Special Report

The Biggest Fads and Trends in Food and Drink Since 2010

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Alternative milks

Milk made from soy or almonds has been around for years in America (Starbucks could hardly function without it), but now there’s mock-dairy made from all kinds of other things, too — flax seeds (see above), cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamias, oats, peas, rice, peanuts, coconut, chickpeas (see above), hemp, and more. To what extent these taste like cow’s milk varies, but they’ll all turn your coffee white. The dairy industry, meanwhile, is pressuring the FDA to restrict the use of the term “milk” for anything that doesn’t come from animals.

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Cold brew coffee

The origins of cold brew coffee may be traced to Kyoto, Japan, way back in the 1600s. The Japanese method of making it involves letting water drip, drop by drop, through the grounds over a long period of time. The more common method today is through immersion — letting coffee grounds steep in water for anything from six to 24 hours to extract their flavor. It isn’t clear when cold-brewing first came to America, but as with so many other coffee trends, it was Starbucks that popularized it, introducing it in 2015.

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Enhanced water

Bottled water (both still and sparkling) flavored with citrus and other fruits and herbs has been around for more than 20 years, but it has really flooded the market, as it were, in this decade. One survey predicts that the market for these beverages will see a compound annual growth rate of 9.5% between 2017 and 2023. Another variety of enhanced H20 is alkaline water, treated to have a particularly high pH. It is said to have many health benefits, though scientists debunk these claims. Then there’s turmeric water, infused with that vivid yellow-orange spice, whose active ingredient, curcumin, is said to be useful for treating diabetes, glaucoma, infertility, and other ailments. The jury is out.

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Hard seltzer

A Connecticut beer executive invented modern-day hard seltzer — which is basically spiked, flavored soda water (typically with an ABV of 4% to 6%, about the same as light beer) — in 2012, marketing his brand as SpikedSeltzer. In 2016, he sold it to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, and they took it national. The same year, another brand, White Claw (owned by the same company that owns Mike’s Hard Lemonade) launched — and soon became the category leader, with a 50% market share. Hard seltzer became the drink of the summer this year, converting wine, beer, and vodka drinkers and recording a 164.3% sales increase in July alone (223% for White Claw specifically).

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Kombucha is fermented tea and is believed to have numerous health benefits. Said to have been invented in northeastern China around 220 B.C., it reached Europe in the early 20th century, and hit American shores in the 1990s. It ran into trouble at the beginning of this decade due to its (very low) alcohol content, but quickly rebounded, showing a 28% sales increase between 2010 and 2011. PepsiCo showed that it has faith in kombucha’s potential by purchasing a bottled brand, KeVita, in 2016, and it is estimated that the beverage will be racking up $1.8 billion in annual sales by next year.