debate multiple times over the past decade. In 2016, Bill Shorten hit a snag when he was snapped trying to eat the single-handed snack sideways instead of straight-on, highlighting his complete disregard for proper sausage etiquette. In 2017, then-PM Malcolm Turnbull fell on his own, er, sausage with people suggesting his thoroughly un-Australian rejection of the election-day sauso sizzle proved he was, in fact, 'out of touch'. But perhaps the defining moment for the much-politicised democracy sausage was when the Australian National Dictionary Centre crowned ‘democracy sausage’ Word of the Year in 2016, which, if you’re a word (or, in this case, two), must be like winning an Oscar.
Organic went mainstream
Though it might have once been a niche category, demand for organic (as well as Fairtrade, free-range, non-GMO and sustainable) foods exploded over the past decade. Where you once had to seek out organic foodstuffs, these days you can find them lining the shelves of your local supermarket. According to the Australian Organic Market Report 2018, Australia’s organics market has grown by almost 88 per cent since 2012 and is estimated to be worth more than $2.4 billion.
Food was totally extra
Over the last 10 years our tastebuds have been tricked, treated, tantalised, terrified and, above all, totally overindulged. Hedonism was the new moderation in the 2010s, with loaded fries, towering burgers, deep-fried cheesecakes, freakshakes and fairy-floss cocktails among some of the decade's most decadent treats. Food in the mid-noughties was totally extra. I mean, how does one even eat a quadruple beef, bacon and cheese burger stacked with two potato cakes, two dim sims, pickles, onions and burger sauce? Or, more to the point, why would you want to?
We started deconstructing our food...
First it was cheesecake, then coffee, pavlova, spag bol and even meat pies that fell victim to the deconstruction epidemic. But our weird obsession with deconstructing our meals reached peak absurdity when the Melbourne Flames Dragon Boat Club served up a deconstructed Bunnings sausage sanga.
… and smashing everything
Avocado, pumpkin, sweet potato, peas, broad beans, beef patties – you name it, we’ve smashed it. Comedian Kitty Flanagan even smashed out an entire routine dedicated to our obsession with smashing things. And then, when we got sick of smashing our food, we started turning avocados into coffee, cheesecake, art, roses and even gamified it – with the pixelated avocado from Melbourne’s Light Years Cafe sending social media into meltdown.
We went vegan
While veganism is nothing new, over the past decade it went from being an obscure lifestyle choice to one of the country’s most popular diets. Vegan search terms on Google increased 10-fold since 2010 in Australia and #vegan and #veganfood racked up more than 100 million hashtags on Instagram. As well as boasting a string of celebrity devotees – Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Joaquin Phoenix among them – a series of pro-vegan documentaries – including Cowspiracy, What the Health and The Game Changers – have helped spruik the cause. We also saw vegan dining take off, with myriad vegan cafes and restaurants popping up across the state.
Sugar lost its sweetness
Sarah Wilson helped us all get clean when her revolutionary I Quit Sugar cookbook was published in 2013. The demonisation of sugar triggered one of the biggest diet shifts of the past decade and prompted substance abusers across the globe to start performing pantry exorsisms in a bid to rid themselves of the evil – and highly addictive – sweetener. Then, in 2018, the wellness journalist and blogger quit qutting sugar, selling her multimillion dollar IQS empire so that she could focus on educating people on anxiety, food waste and sustainability.
We also quit carbs
Carbohydrates were also on the chopping block in the 2010s, with the keto/paleo diet trends encouraging us to kick all things grain-based to the curb. The inflammation epidemic also saw gluten get the flick, with Instagram wellness warriors everywhere jumping on board the wheat-free badwagon. As a result, bread, pasta and pastries were toast (figuratively speaking, of course), while grass-fed protein, (mono and polyunsaturated) fats and coconut oil were king. We started spiraling towards zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower rice/pizza/porridge/mash and chickpea spaghetti in our quest for supposedly healthier, lower-carb, gluten-free alternatives.
ScoMo enjoys doing the grilling for a change.
Other major food moments from the last decade
- We embraced fat (hello eggs, avocado and butter), but quit carbs, gluten, fructose and FODMAPs.
- Celebrity chef Pete Evans (aka Paleo Pete) copped a public shellacking after he posted a photo of his kids’ breakfast on Instagram. Unlike the rest of us happy little Vegemites, his girls are growing up on soft-boiled organic eggs topped with caviar and grass-fed wagyu hotdogs served with a side of sauerkraut.
- Wellness blogger and cancer con artist Belle Gibson was outed as a fraud in 2015. Gibson – whose cookbook and app, The Whole Pantry, were estimated to have raked in more than $1 million in sales – became a national disgrace after it was revealed her claims of having cured numerous cancers by shunning conventional medicine and adopting a holistic, plant-based lifestyle, were false.
- Chin Chin, Cecconi’s, Coda, Cumulus, Kisume, Supernormal, Pastuso, Tonka, The Meatball & Wine Bar, Lucy Liu, Lello and the Garden State Hotel officially cemented Flinders Lane as the city’s hottest restaurant quarter.
- After 11 years of watching people cry about why food is so important to them, MasterChef Australia judges George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston finally hung up their aprons.
- Bunnings copped a grilling after a cat rescue group eschewed traditional sausages at a weekend sauso sizzle and, in a controversial move, opted to sell vegan snags instead. Naturally, a national existential crisis ensued. Oh, and let’s not forget about #oniongate, which saw the hardware giant make national headlines again, in 2018, when it questioned the sanctity of the sausage. For health and safety reasons it was mandated that the onions go underneath the sausage, instead of atop it, to avoid any wanton caramelised rings becoming a slip hazard. The country went into collective meltdown, with some minority groups even calling for the PM to legislate against the offensive onion placement. ScoMo – who was at the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia at the time – refused to bow to public pressure, instead applauding the fine work of the weekend sauso sizzle volunteers and vowing to continue eating sausages in bread regardless of “whether the onions are on top or underneath".
- We lost culinary legends Anthony Bourdain and Gary Rhodes.
- We became obsessed with hybrid bakery treats and, to be honest, the world is a better place because of it. If you haven’t yet tried a cronut (croissant x doughnut), wonut (waffle x doughnut), cruffin (croissant x muffin), duffin (doughnuts x muffin) crookie (croissant x cookie), brookie (brownie x cookie) or donnoli (doughnut x cannoli) – do yourself a favour.
- We started massaging kale, adding salt to sweet foods and sugar to salty foods, using whipped aquafaba (or chickpea water) instead of egg whites in pavlovas and cocktails, cooking sweet potato in the toaster, adding beetroot to brownies and ditching the oven for two-minute microwave mug cakes. What a time to be alive.