Special Report

The Biggest Fads and Trends in Food and Drink Since 2010

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Pumpkin spice mania

Starbucks got the craze started when it rolled out its Pumpkin Spice Latte nationally in 2004, and other coffee and fast food chains, including 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and Tim Hortons, were soon brewing versions of their own. It has only been in the past decade, though, that hunger for things pumpkin-spiced (which generally means flavored with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and sometimes cloves) has gone viral. Trader Joe’s alone sells about 60 products in the genre, and it is now possible to indulge your pumpkin-spice craving with everything from almonds to cheese to a martini.

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Purple vegetables

The color purple in fruits and vegetables is an indicator of a high content of phytonutrients –” compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among other health benefits. That’s apparently the reason behind the increased popularity of things like purple carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams in supermarkets. There are plenty of examples of items purple (or bluish-purple) in whole or in part — turnips, beets, eggplant, kohlrabi, blackberries and blueberries, figs, grapes, and more. “If I could eat only one color per day, it would be purple,” James Joseph, a neuroscientist at Tufts University’s USDA Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging, told the urban gardening website Growtest.

Source: Courtesy of Instant Brands Inc.

Instant Pot meals

The Crock-Pot and other slow-cookers became popular in the 1970s, but the genre got a reboot after an out-of-work computer scientist turned inventor launched the Instant Pot in late 2010. It basically combines the function of a slow-cooker with that of a pressure-cooker — with the added functions of a rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, cake maker, warmer, and sterilizer. Sales grew slowly, but today more than 5.5 million people follow an Instant Pot-related page on Facebook, and the cooker sold 300,000 units on last year’s Amazon Prime Day. New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken fan of the Instant Pot, asked her 1.2 million Twitter followers for their favorite recipes using the device.

Source: Courtesy of Taco Bell

Fast food mashups

People have been making their own fast-food mashups for many years (for instance, combining a Filet-O-Fish, a chicken patty, and a Big Mac into a single sandwich at McDonald’s — sometimes dubbed the McLand, Air, and Sea Sandwich). But these over-the-top combinations really began attracting attention in 2010 with KFC’s notorious Double Down — a bacon and cheese sandwich with two pieces of boneless fried chicken in place of a bun — and in 2012, when Taco Bell introduced its Doritos Locos Taco, basically taco fillings inside a Doritos shell. After that, the game was on, and we’ve seen such questionable innovations as the Denny’s mozzarella-stick grilled cheese sandwich, Pizza Hut’s hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza, and a stadium offering from Frito-Lay — Cheetos-flavored popcorn mixed with actual Cheetos.

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Food delivery apps

The first online food order was placed at a Pizza Hut in an unspecified location in 1994. The following year, World Wide Waiter — now Waiter.com — became the first online food delivery service. Seamless was founded in 1999 and GrubHub in 2004, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that the delivery industry really took off. Postmates appeared in 2011. DoorDash (the current industry leader) followed in 2013 and Seamless and GrubHub merged the same year. Uber Eats launched in 2014. There are numerous other smaller operations in the field, both regional and national. More than 38 million people will order meals online this year in America, a 21% increase over 2018. Nine out of 10 people surveyed say that ordering in makes their lives easier, according to a 2016 report.