“The 2010s in Food Trends

Like most aspects of life, food and the activities surrounding it have evolved with time. As we are at the beginning of a new decade, it would be refreshing to have a look back to see what fads and trends in the food industry made an impact over the past 10 years. 

Life in technicolor – Vibrant, colorful foods, particularly rainbow-themed inventions began popping up everywhere during the 2010s. All kinds of desserts and sweet treats were being elevated with colourful touch-ups, but it all seems to have started within the beautiful swirls of the Rainbow Bagel.

Edible magic – The rainbow trend was taken to the next level with a touch of magic – unicorns. A mythical creature somehow became the most demanded presence at kids’ birthday parties. Culinary artists were quick to rise to the occasion with adorable cakes, cookies and rainbow sprinkles on everything. But the magic didn’t stop there – even Starbucks was inspired to follow suit with a multi-coloured invention dubbed the Unicorn Frappuccino.

Going against the grain – As far as the ‘less is more’ approach goes, the removal or reduction of gluten from one’s diet is probably the only regimen that has gained a substantial following in recent times. Even individuals who do not have problems with the protein seem to be avoiding it, likely because of the numerous claimed benefits to one’s overall well-being.

A toast to a-woke-ado – If there is one food item that received as much hostility from baby boomers as it received love from millennials, it is the Avocado Toast. In the eyes of the older generation, millennials who eat Avocado Toast are indulgent and frivolous. While it is true that the avocado has been in the spotlight for ages thanks to its nutritional value, it is also true that, despite soaring prices, there has been an unwavering, almost-obsessive demand for it. 

But first, coffee – Coffee in the 2010s gained something of a cult-following. But not just any coffee; fair trade, artisan coffee from third-wave coffee shops drew in the crowds. Coffee shops’ importance as the “third place” has grown more than ever, since coffee lovers flock to coffee shops for the rewarding social experience. As for trends in this particular category, latte art and cold brew seem to be the top contenders.

Hopeless ramen-tics – People all over the globe have fallen in love with it, and we will be forever indebted to the Japanese for this soul-soothing marvel of a food. The appeal started with the convenience of instant ramen. As competitive brands bombarded the market with more exciting flavors, the internet and social media lent a hand with things like the Spicy Ramen Challenge.

Bowl trouble – Who would have ever thought that we would be serving our smoothies in bowls in the 21st century? Smoothie bowls, acai bowls, granola bowls, poke bowls and burrito bowls are just some varieties that emerged through this trend. Reportedly, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle even served “bowl food” at their wedding reception!

Meat is cancelled – For reasons such as animal cruelty and climate change, more people have moved away from the consumption of meat. Industry pioneers like Impossible Foods responded to this by introducing plant-based alternatives. Impossible Whoppers – made with vegetarian patties from Impossible Foods – are now available at Burger King, so these are clearly on the way to becoming mainstream. 

Milk matters – Owing to various health and ethical concerns, dairy was also put on the hot seat. This led to the birth of various milk alternatives, including some questionable varieties; forget soy and almond, now we have hemp too. The industry has truly come a long way since oat milk was discovered in the 90s; as of 2017, this dairy-free haven is worth an estimated 11.9 billion dollars.

Green is the new black – Along with the meat-free movement, we saw a surge in the number of people embracing more veggie-centric diets. According to Google Trends, interest in veganism has nearly tripled since the beginning of the decade. The majority of people who follow this approach are making educated choices based on what is kinder for the mind, body and the environment.

Superfood or super fad? – “Superfood” is the decade’s health-food buzzword which turned heads everywhere, only to end up being over-hyped to the point of overkill. However, people wanted a “magical” one-stop solution to all their maladies, and nutrient-dense superfoods delivered. Among the superfood A-listers are kale, chia seeds, oats, green tea, fermented foods and garlic.

A feast for the eyes – There is no doubt that this decade was all about photogenic food. With the launching of Instagram in 2010, it was not just food bloggers who put the elbow grease into food photography, practically everyone on the internet was trying to get that perfect food shot just for the gram. To put things in perspective, #foodporn was ranked ninth most popular hashtag on Instagram in 2018, #foodphotography has been used 46.7 million times and we can safely say that some of the trendiest trends listed here were in fact popularised through the app.

Trends in Maldives – Here in the Maldives, we have definitely kept up with most of these global trends. Who has not had a slice of unicorn birthday cake or tried gluten-free something? Avocado toast did not catch on, but we have had our fair share of avocado smoothies. Ramen is in our blood. Chia seed seems to be flying off the shelves at grocery stores, and dairy substitutes are gradually squeezing in. 

As we settled into busier lifestyles, eating out also became the norm. Consequently, we saw a huge influx of food outlets in Male’ and Hulhumale’, bringing us cuisines from all over the world. We have welcomed numerous franchises and ethnic restaurants. As the food scene became more diverse, our relationship with “foreign” food grew more comfortable.

Ironically enough, it seems that lately we have also begun to develop a deeper sense of appreciation for traditional local cuisine. Cafe’s and restaurants now offer local favourites right alongside international delicacies.

One truly Maldivian food trend that we can all proudly stand behind is the Kanamadhu Cake. Sure, Kashikeyo desserts (yes, we love Kashikeyo ice-cream), and barbecues at Rasfannu cannot be forgotten, but these pale in comparison to the gooey deliciousness that is Kanamadhu Cake.  

What is next?

Although 2010 does not seem that long ago, there has clearly been some significant shifts in the way we eat. Some of these trends we will hold onto, and others we will bury with history. More importantly, we cannot wait to have a taste of the next big food trend during this new decade. Speculations point to zero-waste options, meal kits and fusion cuisine, to name a few. Whatever it may be, we are here for it. 

By Fathmath Sadha

Photo courtesy of